Creative Training Tips to Help Jump Start Your Novel

Imaginative fitness involves more than writing

Aimee Liu
6 min readMar 30, 2024

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Photo by Annemiek Smegen on Unsplash

Writers from Neil Gaiman to Toni Morrison have likened imagination to a muscle that requires regular exercise. But as the author of four novels and the MFA advisor to dozens of aspiring authors, I know there’s no single regimen for imagination that will work for every writer.

On the contrary, the exercises that best strengthen your fictional muscles will be as unique as you are. Which means that the only “right” program for writing a novel is the process that keeps you energized, focused, and interested in finding out who your characters really are, what they’re going to do to each other, what the consequences will be, and what your story means.

How do the Masters warm up?

In case you doubt me, consider these assorted pro tips:

I spend a lot of time thinking about the narrative structure. I do tons of writing that is not yet scenic but more schematic. It will never appear in the book, it’s really just notes to me about this book… almost like a treatment or, as they say in the film industry, a ‘bible.’ I can spend months doing this, until I know who everyone is, and what they will be doing. Only then do I start writing.Barbara Kingsolver

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Aimee Liu

Author, Asian-American novels (Glorious Boy), nonfiction on eating disorders (Gaining), writing, wellness. Published @Hachette. MFA & more@ aimeeliu.net