All writers can relate to this question. It is probably the number one question writers, published or not, get from the non-writers. Sometimes, if I’m feeling snarly, I say “They had a sale at Wal*Marts last week.” or “There’s this way cool website on the ‘Net…” The truth is, most of the time, writers don’t know WHERE the idea came form…just that it’s there, gnawing at their brain to be written.
Another thing that editors, agents, experienced writers, etc. say is “to write what you know”. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean if you never worked for NASA, you can’t ever write space operas? If you’ve never lived in Alaska, you can’t write about that big dog sled race they run each winter? Or is that like saying, if he hasn’t had a baby, a man can’t be a gynecologist?
I think there are several roads to this journey. First, though a writer may not know it, ideas come from your life…from your experiences, the things you value, even the type of books you like to read. Some of them come from the injustices you see around you or the people who inspire. And some times they come from deep in your heart where the quiet things you treasure hide.
As for writing what you know…does that mean literally? Especially in today’s ever-expanding, wor;d-wide, pool of information, it’s not too hard to find how to build, create, practice, fill-in-your verb research for any type of book you want. So I think the “write what you know” is mostly the emotional. Not all of us fear the same thing. I may not love as you do or what you love. An emotional response to life is as varied as species, gender, national origin or ethnicity. And that, blended with the ideas that you start off with, gives you the story that makes the reader as with awe, “How did you ever come up with that idea?”