Writers on Writing offers advice to emerging novelists

Fiction writers are professional liars, that's what they do, they make things up,

Mary Troy, author of Swimming on Hwy N

Not only did novelist Rose Marie Kinder encourage the room full of readers, students and writers to write about what they know and love, she demonstrated her love of music by singing a cowboy lullaby.

She told the audience at Mount Mary's Writers on Writing event that music is a driving force in her book, The Universe Playing Strings.

"Music is the heartbeat of this novel about the world of hometown musicians, the jamming venues, the contests, the onstage cues, the subtle rules," she said.

Kinder, who uses her initials, R. M. Kinder, and fellow Missouri novelist Mary Troy read from their books and offered their own insights into the creative process of writing fiction.

"Fiction writers are professional liars, that's what they do, they make things up," said Troy, whose book, Swimming on Highway N, includes a character who was a U.S. military deserter during the Iraq War. She said she did a tremendous amount of research to develop this fictional character.

Both novelists have teaching backgrounds, Kinder was a professor of English at the University of Central Missouri for 13 years, and Troy teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Here is some of the advice they offered emerging novelists:

  • Write in your own voice. When she was in college, Kinder explained that she wanted to "eradicate" her southeast Missouri accent. She has since embraced it, using the vernacular to color her dialog, poetry and songwriting.
  • Conduct research, but don't let it get in the way of writing. "Trust that you know a great deal," Kinder said.
  • Read voraciously and carefully
  • Give yourself time to write and claim this time as important, not frivolous. "Don't just want to write," Troy said. "Go ahead and write."
  • Dig in and revise. "It's a common mistake for writers to think their story is finished before it really is," Troy said. She said it's hard to know when it's completely finalized, but writers shouldn't be surprised if the process lasts over a year. "Everyone should have dreams (about finishing their novel quickly), but they're almost always wrong."

The Writers on Writing series is sponsored by Mount Mary's English graduate program. The next event takes place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 8 and features a presentation by 3 Seas Literary Agency. Three agents will be on hand to answer questions and hold pitch sessions for writers. The presentation is free; the cost of a 10-minute one-on-one pitch session is $35. Register in advance.

R.M. Kinder and Mary Troy connect with budding writers


Claire Neri, a graduate student in the English program, gets her copy of Swimming on Hwy N signed by Mary Troy. Writers on Writing is brings authors to campus to talk about their successful work, challenges they overcame and the craft they love.