Six Things College App Essays Taught Me About Writing

I just finished all of my college apps!!! *screams with joy for hours*


And while it was a horrifyingly stressful and (sometimes) tedious process, it did teach me some things about writing and myself as a writer.

1. How to write something that doesn’t rely on dialogue. Or sarcasm.

In my fiction writing, I rely on dialogue and sarcasm. College app essays weren’t really the place for that style writing, so it was an adjustment. Trying to find a tone that conveyed my personality without making me sound like a bitch was something that I’m proud I accomplished.

2. Just how many “voices” I have, outside the ones I already knew about.

This goes with the one before, but as I wrote more and more essays, I started to develop new writing voices. I still prefer my fiction/journalism ones, but I like that I discovered others.

3. How to be done with something. And actually be done.

I have been writing fiction for years, but I have never really finished something. I have reached the end of pieces, and edited pieces, but I have never really felt done. With college app essays, I had to write, edit, and turn it in. This was incredibly stressful at the beginning, but it also feels awesome to be actually done.

4. Kill Your Darlings is actually really good advice.

I have heard the classic writing advice “Kill Your Darlings” for a while, but college app essays were the first time I really had to use it. And damn, it works. I can’t tell you how many essays clicked into place when I got rid of a favorite sentence, metaphor, or idea.

5. How to write, even when I don’t want to.

My WIP started to teach me this over summer, but it was writing essays for college apps that finally drove home this lesson. Although I still occasionally give in to writer’s block, I am now able to get myself to sit down and write, even if I don’t feel “inspired.”

6. Word counts are the worst, but only sometimes.

This was my first real encounter with word counts, and it was rough. Of the hours I spent working on these essays, only half the time was writing. The other half was spent editing them down to the right word count.

But I also started to appreciate word counts for the direction they gave me. I knew how far to go with an essay based on the word count. Without them, I don’t know if I would have edited my essays as thoroughly. So I guess word counts aren’t the worst.

What do you think? Was this post interesting for you? Have you applied/are you applying to colleges, and if so, what was it like for you?

November Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

November was a pretty terrible month. The election happened, and I’m still not over it (and refuse to get over it). Watching Trump’s cabinet assemble has horrifying and frustrating, making it hard to get excited about the year ending.

Other than that disaster, November was focused on college apps and schoolwork. I had a week off from school, which was great, but I spent entire days working on college essays, so it wasn’t all fun and games. Thanksgiving was filled with family and wonderful food.

On This Blog

This was an okay month for blogging. I did not meet my goal of posting three times a week, but I liked the posts I did manage to write. I posted 10 times.

Also! After two and a half years of blogging, 52 Letters now (finally) has a review directory. I have been putting it together since summer, but I managed to finish it over break.

Top Ten Tuesday

Discussion Posts

In Reading and Reviewing

I read 5 books this month, which is better than I expected, to be honest. They were all incredible, which is a bonus. I also caught up on one review (Drowning is Inevitable by Shalanda Stanley — 4/5 stars).

  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater — 5/5 stars (will not be reviewed)
  • His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik — 4.5/5 stars (review)
  • Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik — 4.5/5 stars (review)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Headless by Tristram Lowe — 3.5/5 stars (review)

In Writing

This was a great month for writing. I added almost 13,000 words to my WIP, which brings my total word count up to 84,500. That puts the end in sight, and I now officially think I can meet my goal of finishing it by the end of the year. I also shared one poem here, This Was Supposed to Be a Poem, in response to the election.

How was your November? Did you read any amazing books? What are you going to read in December?

September Wrap-Up 2016

In My Life

Ugh, this month was rough. School has started to get real, hitting me with a lot of tests and larger assignments. College app deadlines are quickly approaching, meaning that I have to spend any extra time working on essays or supplements. Not exactly my definition of fun.

On This Blog

I had nine posts this month. I would have had more, but the entire last week of September was crazy and I didn’t have time to finish up and post anything. The good news is that I am actually proud of ever post I published, especially my discussion posts.

Book Tags:

Top Ten Tuesdays:

Discussion Posts:

In Reading and Reviewing

This was an okay reading month. I have started to slip back into my school-year reading habits, finally (sort of) finding time to read during the school week.

I read 5 books this month and published two book reviews this month. I am currently reading Empire of Storms (NO SPOILERS) and it is killing me.

  • A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1) by Libba Bray — 4/5 stars (caught up on this review)
  • Medea by Sophocles — 4/5 stars (review)
  • The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle #3) by Libba Bray — 5/5 stars (review to come)
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff — 4/5 stars (review to come)
  • Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas  — 5/5 stars (review to come)

In Writing

Fiction writing did not happen in September. I barely wrote 2,000 words in the entire month! (*covers face in shame*) My goal for October is to figure out a way to work writing into my weekly homework schedule. I cannot stand letting my WIP sit untouched for so long.

That’s not to say that I didn’t write anything in September. I wrote SO MANY drafts of college essays. I am finally getting to a place where I don’t hate everything that I write about myself (yay for small victories) but I still have a long road paved with supplemental essays ahead of me.

Part of me is glad that the writing skills and habits that I developed this summer transferred over to college essay writing. And part of me is really pissed that essay writing has replaced fiction writing in my life.

How was your September? Did you read any good books? What are you planning to read next month?

The Dragon’s Loyalty Award

dragon loyalty award

I was nominated for this award by the amazing Syc @ The Lit Mermaid. It was a long time ago and I can’t believe that it took me this long to get around to posting this (I’m the worst with awards). Seriously, check our Syc’s blog—she has amazing graphics and is a super nice blogger! Thanks so much for the award, Syc!!!

The Rules

  1. Display the award on your blog.
  2. Announce your win with a post and link the blogger who awarded you.
  3. Present 6 4 deserving bloggers with the award.
  4. Link your awardees in the post and let them know of their being awarded.
  5. Write seven interesting things about you.

Seven Facts About Me

Can I start off by saying that I LOVE the name of this award? I feel so legit writing out the name.

  1. I’ve never played a team sport, though I have taken gymnastics and diving lessons (the latter for a much shorter duration). I currently fence.
  2. I’m in AP Calculus, and I actually enjoy math classes, but I have less than no intention of pursuing math as a career.
  3. Even though I recently turned seventeen, I just started driving. I could have gotten my permit a year and a half ago, but I dragged my feet.
  4. Through my school’s journalism program and making graphics for this blog, I’ve started to really love graphic design. I find it a surprisingly relaxing hobby for something that is routinely so tedious.
  5. I am a cat person! My cat is named Muzgle and I love her soooo freaking much.
  6. I love rereading books! Most of the books on my “Top Shelf” have been read at least three (but probably four) times—and I have no intention of stopping.
  7. I’m a twin! A lot of you know this by now, but my twin is a really talented sewer sewist (she prefers that word, cuz, you know, it isn’t connected to sewage). Check out her blog here.

My Nominees

  1. The Galaxial Word
  2. Jess @ Princessica of Books
  3. Nikki and Amy @ Every Book You Need to Read and More
  4. Kat @ Life and Other Disasters

Congratulations to everyone! And thank you again, Syc, for nominating me!

My Goals For This Summer

Today is my last day of school. As of now I am FREE! (No really, I scheduled this post to go live one minute after my final bell rings.) Here are my goals for this summer, both relating to this blog and in my personal life.


I can’t stress this one enough. I need to get back into writing poetry (which I kind of dropped recently). I want to get better at writing short stories and maybe enter a content or two. And I absolutely have to work on (and finish?!?!) my second draft of my WIP, Devil May Care. I haven’t worked on it in two months, but the last time I really got into writing it, it went well, so I hope I can get that productivity and confidence back, for two months at least.

2. Read 20 books

This is the goal I set myself last summer, and I think it will be a good goal for this summer as well. I haven’t been able to read as much this year as last year, but without school, hopefully I can at least catch up a bit in my overall total. I also really need to start working on my reading challenges (I haven’t even started some of them yet!).

3. Keep blogging (at least three posts a week)

Sometimes, when I have a lot of free time, I basically cease to be productive. I know this about myself. This summer, I want to make sure that I keep blogging, because I know at some point I’m going to get lazy and stop writing new posts. I’m setting a goal of three posts a week, though hopefully I will have closer to four. I also want to focus on getting some more original content, like discussion posts, and posting more of my writing, instead of just doing Top Ten Tuesdays and book reviews.

4. Spend time with friends

This one doesn’t tie into my blog, but I need to write it down somewhere. I love my friends, but last summer I didn’t really organize any get-togethers, and by the end of summer I was regretting it. This summer will be friend-heavy, even if it means I don’t read or write quite as much as I would have otherwise.

5. Catch up on TV shows

Once again, this one isn’t directly blog related, but I haven’t watched the new seasons of Doctor Who or Once Upon a Time, and I really want to. Also, I haven’t been able to go on the Geek section of Pinterest for months, and I need that back in my life, spoiler free.

6. Learn ballet

I don’t actually have a choice about this one. I’m taking ballet at a local community college to get PE credit for high school. I waved my second year of (required) PE last year to take journalism instead, and I have to make it up. Hopefully, this will be a good experience, though doing three and a half hours of dance four days a week for a month will probably leave me exhausted.

7. Finally Get my Drivers Permit

I started this last summer. I am so lazy in this regard. I have like one chapter of online drivers ed left and I just need to do it, but it is sooo boring. Honestly, I don’t really care, but the people in my life want me to be able to drive so…it’s on the list

8. Enjoy myself

Sometimes, during summer, I feel like I’m wasting my precious weeks away from school if I just read a book for the whole day, binge watch TV, or do nothing. I have to remind myself that I enjoy doing those things, and they help me relax–and that’s all that matters. Summer is about relaxing and having fun, more than anything else.

What about you? What are you summer plans? Are they they same as mine?

April Wrap-Up!

april wrap up

Where did April go? No really–I’m asking. This month flew by.

I guess it was a good month. I’ve been really busy because my first ever AP test is coming up. (AP euro for the win 5!) Lots of studying but I’m feeling cautiously optimistic (*cue mental breakdown*). Other classes have been pretty easy though, and everyone is starting to wind down in preparation for the end of school (four weeks away!).

In the blogging world

I had 19 posts this month, with at least four posts a week (except for this week, which isn’t over yet). Not my best showing, but at least I kept posting and reading with all of the craziness going on in my life school-wise.

I had three Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Characters I’d Like to Check in With, Top Ten Inspiring Quotes for Books, Top Ten All Time Favorite Authors. These were some of my favorite topics I’ve done so far, to be honest.

This blog turned one! I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for over a year now! I also talked about how being a book blogger has changed me as a reader.

Thank you amazing followers for all of the likes and comments. This was a really active month in regards to comments, and I love it when you guys take time to interact with my posts and, through them, me. So thank you.

In the reading world

I posted six book review this month. I added a book to my Nonfiction Reading Challenge by reading The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen by Howard Carter, thoroughly enjoying it. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket got me credit for my Rereading Challenge and brought me back to elementary school. Noggin by John Corey Whaley was weird in a woah-amazing way; The Murder Complex by Lindsey Cummings was weird in a not-so-good way. A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff was sweet but sad. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson gave me fangirl feels like crazy, definitely the best book I read this month.

I’m currently reading For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. It is soooo good. I accidentally read the companion novel for this book, Across A Star Swept Sea, (which takes place later chronologically) first. Technically, that gave me spoilers, but this book is so intense and unpredictable that I have no idea how it could end in a way that leads to the book I’ve already read.

In the writing world

I did not work on my WIP this month. It was horrible, but I had a bad combination of little time and less motivation. I’m feeling optimistic for May (*fingers crossed).

I did write poems though! Six of them. A Writer’s Manifesto and A Tired Ballet are more personally based in my life. All These Things I’ve Loved and Rusted Juxtaposition were aimed at being more solidly poetic, capturing moments in time. Aha Moment was my attempt to be funny (but it was also true). And What Matters was a show of support for the protesters on April 24 asking for recognition of the Armenian genocide. I left it obscure, with only references to it in the event in the tags, because I think the message I was conveying is larger than just one horrific event in history. Still, I wanted to make sure I did something to support the protests, and to draw the attention of people who might not be aware of it in my own subtle way.

I Got a New Bookshelf!

Okay, so I’ve needed a new bookshelf for a while. I got a lot of new books for Christmas and my birthday and I’ve wanted to move some of my big collections of books onto their own shelf.

And then it happened!

I was walking to a friend’s house and I realized that there were two bookshelves (completely built) sitting next to a dumpster near my house. My sister and I immidiately started brainstorming ways we could fit another shelf into our room and we figured out that one would TOTALLY FIT.

that’s my sister awkwardly in the background…sorry Sam

When we got back from the friend’s house, we brought one of the bookshelves into our room (with our mom laughing at our pain as we dragged it through our apartment).

It came set up so there wasn’t anything to do other than decide where to put the shelves. (I used Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas to figure out how far apart the shelves should be.)


Then we got to move new books in!


The bottom shelf is Agatha Christie novels, The Cat series by Lilian Jackson Braun, and some other mysteries. The next shelf up is books by Janet Evanovich. Then there is a blank shelf (an excuse to get more books…am I right?). Between the awesome bookends I got for Christmas is my official TBR shelf (previously just a pile of books on my floor…). On the top shelf, Harry Potter and The Series of Unfortunate Events, both of which had been in a different room, got to move back into out bedroom!

Beautiful Blog Award :)

beautiful blog award

I was nominated for this away by Brin @ Brin’s Book Blog. It means so much to be thought of for blog awards and I’m honored to have been given another.

The rules for the award are as follows:

  1. Copy the Beautiful Blogger Award logo.
  2. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them.
  3. Nominate 7 other bloggers and say a little something about them.

I like the fact that this award focuses on the nominees instead of the nominator. It’s nice to be able to explain why you nominated someone. 🙂

I nominate:

  1. Aubrey Joy @ Point Taken — I love the name of her blog and the cheerful tone of all of her posts. Her newsletters are fun to read and she takes place in a ton of cool readathons.
  2. Emily Mead @ The Loony Teen Writer — Again, I love the spirit of this blog. She has so much fun with incorporating gifs and humor into her posts, and it’s great to read.
  3. Sumaira @ Hyper About Books — Her reviews are well thought out and written and I love reading her random rambles.
  4. Merin @ Read and Reviewed — I love all the memes Merin takes part in. Her random discussion posts and monthly State of Merin posts are great.
  5. A. E. LaGrand — This girl’s poetry is ridiculously amazing.
  6. Kara @ What Kara Reads — Her book reviews are thorough and always suggest new books for me to read.
  7. Samantha @ Strings Attached — Okay, so this one is kinda a cheat, but I’m nominating my sister, because she just got back into blogging and she’s had some great posts recently. Also, she’s my sister, so…yeah.

Congratulations to everyone! Thank you for having amazing blogs and giving me great posts to read every day.

No one is under any obligation to accept the award if they don’t want to, I just want to give you all a shout out for being great.

Let’s Talk About Identity

I was asked to do this post by Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag as a part of a promotion for the movie Ask Me Anything. It is based off of the novel Undiscovered Gyrl by Allison Burnett. The IMDB page is here and the official Facebook page is here. The idea for this post intrigued me; in fact, I’d been thinking vaguely along the same lines for a little while.

The book/movie centers around a character who chronicles her life in depth on her blog. In that spirit, I’ll discuss how I approach privacy with this blog, and social media in general.

I’m a teenage girl with a smart phone and a laptop. If you think I haven’t been lectured about online safety, you’re dead wrong. I’ve gotten it from countless teachers, school assemblies, parents, practically random passersby. When I started this blog, I got even more.

I get it. This is the age of the internet, where sharing everything is seen as normal. With privacy becoming a thing of the past, no one quite knows how to interact with social media. How much is too much? As colleges and employers jump into the arena and use social media as a quick background check, anxieties rise even more.

“You know that post will never truly go away, right?”

–Every Person Ever

Personally, I don’t use social media much. I have a Facebook, but I use it mostly for school. Most of the clubs and extracurriculars I’m in use Facebook as a way to communicate with members, making not having an account basically impossible. I don’t post many pictures and I don’t think I’ve ever updated my status, but this is driven more by insecurity and a lack of exciting life events than concern about my privacy. I haven’t gotten into Twitter, Instagram, or the dozens of other social media outlets that exist currently, but this is because of laziness and my aforementioned lame life rather than for privacy issues.

I do have a Snapchat. I like how the pictures disappear as soon as they are viewed. (Whether or not you believe that is a completely other discussion, but I’m taking Snapchat at their word for this.) I post pictures to my Story occasionally (where all my friends can view it for 24 hours). Snapchat works for me because of the lack of permanence. Clearly, I’m not crazy about putting myself out there into the world.

Blogging is different for me.

I’m really comfortable posting things on this blog. I feel that I have been very honest with myself and my readers in my posts. I never get super personal, but I’m guessing if you are an obsessive stalker, you could find me. (Please don’t, though. Seriously.)

It helps that most of my readers aren’t people directly connected to my personal life. I’ve always felt more comfortable getting compliments from people who only see my work and not myself, and this blog has accentuated that. I like that this blog lives in a weird universe connected to my personal life but with no connection to the people in my life.

I have just recently given my friends and some of my family my site address. The reception has been positive, but I have definitely noticed that I have started censoring myself based on the people I know will read my posts. I hate that and I’m trying to avoid it.

Privacy with this blog involves how much of my personality, thought processes, personal opinions, and reflections I share, mainly through my writing. I don’t write about day-to-day events, so that aspect of privacy does not come into this blog. Being personal, telling the truth about the raw and emotional parts of my life, is a challenge that I force myself to meet. Typing it on my computer is the first step, posting it on this blog and getting feedback is the second, crucial step.

For me, the people close to me are more daunting that those who are far away. If you know me, you can read much more into my writing than someone who doesn’t. If I see you on a daily basis, we might talk about what I wrote. I’m still coming to terms with this level of blog-to-reality connection. I enjoy it when people respond positively to my posts, but there are some things that I want to write about but hold back on when I know who will read it.

I don’t write under a pen name. I’m Jocelyn. My sister calls me Joc (phonetically Joss). My little sisters call me Jocie. My grandfather calls me Miss J. I’m not going to put my last name on here (I doubt) and the email I have isn’t my main one, it’s one I created for school and rarely use other than for this blog. I don’t have any pictures of myself on here, but that’s again borne from a lack of good pictures than a freakish fear of being on the internet. You can see some (weird) pictures of me at my sister’s blog.

Deciding how much of my personal identity to share on this blog is made easier by the fact that I don’t really blog about my life. I blog about the books I read and the stuff I write, and of course my personal life comes up in the periphery. I’m comfortable with how much I share, but I’m always conscious of the details I put out there. Part of me is annoyed that society has me so completely stressed about minor details of my life floating around on the internet, and part of me has listened to too many lectures to tell myself it doesn’t matter.

But what I’ve discovered after almost ten months with 52 Letters in the Alphabet, is that I absolutely love blogging. I love writing about the books I read and sharing the experience with other readers. I love the community that I’ve joined. I’ll admit, the first time I was mentioned by name in regards to this blog (I think it was in a blog award) it really weirded me out. It is only recently that the phrase “Jocelyn @ 52 Letters in the Alphabet” feels familiar rather than foreign. It’s a new part of my identity, but I’m proud of it. I’m happy that I’ve connected my personal life to this blog, and I don’t want to give that up because of the general societal fear surrounding privacy on the internet.

Here’s my take on the whole issue: The internet exists. Growing up in my generation, I can’t avoid it. There are parts of my life that are unavoidably connected to the internet, there are others that I’ve willingly connected. I’m okay with this. This is the new status quo. How much is too much? I think the answer to the question needs to be an individual one, based off of confidence and extroverted-ness, rather than a fear of sharing our lives with others. The meaning of privacy is changing and we need to be aware of that. But the answer is almost never to jump ship, and we should not abandon all connection to the wonderful tool that is the internet because of a new definition of privacy.

One Lovely Blog Award!

A giant thank you to Justina Luther at Welcome to my Imagination for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award! It is such a great way to start the new year. These awards mean a lot to me and I’m so happy to have been thought of. 🙂

The rules for the award are as follows:

1.  Thank the person who nominated you for the award

2.  Display the banner/sticker/logo on your blog

3.  Share 7 facts or things about yourself

4.  Nominate 5 bloggers that you admire and inform nominees by commenting on their blog

one lovely blog award

Seven facts about myself:

  1. I don’t like science. Most of my family loves it but a combination of bad teachers and uninteresting information has left me annoyed at the subject in general.
  2. My hair was blonde and then it slowly (and naturally) turned red when I was in my early teens.
  3. I can’t handle spicy food. Black pepper is basically too spicy for me to eat. (I’m a wimp, I know.)
  4. I started reading YA books in 4th grade. It was really funny when I reread them when I got older and realized how many inappropriate scenes I had missed the first time around.
  5. I wrote two novels in elementary and middle school, with multiple drafts of the first book and plans for two more in the series. I dropped the concept because it stopped appealing to me as I got older, but I’ll probably come back to the concept some day.
  6. I’m really sarcastic. I don’t think I’ve put much of it into my blog, but in person I’m ridiculously sarcastic.
  7. I’m a total geek and I watch way to much TV. Some of my favorite shows are Doctor Who, Sherlock (BBC version), Once Upon a Time, Psych, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Merlin (can’t believe it got canceled). I’m behind on most of them (those that are still on the air) so please no spoilers!

I nominate:

  1. Holly at Belle of the Library
  2. Todd Medici
  3. Ashley at Words We Heart
  4. Jay at The Wolf of Starbucks
  5. Brin at Brin’s Book Blog

Here’s to a great 2015!