Friday, March 29, 2013

Every Other Friday -- Dani Collins

Please welcome romance writer Dani Collins. In 2012, Dani signed contracts for six books and put out her own indie title while holding down a day job and running kids to school, sports, and jobs. She’s pretty good at writing fast and is currently teaching herself to blog fast—including tagging a witty bio onto the end of her posts.

Readers are invited to check out her website. She also can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Tell me about THE HEALER.

Hi Peter.  Thanks for having me on your blog.

Vaun is a Kerf General patrolling lands that belong to his people by treaty. Things are already going wrong when he intervenes with enemy traders to free a slave he thinks is Kerf, like him. She’s not. Athadia belongs to the mythical Alvian race of healers that his people fear. The first time they touch, she knows he’s one, too.

The Healer was supposed to be a historical romance—someone recently called it a cross between Highlanders and Vikings, which is how it turned out once I realized it needed its own world. This was a bigger challenge to me than researching real places and events. I’m a busy working mom who writes in that hilarious concept called ‘free time.’

What drove you to write THE HEALER? Who did you write it for?

Being time-challenged, I gravitate to quick reads and therefore mostly write shorter novels like my Harlequin Presents. But I knew this story needed a lot more space for developing all the layers that I wanted to put into it.

Sometimes, as a reader (and a writer), you want a story you can dig into and stay with for days (months/years). I wrote The Healer for that story lover.

What were your biggest obstacles?

Time is always an issue for me and when I began this story, my kids were still little. I wrote the first couple of chapters in a notebook before bed. A few years later, I decided to finish it for Nanowrimo, one of the best exercises in writer productivity there is. 

(If you haven’t heard of National Novel Writing Month, it’s an informal challenge you set for yourself in the month of November to complete about fifty thousand pages.)

[Editor's note - This blog has a series on NaNoWriMo.]

What are your productivity tips?

Nowadays I love working off a synopsis, but didn’t have one for The Healer. Instead I
warmed up for Nano by doing the 30 Days of World Building exercises by Stephanie Bryant. Even if you don’t like preplanning, you might enjoy this. It’s more about finding the possibilities in your story than locking yourself in. I really enjoyed it.

Other tips for the time-crunched:

  • Write before work if you have a day job. Yes, that means getting up at 5 am. It’s gross, I won’t kid you. (Ignore if you are a night person. I so am not.)
  •  Quit TV (mostly). I pick one or two shows as must haves. I currently excuse myself from writing for The Big Bang Theory and will drop everything when Mad Men starts up again, including laundry and cooking.
  • Actually, never bother with laundry and cooking. (Says the woman with teenagers and an understanding husband.)
  • Get a job writing to deadline. Mine was the local paper. I did it for 8-9 months and I learned to write fast and clean, ‘cause I got paid a flat rate of $25. The longer I took, the lower my wage.
  • Self-doubt can really slow you down. Do some exercises in developing your voice so you feel confident about the words you’ve chosen. Getting the Words Right: How to Rewrite, Edit and Revise  is a great resource for developing your personal writing style.

Question for Peter:
How do you balance the desire to write fast with the revision process, so you’re not creating a lengthy clean up once the first draft is done?

I work hard to keep the drafting and revising processes separate. One is right brain, the other left. I have found that, by generally bumping up my output, I have developed a lot of instincts that keep me from missteps during the composing process. In addition, I have developed some approaches that help pantsers add just enough structure to avoid pitfalls.


  1. Hi Dani, and congratulations on the new book (and all the contracts!). I've always admired your writing discipline. LOL re no laundry and cooking. I totally agree on setting priorities, and housework comes down the list for me, too. But, oddly, laundry and cooking are about the only house chores I do with any regularity. As an at-home writer who can do laundry while I'm writing, it's a good break that gets me up and moving - and that's not only good for my body but it often, for some reason, seems to stimulate my creativity. (Besides, I have a limited supply of clothes!) And when it comes to cooking, it seems to be the case at my house that if I don't do it, no-one else will, and I do love to eat! But my rule on cooking is that if a meal takes longer than 15 minutes to prepare (preferably with leftovers I can freeze), then it's not on my list. One of my big time-savers (again, this is for at-home writers who can't pop by the bank etc. at lunch hour or on the way home from work) is trying to combine all the "outside" errands (groceries, drugstore, post office, bank, library) and making one trip a week. Best of luck with The Healer!

  2. Thanks Susan :)

    I am blessed with a daughter who actually enjoys cooking, but she will be graduating this year and going off to Uni, leaving us to fend for ourselves. I may be emaciated the next time you see me.

    I also do have the luxury of saving time by doing my errands on my lunch from my day job. I combine that with a walk and my exercise is done too.

    I know what you mean about the laundry being a good break on the long writing days. Hanging clothes on the weekend is a meditative experience for me, especially this time of year. Birds, breeze... Bliss.

    Talk to you soon,

  3. Hi Dani,

    Thanks for sharing some of your time-saving tips. It's often said that if you want something done, ask a busy person! You're clearly one of those.

    I really like this blog, too. Thanks for letting us know about it.


  4. Hi Natasha,

    Thanks for dropping by to say hi! It is a great blog, isn't it? Peter's done a great job.

    As for your remark about asking a busy person, I'd say a huge tip on being a more productive writer would be: Learn to say no. I was so happy when my youngest started high school because I couldn't seem to say no at the elementary level. The bottle drives alone...

    I wouldn't call my life balanced at the moment, but I will master it again <<--first step, frame the goal as a positive.

    Talk to you soon,

  5. Thanks for the kudos on the site. Having Dani as a guest adds a bit of class, eh?

  6. Hi Dani,

    It's always nice to see how other writers structure their time in this fast-paced world we live in.

    The Healer looks very interesting. I'll be putting it on my list of books to read.

    T. Rae Mitchell

  7. Dani, I'm with you - writing to deadline (newspaper, magazines, manuals for me) really made me write fast - and because I get bored easily, writing fast also keeps me entertained. I love doing writing sprints with online friends and do them almost every week - another thing that keeps me going.


  8. Hi Peter & Terry,

    Peter - yeah, practice with revision does manage to help in the composition phase eventually, doesn't it? I see patterns of things that I've fixed again and again and want to save myself the trouble.

    A recent one was realizing I would gloss over a scene, just throwing down dialogue, but if I took the time to really envision it and ground myself with clear details on the page, I wound up with a lot more to work with and refine during the revision process, rather than having to feed it in later when I'm in a more critical, less creative, headspace. Good tip!

    And Terry, thanks so much :) I think we're all a bit fascinated with each other's process, looking for those tools that will help us with our own. What are some of yours?


  9. Hi Kate :)

    That's a great idea to pair up with someone, keeping you accountable, offering challenges. I'm a competitive person at heart so that would really work for me. (Or kill me, lol.)

    Thanks for stopping in. Great tip!

  10. great tips, dani. yeah, how i know when i'm really blocked in my writing is i pull out the vacuum. (then even the cat knows to hide) and short stories helped me learn to edit faster and cleaner--it's difficult to get mired in a story that's only 5,000 words...

  11. Dani, your post is inspiring. You have to juggle way more than I do and you're still publishing...way to go!

    I, too, have used NaNoWriMo to push a work-in-progress to completed manuscript... but after November 30... well, it's sometimes hard to just put my butt in the chair. Even though my day job requires me to write to deadline, when I'm reporting to myself as the boss on my creative work I sure can be a sucker for excuses not to write! And having my husband say to me, as he's crashed on the couch watching The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, "Hey. When are you going to finish that novel? You need to make a million so I can retire," just doesn't inspire me to write at all, let alone write fast!