Finding Beta Readers: Some Advice

So as many of you know, I recently finished a book. It’s a book that can be accurately described as, “X-Men, but in a basement.” And because I wanted to know if it was good enough to publish, I started looking for beta readers. Since then, I’ve swapped manuscripts with two people and received three in-depth critiques so far, of which I am grateful for.

(Side note: I also sent out a manuscript to three other people, who have yet to even make a comment on the document. Which makes me wonder: did they not like the book? Or have they just not gotten around to finishing it? Either way, if you’re one of these people, and you still plan on critiquing said manuscript, please know that the document you’ve got is now out-of-date. I’ve already received three critiques, after all, and I’m already returning to the revision stage. If you’d like to read the updated version, let me know, but I should warn you, it may take a few weeks before you get it.)

So, yeah, I’m basically a professional beta reader now. Not a big deal.

And as someone who’s critiqued many people’s work in the past and has been critiqued several times myself, I’ve got some advice to share. This advice goes for people sharing entire manuscripts, or for those posting smaller bits of writing at places like Destructive Readers. Really, if you want anyone at all to read any piece of your writing, this advice is for you.)

1) For the love of God, proofread your work first.

Let me tell you about the first person I swapped critiques with. She sent me the document, and after reading the few paragraphs I thought to myself. “Oh dear. What have I got myself into?”

It wasn’t just that the story itself sucked. That would be understandable. The problem was the typos. So many typos. At least one in every paragraph, and she wrote short paragraphs. Now, I am no saint with typos, as my readers can attest, but had this person clicked the “spelling & grammar” option, at least half of these errors could’ve been fixed.

This guy knows how I felt

And the thing is, this writer did a great job critiquing my manuscript, so it wasn’t like she didn’t have have a proper grasp of the English language. Instead it seems like she busted out a first draft and sent it to me without a second glance.

Don’t do this. Don’t make your reader spend so much time fixing something you could easily fix yourself. Because now instead of focusing on the story, the characters, the world-building, etc., the reader’s going to get bogged down on the little details. Plus, it’s kind of rude. It’s like if you ordered something at a restaurant, and the chef came out and just threw all the individual ingredients at you.

(No, it’s not like that? Alright, I’ll work on my metaphors.)

2) Don’t get defensive.

This hasn’t happened to me personally, but I’ve seen other people on places like “Destructive Readers,” (or even worse: on actual Amazon reviews of a self-published book), where the author got defensive and lashed out at the negative reviewer. Don’t do this. No matter how misguided or mean-spirited you think the critique is, say thank-you and move on. Because critiquing is not a debate. You’re not going to change the readers’ mind by telling them they “just didn’t get it.” 

I get that writing is a personal experience for most, and it’s easy to take things personally. But I’ve critiqued a lot of really terrible, embarrassingly bad stories over the last year or so, and not once did I find myself judging the person who wrote it. Most people are able to separate the story from its author, and are not going to think less of you for writing a shitty book. (Unless the book is like, aggressively racist or whatever.) They will, however, think less of you for not being able to handle criticism.

3) Remember, you don’t actually have to follow anyone’s advice.

You should still follow point #2, of course, but that doesn’t mean you should listen to every little thing they have to say. Sure, if more than one person points something out, it’s almost definitely worth addressing, but there’s been times where I looked at a beta reader’s advice and thought, “nope!”

Because sometimes, beta readers are wrong. Sometimes they simply have different tastes or opinions that don’t match the audience you’re aiming for or the vision you have. And that’s okay. It doesn’t take any validity away from their other points, and it doesn’t make you an egotistical jerk for not listening to that one part of their critique.

And because I only wrote this post to rant about points one and two, here are a couple of minor bits of advice that I will elaborate very little on:

  • If you’re asking someone to critique your story, make sure to actually tell them what it’s about, and how long it is.
  • One person sent me a copy of her manuscript where it ended mid-sentence. And I emailed her and said, basically, “Is this a mistake, or are you trying to pull off a Sopranos, here?” Because if it were the latter, that would be a pretty ballsy move. Not even The Sopranos was able to pull off a Sopranos ending. She responded with, essentially, “oops, my bad. Here’s the real document,” and sent me a version of the manuscript that was slightly more polished, and came with an actual ending. And I was pissed because I just spent two weeks pushing myself through a typo-ridden manuscript only to find out I’d been given the rough draft by accident.
  • So, don’t do that last bullet-point.
  • (And yes. That person was the same writer from advice #1.)
  • Okay, enough giving you guys advice, I’m just gonna rant some more. How the hell do you accidentally send someone the older copy of your manuscript, and not realize it at all during the weeks he spent critiquing it? There’s carelessness, and then there’s that.
  • I wasted two weeks of my life, dammit.
  • Okay, more like around fifteen hours or so of total work put in, but still.
  • Excuse me while I go chop down a tree.

Wow, so this post quickly veered off track. I’d like to end this post by saying good luck to all you writers out there, and I’d like to say thank you to those who critiqued my manuscript. You’re the best.

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A Day in the Life of a College Freshman

Yeah, so I’ve done a few posts like this in the past, one in my junior year of high school and one in my senior, and I got to say, I think this is the most interesting one I’ve done yet. Mainly because it has foreshadowing in it, and also some seemingly unrelated events that come together in the end. Plus something happens to me that feels like it was taken straight out an episode of Seinfeld, so I hope you all enjoy.

(I also just want to clarify that a couple parts of this post (you’ll know it when you see it) are not things that happen to me regularly. So keep that in mind.)

7:30 AM 

I can’t keep hitting the snooze button these days because it annoys my roommate, so I get out of bed and make my way to the bathroom. I watch my step, just in case my alcoholic suitemate vomited on the floor again. He did not, which is a good omen. (“Today will be a good day!”)

7:45 AM

After brushing my teeth and taking a shower and getting dressed, I make the fifteen minute walk to my first class of the day. I would eat breakfast first, but the dining halls don’t open until eight o’clock, which is the same time my class starts. This seems like a rather large flaw in the dining hall system, but there’s not much I can do. Luckily my mom sent me a care package recently that included snack sized bags of trail mix, so I ate that on the way.

7:55 AM

I notice that my phone is only at around fifty percent battery, which is weird, because I could’ve sworn I’d left it plugged in at night. It’s still enough to get me through the most of the day, though, so I don’t think much of it.

8:00-9:30 AM

Differential Calculus. It’s a tough class, but someone’s gotta do it. It’s taught by a TA, who is always nervous, which is uncalled for because he’s teaching a subject that no one cares about. I try my best not to fall asleep.

9:40 AM

Sociology discussion class. I have to give a presentation today about the evolving workforce into today’s society, or something like that. (I kinda winged it.) The presentation was based around three questions that were supposed to be discussed amongst the class. But because it’s a Friday morning and no one actually seems to read the required text, not much discussion is had. That is, until the final one.

The final question I asked was “Is it okay for a company to breach a customer’s privacy, even if doing so will benefit both parties?” It was referencing the Amazon Echo, a device that may or may not be listening in on your conversations in order to sell you stuff. (It totally is.)

What followed was a surprisingly heated discussion between two/three guys who were complete pro privacy, against one girl who was like, “it’s not a big deal, guys. Relax.” I was mostly on the girl’s side until she started talking about how companies can’t invade your privacy unless you agree to the terms of service, because come on. Nobody reads the terms of service. Nobody. Anyone who claims to is a backstabbing liar.

10:40 AM 

I finally get to eat a proper breakfast. Pancakes, and scrambled eggs, and bacon! Nothing quite like bacon to put you in a good mood. Now, my next class is at 2:20, so I have two choices:

  1. I could go back to my dorm and get some sleep.
  2. I could go to the library and attempt to get shit done.

I choose #2, which would usually be the smart choice, the one my parents would approve of. But in this case it ends up screwing me over in a way that will be revealed soon.

1:30 PM 

I get some homework done, but it’s a Friday and the week’s almost over, so I’m not in much of a rush. I watch YouTube videos in the library, then I head back to the dining hall for some lunch. Now, here’s when something weird happens.

As I’m waiting in line for food, one of the cafeteria workers need to walk past me, and so I back up to get out of the way. In doing so, I accidentally step on the foot of the girl right behind me. “Sorry,” I say to her, and usually that would be the end of it.

But after I apologize and turn back around, I find myself wondering if I said “sorry” too quietly. The place is very crowded after all, and loud too, and I may have come off as more of a jerk than I actually am. After a minute or so, I turn back around, hoping that this is all in my head and that the girl behind me has already forgotten about it.

Yeah, no.

Instead she’s giving me the death stare, with her arms crossed, her nostrils flaring. To borrow a photo from one of my other posts, she looks like this:

I have no idea what to do. In the end I just turn back around, feeling her eyes on the back of my neck. I figure it’s too late to fix anything and the damage has already been done, so I get my food and get out of there fast.

2:20 PM

Chemistry. Generally speaking, this is not a fun class either, but I am sitting next to this girl from my high school, (let’s call her Jess) who’s a lot of fun to hang out with. She asks if I want to go to a frat party with her friends tonight, and I one-up her by asking is she wants to bring her friends to pre-game at my suite before going to said frat party. She says yes.

An explanation:

Pregaming is when you drink alcohol before attending an event or social function, so you’re already loosened up before you get there, and you don’t have to spend too much money on drinks. I’m not sure if this is specifically an American thing, but I feel like we’d be the only country where the teens are stupid to do this.

Two of my suitemates usually set up a game of beer pong around 8:30 on weekends, and I’m free to invite anyone I want to them. The more, the better.

Therefore, in this scenario: beer pong = pregame.

3:30 PM:

Classes are done for the day, and I head over to the marketplace for what is basically a second lunch. (Don’t judge me.) I make extra sure not to step on anyone’s foot this time.

4:00 – 7:30 PM

I’m back in the library, working on my novel. Will it ever get finished? The world could only hope. I do get a lot done today though, so that’s nice.

I also watch an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I’ve only watched four episodes so far and I must say, I really identify with this Larry David guy. It’s like we’re the same person.

8:40 PM

I get back to my suite, and sure enough, the pregame is on tonight. I text Jess to make sure she knows which dorm I’m in, and in fifteen minutes I go downstairs to let her and her friends inside. Once they’re inside I quickly drop into my room to plug in my phone, which is now at only 10% battery.

Now kids, the problem with beer pong is that if you’re playing it by the rules and are actually drinking the alcohol, it’s very hard to keep track of how much you’ve had. And then if you pour hard liquor into the middle cup, as we did, you may find yourself getting drunk much faster than intended. So keep that in mind as you follow me along for the rest of the night.

11:15 PM

We end up going to the frat party, but first I go back into my room to pick up my phone, and what do you know? It hasn’t charged at all. In fact, it’s actually gone down to 8%.

Turns out, the extension cord I plugged my phone into was no longer connected to outlet in my wall, which explains why my phone wasn’t at 100% this morning and why it hasn’t charged at all today.

This is unfortunate, but I’m not going to let it ruin my night, so I put the phone on power saving mode and go out anyway, figuring “hey, I’m with my friends, nothing bad could happen to me.”

11:45 PM

I’m at the party, where I manage to bump into seemingly every single person I’ve ever talked to at the university. I’m bumping into people I haven’t seen in months, people I pass by in the halls, people I only met during orientation. It’s like my life in college is a TV show and tonight’s the finale, so all the minor characters are popping up for their last hurrah.

I took exactly three shots over the next hour or so, and I did the math in my head:

3 shots + ? = ??? drinks in one night.

1:00 AM (ish)

Jess and her friends ask if I want to leave and go to a bar. I let her know I don’t have a fake ID. She says it’s cool, because she knows one that doesn’t check them.

We go to bar #1, which as it turns out, actually does check IDs, so we are not allowed in. So we walk to another one, and wait in a long line. For this bar, I only have to give the bouncer five bucks to get inside. I reach into my pocket, then check my other one, and oh shit I lost my wallet.

Yep, it’s gone. Where did it go? Well it somehow ended up on the floor at the frat house, getting stepped on repeatedly, long into the night. It was returned to me the next day with everything still in it, but as far as I know, it’s gone forever.

But no worries, Jess agree to lend me five bucks, and we’re allowed in.

1:20 AM

Gotta say, bars suck. I thought the frat party was loud and crowded, but in this bar you literally can’t move an inch without bumping into someone. People buy fake IDs and risk getting arrested for this? Makes zero sense. I get separated from the group, and after getting suffocated for at least fifteen minutes, I decide I’ve had enough and I make my way outside.

The journey back outside is a long and arduous one. I don’t know what “arduous” means but it sounds like an appropriate word in this context. I’m moving about five feet per minute because there are just so many people in the way. When I get out I take a deep breath of the cool, crisp air. Thank God I’m out of there.

I take out my phone to text Jess and let her know where I went, only to find out that that eight percent battery has gone down much faster than expected.

So now I have a dead phone, and no wallet, and I’m drunker than the average man. I’m also in the middle of a city I don’t really know, and it’s the middle of the night. Most of the people walking past me are college kids travelling in packs, but I see one girl by herself and I ask her if I could use her phone. I’m quickly explaining my situation to her, but I stop in my tracks once I get a closer look.

She recognizes me just as I recognize her. “Wait a minute,” she says. “Aren’t you the guy who stomped on my foot this morning?”

Gotta say, this is surprising. There’s at least thirteen thousand students at my school so I’d honestly never expected to see this girl again, and certainly not this soon. My gut reaction was to go on the defensive, which may not have the best decision. “Well I didn’t exactly stomp on it. It was an accident.”

Bruised Foot Girl, however, was not having any of this. “Do you have any idea how painful that was? I could barely walk afterwards!”

“Oh, come on.”

“Would you like to see the bruises?” She bends over, threatening to take off her shoe for me. “You basically squashed all the toes on my right foot.”

At this point, we’re both raising our voices at each other and making a scene; I’m getting all angry and flustered. “Look, I didn’t mean to, alright? I did apologize —”

“Oh yeah, thanks for saying sorry, it really helped with the healing.”

“Well what do you what me to do about it? It was a crowded room, you were standing right behind me—”

“Oh, so it was my fault?”

“What? No. It wasn’t—”

“I’m so sorry for standing in line behind you, sir. It won’t happen again.”

“Okay look,” I say, calming myself down. “I’m sorry I stepped on you, I felt bad about it and I didn’t know what to do at the time. I lost my wallet and my phone’s dead, so I could really use some help right now.”

Unfortunately, the girl is not in a charitable mood. As she storms away down the street she yells at me, “Maybe watch your step next time, asshole!”

1:45 AM

Yeah, so that happened. I end up asking someone else for their phone, and they’re a lot nicer about it.

After about ten minutes of sitting outside, Jess and friends get out of the bar, and we take a cab back to campus. I decide not to mention my run-in with the Bruised Foot Girl, because I’m not sure which of us was the jerk in that situation. (Was it me? I feel like it was me.)

2:05 AM

We’re dropped off near one of the dining halls, the one that’s open til 4 AM on the weekends. I don’t have my wallet, of course, so I just get a cup of water, chugging two cups in less than a minute. Turns out, I was a lot more dehydrated than I thought.

2:25 AM

I call it a night. I’ve already lost my wallet and gotten yelled at, and I feel like if I keep going, only worse things will happen.

2:35 AM

I am back in bed. It’s nice and cozy.


If there’s a lesson to this post, it’s that bars aren’t fun and people hold grudges. Also, if you plug your phone into an extension cord, make sure said extension cord is properly plugged into the wall, before you leave it unattended for over an hour.

It’s been a long weekend, guys. Thanks for reading.

Young Adult Tropes I’m Actually Okay With

People like to bash on the YA genre, and for good reason. I mean, have you read Twilight? I haven’t, but I heard it’s awful.

There’s been a lot of criticisms of the genre that I agree with — the overemphasis on love triangles, the dark and brooding love interests, the Chosen One prophesies — but there are a couple common complaints that I can’t help but feel aren’t actually bad ideas. Such as:

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1) The Bad/Absentee Parents Trope

“Why can’t we have good, normal, loving parents for once?” people say. “Parents who aren’t dead or abusive or mysteriously disappeared?”

To which I respond: “Now how is that interesting?”

When Harry Potter was battling dementors in The Order of Phoenix, not once did I think to myself, “Man, I really wish his parents were here to sort this all out for him.” Not once throughout Eleanor and Park did I think, “this would be so much more exciting if Eleanor’s stepdad was not an abusive, misogynist jerk.” And yes, I am simplifying the argument for the sake of comedy, but hear me out:

I don’t want to read about normal parents, especially in a fantasy/sci-fi novel. I mean, have you met most parents? They nag. They worry. When I tell them I’m going out in the middle of the night to investigate the nearby haunted house where that one girl was found murdered by a mysterious unnamed entity, they’re never okay with it. Whenever I read a story with normal parents, I always find those scenes — you know, the scenes where’s there’s that inevitable conflict between the parents’ concerns and what the main character knows is right — to be such a drag on the story. I just want to skip over it and get to the good stuff.

And there’s a reason this trope is so popular to begin with. Teenagers don’t like their parents. Sure, they love them, but only because they have to, and they certainly don’t want to spend more time with them than absolutely necessary. (Note: cases may vary.) And whether wrongly or not, by the time a kid gets into their teen years, they start to see their parents more as obstacles to get around, rather than the larger-than-life role models they used to be. When I was a young, angsty fifteen year old, (as opposed to the strong, knowledgeable eighteen year old I am now), I identified with stories where the parents were antagonists, because that’s how I saw myself.

2) Insta-Love

“Sup girl,” said Devin Devinsky, sitting on his totally bitchin’ leather motorcycle. “Wanna make out?”
Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love?

I used to hate this trope, but then it happened to me in real life, so now I’m more forgiving. The heart wants what it wants, people, and sometimes it wants a douchey guy on a motorcycle.

The key, in my humble-as-fuck opinion, is that the Insta-Love has to be forbidden in some way or another. Like if one of them is engaged to someone else, of if it’s an LGBT relationship in a non-LGBT+ friendly environment, or why not both?

Lisa was engaged to that douchey guy on the motorcycle when she met Ruth, a douchey girl on a motorcycle. “Sup,” said Ruth.

Lisa felt a flutter in her chest. Was this love? But … she had never felt that way about a girl before, and yet this was stronger and more passionate than anything she had felt for her fiance. But her wedding was next month! Did I mention this takes place in the 1950s? Plus she had a bomb strapped to her chest that would explode if she left Devin, so that’s another source of conflict right there.

I’d read this story. Presumably it ends with Lisa and Ruth shooting their way out of a courthouse and stabbing Devin Devinsky with the American flag, like this. (Just replace Mel Gibson with Lisa and Homer with Ruth, and it’ll be a perfect representation of how I imagine this story to end.)

3) School is Seemingly Nonexistent.

I feel like every time there’s a YA book set during the school year, people complain that none of the main characters ever have to study or deal with homework. This complaint has never resonated with me, for a few reasons:

First off, this complaint always seems to be made by straight A students, students who take AP classes and actually open the textbooks to study. And good for them and all, but this does not represent the majority of students, or at least those in the U.S. public school system. You know how many times I studied in high school for more than twenty minutes, outside of finals? Literally not once, and I was one of the good students. I was taking the hard classes. The normal students taking the normal classes always seemed to have free time, and they never seemed to be doing any work outside of school. And when I think back to my high school years, I rarely think about all the assignments I had to do, because those aren’t interesting. One of the big rules of writing is to skip the boring stuff, and Rosey Evergreen’s trigonometry homework is included in that category.

And secondly, if my love interest died in a car accident, or if I discovered I was the chosen one in a world that I never knew existed, I would immediately stop caring about high school. Compared to fighting the Dark Lord, or stopping a vampire from killing all your friends, or any of the other crazy plots from so many YA novels, high school does not matter

(But seriously, stay in school, kids.)


And that’s all for me. I could only think of three things, because my noggin’s been a bit wobbly as of late. If you agree, feel free to comment below, and if you disagree: get lost, you filthy commie!

But for real, comment below. I’d appreciate it.

Goals for My 2017 Spring Semester

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My spring semester of college starts today, and while my fall semester was fine, there were a few things I wished I’d done differently. And now that I have a good sense of what college is like, and how much of a workload I could handle, I’m going to start making goals for myself that will straddle the line between Reasonable and Overly Optimistic. Let’s see how it goes.

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1) Get Back to a Normal Sleep Schedule

Last semester I had to wake up early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for an 8:30 Chemistry lecture, and I did not handle it well. Back in August I’d figured that this would be easy, considering how I woke up around 6:00 AM in high school and it wasn’t that hard. But as it turns out, waking up early in college is so much worse.

“That’s it!” I thought as I planned out my spring schedule, “No more early classes. I’m never waking up earlier than nine again.”

But I ended up getting screwed over by technical issues, and now I’m stuck with an 8:00 Calculus classes on Monday Wednesday Friday and an 8:30 Intro to American Politics class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So yeah, that’s rough.

And thanks to late shifts at Mcdonalds and nightly poker games, I’ve now gotten used to falling asleep around 4 AM and waking up around noon.

This is not a fun adjustment.

And yet, I’m looking forward to this. Because while I hate getting up early, I do love being up early. It’s nice waking up and having the whole day ahead of you. Plus the air smells nicer in the morning. Not sure why.

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2) Get at least a B+ in Chemistry.

Ah, chemistry. My Achilles’s heel, if you will. I got a C in it last semester, and I was pleasantly surprised to get it. I do hope to improve next semester, and the odds are in my favor this time because:

  1. My lectures this semester are in the afternoon, so I won’t be tempted to skip them so I can sleep in.
  2. I actually started to use all the extra resources available to me near the end, and it helped a lot.
  3. Hopefully, my TA this time won’t have a heavy, indecipherable accent. My last TA was a nice guy and all, (he didn’t even take points off when I handed in a late lab, God bless him), but he grew up in China and still has trouble with English. It’s understandable, considering that I took four years of Spanish classes and still can’t speak a word of it, but it’s frustrating when he has to explain important stuff to the class. I don’t know much about my new TA, but I know his first name is Brendan and his middle name is Patrick, so I’m gonna go on a hunch and say that English is probably his first language, (*fingers crossed*) so learning things should be a bit easier this year.

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3) Join more clubs

This is still going to be difficult for me, because three of the clubs I wanted to join last semester, (a book club, a sign language club, and a literary magazine thingy), were not only all at the exact same time, but also at the same time as my chemistry recitations. Chances are the same thing’s going to happen this semester too.

But I can still join the bowling club (turns out I’m good at it), as well as racquetball. Plus my school has a student-run website that’s basically like The Onion, and I would love to get an article or two posted on that. I think I could pull off satire. The key, as I see it, is to write about a completely ridiculous event as if its normal, such as this, or write about a completely normal event as if it’s extremely significant, like this. Or, of course, you can actually put some effort in.

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4) Be better with money.

Was I the best with money last semester? No. But did I learn from my mistakes and get better as the semester went on? Also no. This time, though, I hope to handle things better, and I won’t allow myself to make the same mistake regarding textbooks as I did last time:

Back in August I decided to save money for my classes by renting all my textbooks on Amazon for a cheaper price than was offered on the school bookstore. Look at me, I thought, saving money like a champ. This worked out fine for my Intro to World Politics course, but it backfired in math and science. Turns out, I had to get a code for an online site where 90% of the online assignments were due, and in order to get that I had to either pay $99 for the access code, or buy another textbook from the bookstore, because those were the only textbooks that came with the access codes. That’s two hundred bucks I’m never getting back. Do I sound salty? It’s my saltiness that’s making me sound that way.

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5) Check my grades as soon as they come out.

Sad fact: because I was so afraid I had failed chemistry, I did not check my grades for fall semester throughout the entire winter break. I just told my parents I had a 2.9 GPA, because that seemed to be on the optimistic side of realistic, and I spent winter break not thinking about anything school related.

Then I was told that if you failed Chem 107, you wouldn’t be able to continue with chem 108. Hmm, I thought, Maybe I should see how I did so I don’t get kicked out of chem 108 two weeks into the semester.

And so I checked my grades, and it was a lot better than I’d expected. C in Chemistry, B+ in Calculus, A in Intro to World Politics, and an A in my public speaking class. Not sure how that last one happened, (not false modesty; am genuinely perplexed), but I’m not going to argue with a good thing.

This semester, though, I’m checking my grades right away. ‘Cause there ain’t no way in hell I’m putting myself through that sort of stress again.


So, uh, yeah. What are your goals for this year? (School-related or otherwise.) And more importantly, does anyone know when Stranger Things is coming back? That show is lit.

In Which I Unexpectedly Get Sunburn in the Middle of Winter

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This picture is physically painful to look at. Ow ow ow ow.

So now that I’m back from college, I finally have a room to myself. While my roommate was fine and all, there’s nothing quite as nice as getting home from work and knowing that nobody else will be in your room when you walk in. And knowing that I had a whole private room to myself, I did the only logical thing a person would do. I started sleeping in the nude.

I don’t recall doing this before college, but now that I was back home I tried to take full advantage of this newfound freedom. No roommate, no clothes. That was my new motto.

I did this for several wonderful, dream-filled nights, and I gotta say, it has its benefits. It’s how God intended us to sleep, I’ve been told.

Then the other day, I’ve noticed that my skin felt irritable. I put a shirt on and every part of my back it touched seemed to sting slightly. When I put on my jacket, the fabric touching my arms felt just as bad. What is this? I wondered. Why does my skin hurt?

I went the next few days like this, the conditions only getting worse and worse, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Was I having an allergic reaction to something? Did God actually intend for us to sleep fully clothed, with this being his way of punishing me? I only figured it out when I noticed that my arms were much more red than usual. (Not sure how I didn’t notice that sooner.) I pressed my finger against my skin, and when I let it go it left a white spot that I gradually returned to the surrounding pink. And then the explanation all unfolded in my mind within a matter of seconds. It felt like I had reached the big reveal in a mystery novel, and suddenly everything fell into place.

The light from my window gave me sunburn. 

The way my bedroom’s set up, the sun shines right on me each morning. I usually like that, because it keeps me from sleeping in too late. Except the last few nights I slept in until noon, meaning the sun was roasting its way through my back, arms, shoulders and potentially my nether regions without me even considering the idea that it would be a problem.

Let this be a lesson to y’all. Never sleep naked, or you will be roasted alive. Or at the very least, close the blinds.

On the bright side, you know how I’ve often talked about my failed attempts to get a tan? Well here is my chance to be the tannest white guy at Binghamton when I go back on the nineteenth. I just have to sleep on my back one day and sleep on my stomach the other, switching back and forth. Keep this up for a few weeks, and I’ll be like a human leather glove. 

There’s a bright side to everything, people. Remember that as you go into the new year.

More Than I Can Chew: A Look Back

Image result for gum cartoon

For those who don’t know, two years ago I started writing an interactive blog story about two identical twins, one of whom had made a business out of selling gum to his fellow high school students. When one of his gum-selling employees decides to go rogue, a series of insane, potentially life-ruining events go down. No one is the same.

At the end of each chapter, there’d be poll that would allow the reader to decide which direction they wanted the story to go in. It was a good writing exercise: to write a cohesive story while staying true to the characters, despite having little to no control over the plot.

It had been a long time since I’d so much as thought about More Than I Can Chew, and what reading it over, a few things surprised me. So I decided to write a post about my thoughts on the project, almost two years after it ended, partly for nostalgic purposes but mostly for shameless self-promotion.

Click here if you want to read it!!!

1) Kathy is still cool.

I’m going to be honest: I had no intention of writing an older sister into the story for the first three chapters. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me until I realized that Wyatt was only 15, and he’d need someone to drive him around for this story to work. So I created Kathy, who was technically a plot device, but ended up being the heart of the story. (Or at least, I thought she was the heart of the story. Remember when she took the blame for something Wyatt did, even though she didn’t have to? That was sweet.)

2) A lot of the writing needed work.

There was a bit more telling than there should’ve been, and too many adverbs. I kind of want to go back to those posts and just revise everything, but I won’t. Because the past is the past, and it should stay that way. (Could I sell it as an ebook?)

3) Adrien wasn’t particularly likable in the beginning, was he?

He kept going on about how much he hated his brother, and I was like, “Damn, Adrien. Wyatt barely thinks about you at all. Move on. Get your own hobby.”

Adrien’s unlikeability can be boiled down to two problems:

  1. He was a big ol’ Mopey Gus in the beginning.
  2. He didn’t really do anything, at first. He just went to the bathroom, then got captured. I think Past Me realized this, because Past Me started giving him as much agency as the circumstances would allow, and I think it helped a lot.

4) Things went by a lot faster than I remembered.

So they were both in school, then Adrien gets kidnapped, now Wyatt and Kathy are driving to a park to pick him up. Now Adrien’s in the ER, Wyatt’s smashing furniture, and now Kathy’s managing to drive home, to the hospital, to the furniture store, and back home in record time. The whole story would’ve been about sixty pages long in book form, which is crazy considering just how much went down.

I’m not sure if this was a problem for anyone else, or if it only felt this way because I was reading it in on my phone, but things definitely felt like they were going by way too fast. Maybe that’s just my old age speaking. *shrugs*

5) The ending wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

It was a little abrupt, but not gonna lie, I think I’d be okay with this ending if I were just an unknowing reader. However, I’m a fan of ambiguous endings and most people aren’t, so I understand why some people may have been frustrated, and asking me questions like, “What happened to Diesel?” or “Was the money really counterfeit?” and “Is anyone going to jail? I feel someone should be thrown in jail.”

To which, I finally answer those questions, for those of you who are still around.

  1. Diesel was lying about his name the whole time. When he met Wyatt outside that hockey game back in ninth grade, he told him his name was Diesel because he wanted to see if Wyatt was dumb enough to believe it. Wyatt was. For several weeks prior to the start of this story, Diesel was quietly scheming his way to get the $10,000.
    • You may remember how, at the end, the characters decided to blame everything on Diesel? Well, the police were never able to find a Diesel, because no one in that high school had that name.
      • Basically, Diesel got away with everything.
  2. The money was not counterfeit. That was just Diesel being a criminal mastermind. It worked.
  3. Chances are, Fiona and Conner are going to have to do some community service. Fiona’s probably getting expelled, what with the whole, “organizing a kidnapping on school grounds” thing. I think James might be going to jail, because in order for Adrien not to get in trouble for almost killing him, he’d have to press charges on him for assault, and maybe kidnapping. The American legal system’s tricky, y’all.

All in all, I’m glad I wrote it; I just wish I had finished it within a reasonable amount of time. But hey, that’s my biggest flaw as a writer. I can’t finish. Even when I have the ending planned out, I end up losing interest and moving on to another project. Which, yeah, is a bad idea.

So I’ll end this post with some advice to all those beginner writers out there: finish your damn manuscripts. I don’t care how bad your first draft is, or if you just came up with a better story and you want to write that instead. Get it doneor you will be a failure, and you will die sad and alone in a tiny house in New Hampshire while everyone you ever loved will have nothing but contempt for you. Or your writing just won’t improve. Whichever’s worse.

In Which I Am a Giant, Thundering Ball of Happiness

Okay, so you know how I said I was accepted into the spring semester at Binghamton? And how they almost definitely weren’t going to take me for the fall semester?

(I think you know where this is going.)

Well I just received a phone call from the admissions adviser and you guys won’t believe who’s going to Binghamton this August.

(Me. It’s me.)

I’ve decided to use a bunch of gifs to describe my feelings right now:

cheer hooray happy excited celebration
Source: http://gemini-dragon-gifs.tumblr.com
excited seinfeld happy dance exciting celebrate
Source: Mostlyinnocent.tumblr.com
FOX International Channels reaction dancing happy simpsons
Source: Fox?
celebration will ferrell paul rudd steve carell anchorman
Do I really need to include a source for this?

So, yeah. They took me in for the fall semester, for some strange reason. I mean, did they not see my GPA? I am a good fifteen points below the usual range for admitted students. 

But I ain’t one to argue with a good thing, so I’ll just enjoy this feeling, and hope that they didn’t just confuse me for another Matthew Black, one with better grades and more extra-curricular activities. But as of right now, it all seems legitimate, so let this be a lesson to all the younger and more impressionable students reading this right now: don’t bother trying.

Judging from my experience, all you have to do is put the bare minimum amount of effort into your schoolwork, don’t even bother with any extra-curricular activities, and people will just hand you things on a silver platter. Turns out, life really is all sunshine and lollipops after all.

Okay, so maybe this isn’t true, because my laziness over the past two years have really screwed me over when it comes to scholarships, and while the cost of a SUNY school isn’t nearly as high as most colleges, it’s still pretty high, and it’s gonna be rough having to pay that off.

Also, I can’t imagine that my college courses are gonna be as easy for me to slack off in as my high school classes, but then again, I don’t plan on slacking off this fall. (Because college costs tens of thousands of dollars whereas public high school costs basically nothing.) Then again, I’m afraid I may have lost the studying habits I used to have in eighth grade, back when I thought that dipping below a 90 average would destroy my life. Hopefully I’ll go back to that level, because the fear of flunking out should be enough to motive me for at least a semester or two.

*shrugs*

Oh well, I’m very excited right now, for reasons I will list in bullet form:

  • I’ll be able to quit McDonald’s in August instead of next January! Which is good because I don’t think I could handle an extra five months there. I do plan to work again just for winter vacation, as a lot of employees have done, but hey, absence makes the heart grow fonder, so I should actually enjoy being back at the store for a couple weeks again.
  • I will no longer be the one child left in the house this fall, meaning that I will not be called upon every single time the lawn needs mowing, or the dishes need to be cleaned.
  • Mostly though, I just did not expect this to happen, because when I went on tour the admissions counselor told me that it was very, very unlikely that they’d be taking anyone off the waiting list at all, and I had accepted the fact that I’d have to wait till late January to start off on my own. 

I suppose I should mention, though, that my original plan to go on an official hiatus when I started college in August will be happening after all, which means that I only have three months and twenty-ish days left before I say good-bye to this blog forever.

(Okay, not forever, but for at least a couple weeks.)

So I will do my very best to make that time count, hopefully ending these past three years of blogging on a high note. This may be tough, because with graduation parties, a weirdly high amount of birthdays coming up, and the end of high school coming soon, I’m going to be pretty busy.

Knowing my past history, it doesn’t seem likely that I can succeed in posting as consistently as I did in my glory days, but I’m currently in an optimistic mood (mostly ’cause of the whole college thing) so I think that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to pull this off.

Until next time,

Matthew Palonius Black.

(Yes, my middle name is Palonius. Don’t question me on this.