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Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing Romance When Your Marriage fails ~ Kit Wilkinson


Kit Wilkinson is a former Ph.D. student who once wrote discussions on the medieval feminine voice. She now prefers weaving stories of romance and redemption. Her first inspirational manuscript won the prestigious RWA Golden Heart and sold to Harlequin’s Love Inspired. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Besides writing, she loves hanging out with friends and family, cooking for lots of people, and spending time in the sun. She, her two children and one extremely energetic Border Collie live in central Virginia.


Writing Romance When the Real Romance Fails

How do you write a happily-ever-after when your own story has turned into a tragedy?

When I landed my last novel contract, frankly, it was the first bit of good news I’d had in a long while. I’d prayed to be able to write this book for a few months, thinking it would be just what I needed to take my mind off of what was going on in my real life—a divorce.

I was so thankful when it came through. I read through my editor’s notes immediately and sat down at the computer. I couldn’t wait to bury myself in this new story. But instead of pouring my energy into the new book, I found, for the first time ever, that I couldn’t write at all. Not only could I not write, I loathed sitting in front of the computer. I found myself doing anything else—bathing the dog, painting rooms, cleaning the garage, all sorts of things I REALLY hated to do. And, if I did happen to get in front of the computer, I was emailing my lawyer, trying to negotiate the sale of my home or figuring out whose weekend it was with the kids. Even emails I feared would be full of bad news. And I especially avoided staring at the blinking cursor on the white page of my very incomplete manuscript. The document sat minimized on the dock of my desktop.

My deadline came and went and I’d barely squeaked out half of the story. I started wondering if I could finish. I started wondering, if I could even write romance anymore. I mean let’s face it I was a failure. I’d failed as a wife. And now I was failing as a writer... What next? I was afraid to think about tomorrow.

Desperate for inspiration, I pulled out writing books and plotting outlines. I went to my favorite writing spots. I tried using Scrivener, thinking something new to look at would inspire me. I set little daily word count goals and failed at those. I even tried to use some of my confused feelings to “get into” my story, but while sorrow and depression might inspire some artists to abandon themselves into their work, I was stuck with the worst case of writer’s block ever. My ability to focus on anything had vanished and I didn’t know how to fix it. Depression hung like a cloud in my mind and my fingers were paralyzed at the keyboard. Even with great family and friends and a whole lot of prayer, there were days when I wanted to crawl in a hole and come out in a year or two when all the difficult stuff was over.

It was in the midst of all this that I found myself at a writer’s conference sitting on a panel of “pro” writers (something I’d agreed to do a long time before all the other life turmoil began). I looked out into the audience at other authors and even at my editor who should have been pointing at her watch and glaring at me for the late manuscript I owed her, except that she’s way too nice for that. I was feeling like a total fraud when someone in the audience asks, “What are inspirational romance readers looking for?” Great question. I repeated it for recording purposes then promptly passed the microphone to the author next to me because...well, I had no idea... I couldn’t write anymore.

It was author Margaret Daley who sat next to me. She leaned up to the microphone and without a second of hesitation said, “HOPE. Our readers are looking for hope.”

Hope. Now there was a nice little four-letter word that I’d forgotten about. A romance story needed hope. Or wait...maybe I needed hope. Because how can I give my readers hope when I have none of my own? If I wanted to finish my story—and I did—I had to find a way to remember my hope. I was determined.

But it didn’t happen overnight. It was slow—one minute, one hour, one day at a time, I stole back that hope that sorrow taken. I’d find hope in my children’s eyes. I’d find it in a friend’s voice. I’d find it in God’s promises. I’d find it in doing something for someone else. And the hope began to trickle over into my work...

I quit trying to write the story as fast as I could. I’d find a few quiet minutes here and there and I’d write a page. Many times that was it—one page. But then two or three and slowly, so slowly those characters worked their way to a happy ending. In some ways, I felt like I was healing along with them.

Of course, real life doesn’t stop at page 385 like a storybook romance, so I won’t end here by saying I got my own happy-ending. But I do have all I need to expect many more happy chapters. I have God’s promises and perfect love. I have friends and family and two beautiful children full of life.

And soon I’ll have more stories to tell of romance and love and hope.


21 comments:

Kelly Klepfer said...

Thanks for sharing your heart with us, Kit. I'm sure there are quite a few writers who need this encouragement and hope.

Gina Holmes said...

Hey Kit, great post as always. I had no idea. I wrote Crossing Oceans in the midst of mine. When I was asked where the idea came from, I didn't know at first that the story was about a dying woman and I, in a way, was that dying woman. I'm sorry you had to go through that. It's horrible.

I still find writing the romance harder than I would have pre-d. The only perfect groom, is Jesus but He showed me true romance when I needed it most. We should get together soon. I'm thinking of getting some professional writers in our area together once a month just to chat and eat pie. :) There's more of us than I originally thought.

kit said...

Thanks, Gina and Kelly. I would love to get together. Sounds like a plan! :-)

Ane Mulligan said...

Kit, we all appreciate your willingness to be so honest. I pray the Lord will bless the charts of all who read Mom in the Making. I know God will use it.

Dina Sleiman said...

Kit, I'm so sorry to hear you went through all of this. I was going through some terrible marriage struggles last year as well, and several times it teetered on the brink. And another one of our Virgina ACFW members who met with us last summer divorced in the fall. It makes me wish we put the writing aside and shared about our lives more. I will be praying for you. Thanks for sharing so deeply from your heart today. It's a good reminder that life happens to all of us. Let's talk soon.

diane said...

Kit,

What a beautifully written blog. You opened your heart and I could feel all your pain and struggles...but also hope. I wish you all best. God sees the bigger picture. He has a plan for your life. Hold tightly to His hand and he'll walk you through this.

Kit said...

Dina, Ane, Diane, thank for all the sweet comments. Much appreciated.

Walt Mussell said...

Kit, I can't imagine what you've been going through, but it's wonderful to see that you're moving forward. I know you'll continue to do so.

And you did a great job with Mom in the Making.

Margaret Daley said...

Thank you for sharing this heart felt post with us, Kit. You are a special lady and writer.

Vonda Skelton said...

Kit, what a great reminder that the best writing comes from deep inside, from the confusion and the conflict and the pain. But through all that hardship, we must find the hope.

I've been putting off writing a story born of hardship. Your post gives me the nudge I need to move ahead. Thank you.

Charlotte said...

I think you did a great job writing this. It is so true to all of us who have felt the pain.
Charlotte

Julie Garmon said...

Incredible post. I adore your honesty--fresh, real, and transparent. Such a message of hope for us all.

Cheering for you!

Chip said...

What a good, thoughtful post, Kit. Appreciate your honesty. Yes, you still have a bright future. Yes, God still has a plan. And yes, you still have hope. Blessings.

Tawna Fenske said...

Wow, I could have written so much of this post myself, and I'm so very inspired by your words. My agent landed me a three-book contract for my romantic comedies in February 2010. A few months after that, my marriage began a slow, miserable breakdown that culminated in my husband asking for a divorce February 2011. Talk about not feeling romantic OR funny!

But I've pushed on, and the first novel in my contract just started to hit shelves this past week. I've been overwhelmed by kindness from strangers and friends alike, and I've learned I'm a whole lot stronger than I realized.

At one point in the middle of the divorce drama, I was on the phone with my agent. "I can't believe he'd do this to you right now and ruin what should be the happiest time in your life." I just laughed. "I see it the opposite way," I told her. "If he was going to do this, what better timing than when everything else in my life is going so well and I have so much love and support and happiness around me."

Hang in there, and thanks for writing such lovely words of wisdom!

Tawna

Texanne said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Kit. Your story truly is inspiring, that you could look through your own disappointment and focus on the reader's needs.

Like the others, I wish you every good thing, and look forward to reading Mom in the Making.

Grace Greene said...

Kit - There are so many things that go awry in our lives - divorce, death, job loss, betrayal - the list goes on. Thanks for sharing your experience. I think it helps everyone because sooner or later we all have those times. I think it helps too, to speak of it. It takes away some of its power to hurt us and open us up to receive the prayers and encouragement of others.

Grace

Leah St. James said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kit. I'm so sorry to hear you've been going through such a rough time, and glad that you are finding your way through. You're in my prayers.
Leah

Tammy Barley said...

Kit, I went through a similar situation, one that was so stressful it drove up my blood pressure until it cost me my kidneys. Now I'm ten years post-transplant, and God is using all I went through, via my novels.

If we didn't walk the roads strewn with boulders, how could we touch the hearts and lives of our readers who face the same challenges? God blesses even our worst times and uses them to accomplish great things.

Kit said...

I am so grateful and overwhelmed by all the response from the post. I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and experiences. What a blessing.

Kit

Nicole O'Dell said...

Just wanted to send a hug your way, Kit. You've been such a picture of grace and strength through your circumstances. Praying for you constantly!

divorce attorney las vegas said...

Congratulations for writing such an amazing story! This will serve as an inspiration to everyone going through a tough time in their marriage.