Hi, everyone! First, I would like to extend my thanks to the Seekers for having me on the blog today! It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve brought along some steaming cappuccino from my favorite locally owned coffee shop, so let’s get started!
Oh, and in honor of the upcoming release of A Bride for the Season, I’ve also brought along this real chicken pie. In the book Gone with the Wind, Scarlett and Rhett feasted on chicken pie and champagne on their wedding night.
Today I want to share how my home office door has been a tremendous help in my writing journey. I don’t mean because I used it to keep people out—although it is indeed useful for cutting down on interruptions. No, what helped me was not so much the door itself, but what I put on it.
It started simply enough, back when I was still fairly new to writing and had yet to complete a manuscript. I’d made several false starts with contemporary romances, but nothing seemed to click. Then I began to seriously consider writing a historical. At about that time, a friend told me about National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a. NaNoWriMo.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with NaNoWriMo. You are perhaps in the midst of it right now, and stealing a few minutes away from your wild typing marathon in order to read this post. (If so, I am extremely grateful!) The goal of NaNoWriMo, of course, is to write 50,000 words in one month. NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. But in my case, it was exactly what I needed, at exactly the right time.
I can still remember the little frisson of excitement when my friend and I met at a café on November 1, 2009, and I sat down to begin that 50K journey. I remember with crystal clarity the first sentence I typed. I remember feeling that I was on the verge of something great.
(Spoiler alert: That first sentence never changed, right through to the book’s publication as An Heiress at Heart.)
(Another spoiler alert: That line was spoken by James Simpson, a secondary character who went on to become the hero in A Bride for the Season.)
On that day, I felt like I was stepping off the deep end of the pool and hoping that my swimming skills, although shaky, were enough to get me to the other side.
I “won” NaNo that year. I swam across those fifty thousand words, using every trick they teach you: never use one word if two will do; don’t waste a minute second-guessing yourself or trying to rein in those flights of fancy; if you get stuck, skip over that scene and write the next one; write a scene even if you suspect it will later get trimmed as backstory; and above all, never delete whole sentences or paragraphs (just put them in red font and delete after NaNo is over)
Granted, although my lovely mess had a beginning, middle, and end, it was not complete. It was full of gaps and plot holes. Filling in those gaps, not to mention skimming the dross and putting on the spit polish, would take a few more months. But I had something to work with, and I was flush with success. I was also amazed to see that most of that speed writing was actually pretty good. There is a lot to be said for that unbound muse.
But back to the door.
I was so proud of my NaNo success that I posted three souvenirs from the experience on my office door.
Here’s a close-up of the poster, because it contains a quote from Leonard Bernstein that has sustained me time and time again—especially after I had sold a book and got on a deadline:
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
About eight months later (after the above-mentioned polishing), that manuscript earned its first contest final—in the Romance Through the Ages Contest, sponsored by Hearts Through History Romance Writers. It won the prize for Most Memorable Hero in the same contest. I received two lovely certificates, and because my small office does not have a lot of open wall space, I taped them to the door with my NaNoWriMo souvenirs.
Truth be told, even if I’d had tons of wall space, I’d probably have done the same. Many years of constant moving—as both a Navy brat and an adult—have taught me that a manila folder is a lot easier to pack and move than a stack of picture frames.
But in the end, pasting those items to the door turned out to be a boon, because those reminders of my success were right where I could see them every time I went in to write—not to mention every time I walked down the hall. That door now gave me constant reinforcement that yes, I can do this writing thing—and succeed.
More and more things kept finding their way onto my door: two more contest finals, a screen shot of my agent’s tweet when I signed with her; the welcome letter from my publisher when I sold my first book; and a lovely poster advertising my first book signing. I filled in the gaps with cartoons, bookmarks, postcards, and other things that made me laugh and/or inspired me. By last year, that door had become a wonderful hodge-podge of whimsy and inspiration. It was a visual shot in the arm whenever I needed it. It was also packed full.
And so, on that thrilling day in 2013 when I received a certificate for being a finalist in the RITA® contest, I had no place to put it!
I realized that it was time to take everything down and start again. A clean slate, with fresh inspiration and new victories to mark. But still I keep the mementos from NaNoWriMo. Because being a published author on a deadline means that Leonard Bernstein’s wisdom is as true now as ever.
Recently a friend shared with me that she’s keeping a “blessings diary.” Every evening she sits down and writes something that has blessed her that day. Another friend keeps a prayer journal, where she notes specific things she is praying for and then records when and how the prayer is answered. I have also seen exhortations to keep a pretty box or a big glass jar handy; then write your blessings on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, go back and read through them.
Over the past few years, I think my door has functioned as a bit of all those things.
So how do you log your victories? Do you have a scrapbook? A journal? A brag wall? Do you get artistic with your mementos, tack them to a corkboard, or simply file them? I’d be curious to know if there are any other compulsive door coverers like me! I’m giving away a copy of A Bride for the Season to two commenters.
A Bride for the SeasonA history fan, travel lover, and outdoor enthusiast, Jennifer Delamere writes sweet historical romance with plenty of joy and sizzle. Her debut novel An Heiress at Heart was a finalist for the Romance Writers of America RITA® award. Her follow-up novel, A Lady Most Lovely, earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Jennifer loves reading histories, biographies, and travelogues, which she mines for the vivid details to bring to life the people and places in her books. For more information about Jennifer’s books, blog, and mailing list, visit www.jenniferdelamere.com.
by Jennifer Delamere
London’s most amiable rogue has finally met his match.
Lucinda Cardington doesn’t care that she is close to being “on the shelf.” She has more serious pursuits in mind and is perfectly content to leave dreams of romance to silly young ladies like her sister. Yet when her sister places herself in a compromising situation with London’s most scandalous bachelor, the entire family’s reputation comes perilously close to ruin. Suddenly Lucinda is in the limelight…and in need of a husband.
James Simpson’s rakish ways have finally caught up with him. Snared in a scandal that for once is not his doing, he is forced to do the honorable thing and offer marriage to the lady. But her father won’t agree to a dowry unless James can also find a suitable husband for the lady’s elder sister—quiet, reserved Lucinda Cardington. As James gets to know the vibrant, charming, and passionate woman behind Lucinda’s shy exterior, he comes to the distressing realization that he doesn’t want her in anyone’s arms but his own…