A Bestselling Author's Writing Schedule
Kimberla Lawson Roby, New York Times bestselling author of 28 books, shares her tips for focusing on her craft.
For this week’s issue, I spoke with Kimberla Lawson Roby, New York Times bestselling author of 28 (!!!) books and counting.
I met Kimberla at the Jax Book Fest in 2018, where I spoke with her for Babes Who Hustle. She said something then that’s stuck with me through the years:
“When it’s writing time for me and I’m working on a first draft, I’ll generally write anywhere from eight to 10 hours per day, every day, until that particular draft is complete.”
How does anyone focus for ten hours?! I asked Kimberla, and she answered. Here’s our conversation.
Lonely Victories: Spending eight to 10 hours a day writing is a level of focus most writers only dream of attaining! How do you maintain this stamina while writing a draft? Did it take you a while to work up to that pace, or was it something you found you had the temperament for right off the bat?
Kimberla Lawson Roby: Toward the beginning of my writing career, I only wrote for maybe three to four hours per day, but once my first few books were published, I decided to make the writing of my first drafts much more of a priority. This was also when I began increasing the number of hours I wrote, and eventually, I began carving out six-week periods of time for this overall process—which means, while I’m writing the first draft of any book, I try not to schedule any meetings, speaking engagements, book signings, or personal appointments.
LV: What do you do to prepare to write for eight to 10 hours a day? Do you do anything special in the mornings to get in the right headspace, or do you have any other rituals?
KLR: I really believe carving out and devoting six weeks of my time toward writing the first draft and making it a priority is what tends to make so much of a difference for me. Because by doing that, I am able to rise in the morning, eat breakfast, and begin writing for the day, all without having to worry about my to-do list or other to-do items that might be on my calendar.
LV: When it comes to focusing on your writing, what challenges do you encounter? Does anything continuously distract you?
KLR: When I take eye breaks or breaks in general, I will sometimes make the mistake of signing onto one or more of my social media accounts… and as a result, I will end up taking much longer breaks that I should.
LV: What advice do you have for writers who strive to focus more deeply on their writing projects?
KLR: My advice for all writers would be to make writing one of their top priorities and to write at least something every single day—even if only a paragraph or a page. Because for me, writing daily is what allows me to stay fully in tune with my story as it relates to what I wrote yesterday and the day before that. I also believe this kind of consistency truly helps with writing flow and with writing page after page in a seamless manner.
How do you get in the zone (and, more importantly, stay in the zone) while you write?
“With great effort! Will power, which often fades when I hit a difficult patch.” —Rebecca
“Complete silence, which is in very short supply in my house these days.” —Zara
“Usually, if I start, I'm good. To start I need a good drink, good music, and 0-1 children to worry about.” —Mera
“Still working on that! I wrote on a Saturday last week, and the feeling of having nothing to do except write really helped. I cut out a block of time in my calendar, went to a coffee shop, and just DID IT.” —Kalee
I’d love to hear about your writing life. Answer my reader questionnaire and I may include your response in future issues of the newsletter!
Really Digging This
Here’s what I’ve been reading and loving lately.
Dancing at the Pity Party — This is the loveliest book I have read in a very long time. It’s a graphic memoir about the death of author Tyler Feder’s mother. The book, if you can believe it, is absolutely hilarious. But don’t worry—you’ll cry, too! I highly recommend this title to anyone who has experienced losing a parent at a young age, and also to anyone who has someone in their life who has suffered this kind of loss. The book taught me so much about grief—how to navigate it myself and how to help my loved ones navigate it, too.
Also, the author’s dad left this review of the book on Goodreads, which somehow managed to make me cry even harder than I did reading the actual book!
Luster — Raven Leilani’s debut novel deserves all the hype it’s earned since its release last year. In this story of a twenty-something who is seeing a man in an open marriage, the protagonist, Edie, develops a friendship with the man’s adopted daughter (and may be the only other woman of color the young girl has gotten to know). It’s an intensely self-aware book that will leave you breathless.
Upcoming Writing Workshops
Want to work on your fiction or nonfiction writing with me? I am now enrolling for two workshop sessions this May. Here’s what one happy student had to say about the class:
“Writing is finally a joy again thanks to Hurley’s expert insights and her lovingly-crafted workshop structure.” —Emma
Sign up soon if you’d like to reserve a spot. These sessions fill up quickly!
Tell me about your lonely victories.
“I decided to take the leap and get a studio space for myself and my work! The decision was daunting and covered in imposter syndrome, but also full of pride in my writing life and what's ahead.” —Mara
“I've been booking readers for a poetry series I've decided to host on Zoom, and I've given myself the mandate of having it include poets of color as 50% or more of the readers, and of including as many queer, trans, or nonbinary poets, poets living with disabilities, poets representing different social classes, and poets at different points in their careers, and I'm extremely happy at how it's turning out. I've lined up some amazing poets, both famous (for poets) and unknown, and it's feeding my own creativity.” —Michael
I want to hear about your writing achievements, too! Answer my reader questionnaire and I may include your response in future issues of the newsletter.
Special thanks to Becca Wucker for editing this issue and to Aysha Miskin for designing the Lonely Victories banner.
“Writing alone can give you a very deep sense of satisfaction and lonely victory.” —Greta Gerwig