Back in January 2011 I wrote an article about a writer’s group I’m a participant and original member in called the Night Writers. We meet once a month at the Liverpool Public Library, usually the last Wednesday of the month unless it’s a holiday month like November & December. We’re sponsored by the library, although we haven’t always been.


Tim Dodge works in insurance, but he’s also a trustee with the library and our current coordinator/leader; works for me since I’m out of town so often. He’s also a great writer in my opinion. He has a blog and does many podcasts, some of them interviews and some reading portions of his books. Thus, I thought he would be a perfect candidate to interview; below are his thoughts on writer’s groups and writing in general:

1. I initially wrote about the Night Writers group back in January 2011. What was your thought about the group when you came to your first meeting?

It was so long ago that I don’t really remember the first meeting. I do remember that I had attended a workshop at the library on a Saturday and learned about the group that way. I had participated in a couple of online critique groups, so I guess my expectation was that it would be a live version of that.

2. We have a core of people who have been in the group for a long time, but have problems getting more people into it. However, at one point there were so many people that there was talk of having two separate groups. What happened and what do you think needs to happen to increase participants?

That has been a source of frustration for me for a long time. I think the period of time when we were not a library-sponsored program hurt. The group was no longer mentioned in library flyers and other promotional material. We had to do our own promotion, which was ad hoc at best. Now that we are a sponsored program again, I think participation is creeping up a bit. Every month there seems to be another new face at the meeting. However, not many of them come a second time, which is discouraging. I think we’re in general a pretty supportive bunch, so I don’t think people are turned away by criticism. It could be that a monthly meeting is not habit-forming. Still, I think continued promotion by the library is the key. They can reach a lot more people than we can on our own.

3. What do you think makes Night Writers different than other writer’s groups, if you know anything about other groups?

I think we are a bit more relaxed and welcoming than some other groups. I can’t really generalize, as I’ve only attended one or two other groups, but I have attended some where the critiques tend to be a bit sharper than ours are. Nothing necessarily wrong with that as long as participants know what to expect. However, while some of us who attend Night Writers are serious about writing, others just like to dabble, which is fine, too. Our group is very accepting of writers who have a wide variety of goals.

4. Let’s talk about the writing process. All of us have different ways of doing things, but tell us your process.

My process is evolving. I wrote three novels without doing any outlining, then I wrote a fourth one with an outline. I’ve just started another without an outline, but that doesn’t mean I won’t create one once I’ve got a firm idea of where I’m going with it. I try to write at different times of the day, but I seem to be most productive at lunch or early evening.

5. Do you think you can get the same type of feedback from having people critique you live or online, since I know you put many of your submissions out on the internet in some form?

There’s a definite difference between live and online. I think there’s a tendency to be nicer in person, which may or may not be a good thing. Writing is seldom all good or all bad. In person, people may tend to talk only about what was good, whereas online they may emphasize what they didn’t like. Obviously, a balance between the two is best, unless the writing is truly awful.

6. Talk about the different ways you share your stories online and what led you to the processes.

Sometime around 2006, I discovered podcasts, and it didn’t take me long to find some shows about writing. I found podcasts hosted by authors who were hoping to become successful but weren’t quite there yet. Mur Lafferty, Scott Sigler and Tee Morris are the most notable examples because they all have since published books with large New York publishing houses. I found that all of these authors and others had built audiences by releasing their stories and entire novels as serialized audio podcasts and distributing them for free on the Web.

An entire online “store” called www.podiobooks.com has hundreds of titles available for free. I took the plunge myself in early 2009 by releasing my novel “Acts of Desperation” that way. My comedy novel “Purgatory” followed later that same year. Recording an entire novel is a lot of work, but it was very rewarding. Both of those books are still available on podiobooks.com.

7. Have you ever come close to having someone publish any of your works? If not, how do you feel about self publishing overall and how have you tried selling your stories?

I published a couple of stories years ago, but there was no payment involved, so I don’t really count it. An agent asked for the full manuscript of my latest book last winter, but I have not heard anything since, so I’m not optimistic on that front. I self-published “Purgatory” in paperback and ebook formats a year and a half ago. The process was not terribly difficult, thought it was time-consuming to get it just the way I wanted. However, to successfully self-publish you have to devote a lot of time and energy to marketing. To be perfectly honest, I have not done a good job at that.

8. What led you to trying to be a writer, and can you honestly say that if you could make your living at it that you’d give up your present career and never look back?

I remember being seven or eight years old and thinking I’d like to write a book. I wrote little articles and plays for student newspapers and class plays in elementary school, and I was a writer and editor for my high school newspaper. I worked for my college newspaper for one semester. In short, I’ve always enjoyed writing. Fiction writing is hard work, but there’s no better feeling than when you write those last two words at the end of a novel — “The End”. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know that I would give up my career to write full-time right now, but I can picture myself doing it as I get closer to retirement age.

9. We’ve had previous members who felt that one of the goals of Night Writers should be to get someone published. You know our members; I think you and I are the only two who have really tried to get something published. What do you believe the overall goal of our group should be?

It would be great to get someone published, but that’s not an easy thing to do when literary agents report getting 200 queries a week. I think the goal should just be for everyone who participates to be better writers after participating than they were before. And for everyone to enjoy themselves. If it’s not fun, why do it?

10. Make a pitch; tell central New York why they should check us out.

Do you like to write but are afraid you’re not good enough? Do you want people who are more objective than your mom to review your work, people who will tell you what is and isn’t working in your story? Are you intimidated by the thought that other writers are way better than you?

At Night Writers, you’ll find other writers who are in the same place you are. People who will tell you what they like and make gentle suggestions for improvement. The only people allowed to make harsh judgments are those who have made the New York Times best-seller list, and they always seem to be busy on meeting nights. At Night Writers, you’ll get a chance to present your work and to critique the work of others, in a relaxed atmosphere where the emphasis is on getting better at writing in the company of friends. New members and their friends are always welcome!
 

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