Author Archives: Elizabeth

Parks, Outside, and Pretentiousness

I used to volunteer with the local park system regularly, but it’s been a while. A couple weeks ago seemed like a good time to get back into it, so I pulled my bike out of the garage, knocked off the spiders and pumped up the tires (it had been a few months), and headed out to presumably hack down some honeysuckle. (Getting rid of this invasive species seems to be the most common activity. I’ve also pulled garlic mustard and collected seeds.)

They’d canceled the work day, but I got a nice walk out of it. I sat on a bench by the creek and did some sketches of a tree along the bank before going on a walk through the prairie. The redwing blackbirds are back, screeching constantly from the trees along the edges of the prairie. (Story title for anyone who wants it: “The Redwing Blackbirds Cry Good Morning”)

In places the path was covered in ice. Sometimes it was thin sheets suspended in air where the water beneath had vanished. Other places, it could support my weight. The grass sounded like it was dripping.

The past two weeks I’ve planned to go on a bird walk run by the park district. I changed my mind last weekend when snow was forecast, and this weekend when an hour disappeared in the middle of the night. I went out this afternoon and walked around. It was a balmy 45 and the park was crowded. For a while I sat on a bench and sketched some grasses. (I ordered a proper sketchbook that arrived Friday, and sitting out in public with it and my set of pencils made me feel pretentious.) I found an interesting tutorial for drawing grass, so later this week I might go back to my favorite of the sketches and turn it into a drawing.

Pretentiousness aside, drawing is a great excuse to just sit and soak up the outside-ness for a while without feeling guilty for doing nothing.


Filed under Drawing, Outdoors


Last Thursday, I wrote 289 words. Nothing special about that, except that it was the 365th day in a row that I wrote at least 250 new words of fiction. In that year, I wrote big chunks of two different novels and all or part of 15 or so short stories.

According to Wolfram|Alpha, that’s at least almost half of the Origin of Species.[1]

Why did I do this? The best answer to that, I suppose, is that I started trying to write 250 words every day back in August 2012, but it took me until the following February to not miss a day. I wanted to see if I could write every day for a year. 250 words isn’t much. If I know what I’m writing, it takes less than 10 or 15 minutes.

That’s a big if, though. One of the challenges was what to write when my main project was planning or revision. That’s how I ended up with a big chunk of that second novel–my novel-planning process involves writing lots of snippets. Some of them, most of the early ones, are getting thrown out because they ended not being appropriate for that book. But I’m keeping enough that I had half a draft of the book before I started actually “writing” it.

In that sense it was a success. But I’m not continuing with the challenge. My new goal is to write 100 new *good* words of fiction a day.[2] There weren’t many days where I just blurted out words to check that day off on my calendar, but there were enough. Besides, going with the concept of deliberate practice, it’s quality of effort that counts.

[1] The first time I did that calculation, I left off the units, which gave me this:

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 9.25.24 PM

So, had I written these words at a rate of one a day, while lying on my back outdoors, it is likely that a bird would have pooped in my mouth. Good to know.

[2] That’s for the whole year. Right now I’m finishing that novel so my word count goal is much higher.

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Podcast sale! And writing post roundup

I sold a podcast! Cast of Wonders, the YA speculative fiction podcast, will be running my story “Pictures in Crayon”. I’m looking forward to hearing it.

Recent things I’ve posted on the All Rights Reserved blog:

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ConFusion Schedule

This weekend, I’m off to ConFusion, a Detroit SF convention. (Actually Dearborn. Close enough.)

If you’re going and you want to find me, or if you’re just curious, or if you don’t care at all, here is where I’ll be, trying to rein in the sarcasm:

Worst. Advice. Ever.
John Klima, Aimee Carter, Elizabeth Shack, Howard Tayler, Catherine Shaffer, Doselle Young
10am Saturday – Southfield

Everything I needed to know about writing I learned by reading slush
Ferrett Steinmetz, Sarah Gibbons, Elizabeth Shack, Nancy Fulda, Patrick Tomlinson, C. C. Finlay
1pm Saturday – Erie

What makes a shorter fantasy “epic”?
Christine Purcell, Sam Sykes, Elizabeth Shack, Bradley Beaulieu, Brigid Collins
2pm Saturday – Erie

What does rejection Mean?
Ian Tregillis, Elizabeth Shack, Mike Carey, Amy Sundberg, Nancy Fulda, C. C. Finlay
5pm Saturday – Rotunda

Don’t write what you know
Brian McClellan, Elizabeth Shack, Stina Leicht, Tobias Buckell, Catherine Shaffer, Mike Carey
11am Sunday – Erie

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2013 Writing in Charts

Back in 2010 I started logging all of my writing time, which means now I can have nifty pie charts.

So here is 2013, in charts.


I spent big chunks of time on three different books, and a bunch of short stories. While I got a lot done, it sometimes didn’t feel like I was making progress because my time was split up a lot more. I knew that already, but it’s nice to see my impression confirmed. There were good reasons for my jumping around, but I don’t want to start any more novels until two of these are done.

Some notes: These titles bear little resemblance to what the books will actually be called. About 2/3 of my logged time was spent actually working on projects. The rest includes things like critiquing, sending stories out, writing classes or books about writing, and reading slush, most of which falls under the “None” project.

The next chart breaks down how much time I spent planning, writing, and revising each project. (With all short stories lumped together, because that’s easier.)


You can’t compare one ring to the next in absolute numbers. (For example, I spent less than an hour on the Arcology book all year, but since it’s on the outer ring it looks like a lot.)

I’m happy to see a large proportion of actual writing time on most projects, since that’s the fun part of the work. Between parts of two novels and several short stories, I wrote more than 100,000 words last year.

This would be a fun chart to do for a single project or set of projects over multiple years.

I also have bar charts! (I’m sure you’re all as excited by this as I am. This is what I did on my New Year’s day holiday last week.)


That dip in July is from my two-week vacation. The spike in September is a combination of two deadlines: the Strange Chemistry open submission and a novel contest on the Codex writers forum (careful inspection of November and December will tell you that I changed my mind about which novel to enter in the contest). And despite my comment at the beginning of this post, although I worked on three different books, I mostly didn’t work on all of them at once. The only project I worked on in all 12 months of 2013 was my catch-all “short story” project (and no, it was not the same story all year).

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2014 Writing Goals

Writing goals! The only kind I set any more. Even these are flexible.

Posted on All Rights Reserved.

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New Year’s Goals. Or Not.

When I wrote up my blog schedule, I thought today I’d blog about my non-writing-related goals for the New Year. Except I don’t have any.

The thing about setting annual goals is that I change them frequently throughout the year. Either my schedule changes–the drawing class I’m signed up for this spring means I won’t be doing something else that day, but once it’s over I get that time back–or my interests change–more/less tennis, less sewing, more drawing, less/more piano, whatever. I don’t really want to force September Elizabeth to run three times a week if she’s decided she wants to swim, or to draw every day if she decided she doesn’t like it. I trust my future self to make her own decisions.

I do have a bunch of writing goals, which I’ll cover tomorrow, but even those are on a list that I plan to revise throughout the year.

So, while right now, I would like to learn to draw, play more tennis, and learn to play Air on the G String on the piano, by June I might have come up with some other plan.

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Top 5 on Pocket

This cracked me up:

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 7.33.56 AM

Apparently I read 730,498 words in Pocket this year, which they say is like reading The Great Gatsby 16 times.

It’s amusing because I’ve been trying to read fewer blog posts this year, and read books instead. I’m doing pretty well. (A lot of the credit for that goes to the library’s ebooks service.)

Though I wonder, do they actually keep track of which articles I save to Pocket and then archive or delete? Or do they assume I read everything I save? If the latter, they’re seriously overcounting. If the former…I need to read more books. Or catch up on my magazines.


Filed under Reading

Drawing class

I signed up for a drawing class from the Champaign Park District yesterday. It doesn’t start until February, but I’m already excited. The supply list included charcoal and markers as well as pencils, so I’ll get to try some new techniques (and I know what I’m getting for Christmas, too).

I’m looking forward to having feedback from an instructor. I can find problems in what I’m drawing all by myself, but figuring out how to fix them is harder.

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Writing Roundup

I was doing a great job posting regularly before my January hacking incident. When I cut back on blogging, one of the things that I dropped was my monthly lists of things I’d posted on the blog of All Rights Reserved, my mostly local writing group.

So, here is an approximately quarterly roundup. This is not everything, just the things I still think are worth pointing out.


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