The answer is simple, of course: Novel ideas come from right inside your head, either from memories of real experiences or from your imagination.
Everything that has ever happened to you, from your first memory to the present day, is stored in your mind somewhere - the parts you haven't forgotten, at any rate - and any of these things could find their way into your novel.
Not literally, necessarily – but certainly in essence.)
Add to that...
... and you have a mountain of experiences - direct and indirect - on which to base novel ideas.
All of which begs a couple of questions...
First, if novel ideas largely stem from a writer's own experiences, does that mean all novels are essentially autobiographical?
Second, what are you meant to write about if your life has been boring and uneventful?
I'll be dealing with autobiographical fiction later in this series (more specifically, I will explain how the right way to "write about what you know" is to use the "emotional truths" behind your experiences but not the hard and fast facts).
In regard to the second question - "what if my life has been dull?" - let me say this: if you genuinely believe that your life has been too boring to write about, you are wrong.
Simple as that!
"...anybody who has survived childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days. If you can't make something out of a little experience, you probably won't be able to make much out of a lot."
- Flannery O'Connor
"We do not choose our subjects. They choose us."
- Gustave Flaubert
Plenty of great fiction is about "everyday" life. In fact there is just as much dramatic potential behind the walls of an ordinary suburban house as there is in a war zone. Sure, the drama will be very different in nature, but that doesn't make it any less interesting - assuming, of course, that you write about your chosen subject matter with passion...
Remember, too, what I just said above: you don't have to write about your life literally. So long as what you write is emotionally true to your own experiences, the physical reality of the story (the characters, the setting, the events) can be totally made up.
Next up, I've got a few questions for you...
The answers to these questions, and to hundreds more like them, are an indication of what you are really like. Not the person you might kid yourself that you are, or the one you would like to be, but the person you truly are.
When searching for novel ideas, it essential that you remain true to your real self...
In other words, only write about what you are interested in writing about. Don't give house room to novel ideas that leave you cold.
The trouble that some newcomers to novel writing have is that they believe novels cannot be set in their own backyards. They think fiction has to be about super-human people doing heroic things in exotic locations.
While it is certainly true that a lot of novels are exotic, just as many are rooted in the ordinary (and in the right hands, the ordinary can still be made to seem extraordinary).
In other words, "boring" novel ideas are fine.
Suppose you are a farmer in the American Mid-West. You've lived there all your life and farming is all you have ever done, and so you believe that you couldn't possibly base a novel around it because it is just so - well, unexciting!
But you can - indeed, you must - write your novel about whatever you like. Through skillful writing, you can make even the most humdrum of people and places and events come to life.
And just because something is commonplace to you, it doesn't mean that everyone will find it that way.
I'm English and have never ventured further west than New York, so a novel about a Midwestern farmer will be exotic to me, just as a novel about everyday life in Woodbridge, England might be exotic to you.
Don't get me wrong, writing novels about heroes doing brave things in exotic locations is fine. But so, too, is staying within your comfort zone and writing fiction based on your own "boring" life.
In either case, you have to remain true to yourself...
That, then, has hopefully convinced you that no subject matter is off-limits. There is simply no such thing as uninteresting subject matter, only subject matter handled in an uninteresting way.