for the Creatives, Musings of a Creative

A little feedback can go a long way

Last week I shared the survey results for my quirky meta murder mystery book title. Maybe you want feedback but there’s no way you’ll hear from 50 people on a survey like I did (I asked thousands of people for that help.)

But I wanted to share that

I already thought I knew how the results would go before they ever happened.

Because before I created the survey, I asked a dozen people in a group and heard from about half of them. And the exact same results happened on a smaller scale – most liked “Memoir of a Murder” but for reasons that didn’t coincide with my story. Two people liked “I Know You Like a Murder” in a way that resonated with my story. And this response is like #lifegoals for a writer here:

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My friend Laura posted this – it wasn’t an analytical response as to all the reasons one title is superior to the other. It was an instinctive gut-level reaction, something that tugged at her that she couldn’t get out of her mind.

That’s what an author wants of a story, and I got that response just from the title. I had to pick that title! and as you saw from the survey results I posted last week, that reaction multiplied in the 50-ish people who responded there.

Mostly I just wanted to geek out and publicly squeal and gush over this comment, because let’s be real, it’s everything I hope my book will be ❤

But let’s throw in a little encouragement inspiration for you too while we’re at it 🙂 If you’re not sure on a decision, just ask a small group of friends. But don’t just ask the multiple choice – ask why the choice they made and why not the other choices.

Then watch for the emotionally gripping response, not some logical reasoning. You’ve got your reader hooked when they respond from the heart instead of their head. You don’t want them to think “That’s smart,” you want them to think “I can’t let this go.”

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Musings of a Creative

The book title that got the least votes, but wins

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with politics. Let’s not go there 🙂

If you don’t follow me on other social media, you missed out on a survey to vote on the title of my short story. (I’m sorry, I actually planned on posting it here, because you’re some of my greatest fans, but I suddenly had an unplanned deadline of 24 hours, so…)

And wouldn’t you know it, the title that got fewer votes wins. 

How’s that possible you ask? In short:

Reader responses….

If you ever plan on surveying your reader base, having an open comment section can make it take more of your time, but that time may be important.

If I only had the multiple choice options, here’s what I would have seen:

 

 

The image on the left is a “Select All” question of which titles the reader might purchase. The image on the right is the “Select One” question of which title I should name my book.

Either way, that light blue color is definitely not the “winner.” I would obviously name my story off the dark blue title. Right? 

But I’d made the decision to ask the voters to plead their cause. “Why that book? Why NOT the others?” and that’s where things got interesting.

First off, I found out the Yellow title – which off the bat was actually winning the “race” – a voter informed me that title was very similar to a title of a different story. Mine sounded like a spin-off. So I deleted that option right away. (Thanks voter!)

So what were the two competing titles, you ask?

Dark blue: Memoir of a Murderer

Light blue: I Know You Like a Murder

How did I Know You Like a Murder win without winning?

Reason #1: The response of those who chose I Know You Like a Murder

You probably knew this was one of the reasons. Check it out!

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To sum up, the readers who voted for I Know You Like a Murder got it! It made them think. They’re my type of reader. “Quirky, personality, weird, unusual”, they get the vibe of my story. If you voted for this title, this may be the story you’re looking for 🙂

 

But there was another reason that pushed me to choosing I Know You Like a Murder.

Reason #2: The response of those who chose Memoir of a Murderer

Maybe you didn’t see that one coming. But first off, those who picked this title were looking for a deep internal look at a murderer. And my story isn’t that story – though that’d be a great story for someone 🙂

More than that though, their responses about I Know You Like a Murder and why they didn’t vote for it, just made me want to pick it even more. 

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  1. My protagonist is definitely patronizing
  2. Doesn’t that “I’m not sure about buying it because I don’t want people to think I like murder comment” just make you want to name the title that?
  3. “Odd.” Uhmm, yeah. If everyone thought the title was odd and wouldn’t buy it, sure, I’d want to take that into consideration. But the fact it’s odd reaches a niche audience that we’ve already seen want odd, and that’s what I’m going for, so this just confirms that THIS reader isn’t MY reader. And that’s fine 🙂
  4. My protagonist is definitely presumptuous, and this is hilarious.
  5. “I don’t like murder.” Uhmm, yes you do, in the first sentence of your response you said you found it intriguing 😉 hehe once again, doesn’t this just make you want to name it I Know You Like a Murder?

The responses showed me that if I named the story Memoir of  a Murderer, more readers might pick it up, but they’d be the wrong readers. They’d start reading and hate the story and I’d have missed my audience.

But if I named my book I Know You Like a Murder, it’ll be a smaller audience, but it’d be the right audience, that audience looking for a story like mine, that would like a story like mine. It’s my niche, my tribe, my people who get me 😉

 

Do You Like Murder [Mysteries or Writing]?

And so, that’s how it was determined that my story will be titled I Know You Like a Murder.

  • Sound interesting? Stay tuned to get your hands on it.
    Sound horrible? Mehh okay, it’s not for you. Sound off in the comments below – don’t worry, we’re still buds 🙂

Think I made the right choice, or wrong choice?

And hey, are you interested in writing Memoir of a Murderer, because it sounds like a cool story that people want to read 🙂 Have at it!

for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives, Stories to Read Right Now

Stories on why we create

Creativity isn’t finite. The more you give, the more you have. That’s a philosophy I want to live by, and Ksenia does too.

Ksenia Anske sends cards with personalized stories to her readers. So when she sent one for my writers’ group, I volunteered to facilitate our writers prompt and had everyone write her a story back.

Ksenia

Because stories are meant to be shared, and a writer can only hide their stories for so long before some need to spill out, even if it’s in short form 🙂

And now we’re going to share those stories with you, stories to encourage you to create.

Jenn

“With this final bit of paper and fragment of graphite I beg of you to continue on what I can do no longer. I brought their gruesome reign into the world and now with these last meager strokes I must pass the mantle onto another. They came from my mind you see, in murderous retribution. The misshapen wolf-child led the way howling in agony that I had abandoned him. My mind had pulled the sparks of his essence together but I had trapped him there. But he escaped, and he brought the millions of forgotten characters with him. The creatures control my mind, and have managed to get a link to every human brain. If I stop writing (I haven’t much longer now) without another to take my place the world ends. Pick up your pen. Go.” – by Jenn Wieland

Kim

“There once was a woman who decided to try writing. At first she was thrilled and excited, but then she met the rejection monster who gnawed at her amazing manuscript.

The brave writer stabbed the dreaded monster with her mighty pen. The monster shrieked and died at her feet. The amazing writer skinned the beast and made a cloak that she wore in the frigid winter.

The amazing writer walked proudly down the published road with her rejection coat wrapped around her shoulders.” – by Kim Kouski

Andy

“Once upon a time a young girl named Ksenia yearned to be an author, a writer. Over the years she succeeded but oh, she grew so weary and discouraged. Then one night she had a dream. She seemed transported into fairyland, with castles and dragons, knights – and a blight – a blasted desert where nothing lived. She asked a handsome knight, ‘Why? Why is fairyland blighted?’ He said sadly, ‘Those are the regions of fairyland where our goddess Ksenia has never written about.’ The end.” – by Andy Zach

Yasmeen

“Once upon a time, there lived a sixteen-year-old girl who found a book buried beneath a pile of ruins… The girl had never seen a real book before, let alone written words and paper. This book had a red toy train on the cover.

Books were only something people have heard about – a distant memory for few. And here it is… the last book in existence wedged between her fingers. ‘Our race can be saved!’ the girl thought. ‘Finally our world will not be mute and the curse will be broken.'” – by Yasmeen

Amy

“As the dancer danced, flowers popped up around her toes and danced with her. They danced the words – the flowers and her – until a flower castle appeared. The dancer danced the word “wing”, and up sprouted the wings and lifted the word dancer to the tippy top. ‘I will make my home here,’ she danced.” – by Amy L Sauder – uhh, me 🙂

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So that’s the stories. Now go out and make your own creations! And then share it with the world, give it away in some form somewhere 🙂 Pass on Ksenia’s enchantment ❤

(Psst! If you want to know more about Ksenia who started this story card thing for me, you can see her website, social media, and read about all the ways I want to be like her when I writerly grow up.) 

 

Musings of a Creative

We could be heroes just for one day

I’ve been promoted from superhero seamstress to superhero!

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I just had to share how fun the Superman Festival in Metropolis, IL is. It’s a smalltown affair, but they have a large variety of yummilicious food carts, oodles of superhero collectibles, a myriad of costumed characters, and of course the Superman Museum where I took this picture of Delilah’s superhero friend. #DelilahTales

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My mannequin needs to get a cape now 🙂

And what were my superhero duties you may ask?

This was my boyfriend’s surprise birthday getaway. We drove 5 hours there and 5 hours back all in one day. Because it’s in the middle of absolutely nowhere, he didn’t know where we were going until we took the exit. How perfect!

So if you’re looking for a unique and geeky event, check out the Superman Festival for smalltown charm and super activities 🙂

for the Creatives, My Creative Projects

Sometimes you don’t need skill

In your creative pursuits, strive for excellence of course. “Study to show yourself approved.” Don’t put out rubbish and expect people to pay for it because it’s authentic and from the heart. Ech.

But also branch out. I’ve got a reasonable amount of skill in music and writing and arguably fashion – though not runway fashion, just artsy fun fashion 😉 What do I not have skill in? Visual arts and rhythm. My coordination is seriously lacking there.

Yet it’s okay to fumble and explore.

  • Last year I choreographed my own personal dance in the privacy of my home that will never be seen by anyone. Anyone.
  • I took a 30 minute drum lesson a few years ago.
  • I remember as a teen taking:
    • a pottery class
    • a cake decorating class
    • a sewing class
    • brief mandolin and harp lessons
    • I even tried acting in church plays

Just to try it out. (I have my parents to thank for opening me up to exploring new pursuits even if I sucked at them.) I always wanted to be good at everything, but let’s face it:

We can’t excel at everything. But we can still try.

The sketching class most stood out to me. The students who had been there awhile were sketching a self-portrait and I eagerly tried and failed. The teacher walked over belatedly and said something along the lines of, “No, that assignment is for the advanced students. You’re supposed to be drawing this grandfather clock.” She was not very happy. And neither was I. I “learned” that I cannot draw.

But I’ve been working on allowing myself to explore and enjoy visual arts even if I suck at them.

Last year I took an art journaling class.

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You don’t have to be good at something to put it in your journal.

I sporadically draw pictures in my journal, to make it visual. And it sucks, but that’s okay, because it’s for my eyes only. (Until last month when I lost my journal at Starbucks and they probably thought it belonged to a preschooler as they flipped through it for contact info….Don’t leave journals at Starbucks! But that’s another story.)

A couple months ago I did one of those painting classes that’s like an “Everybody can paint!” sorta deal. The difficulty level was low – he said an 8 year old did the same painting and it looked great. But on my painting the dancer’s legs were excruciating and I finally had a friend help fix them (but all horrible awkward legness is my fault…)

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Most notably though, the colors I picked out makes it look like a taco dancer, let’s be real. Just flip it upside down and it’s a taco bowl…. see?

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Now I’m hungry.

But the point is, dabble. It might be bad, but it’s fun and it’s stretching those creative muscles.

About that time I was deluded and teeny-handed with an atrocious wardrobe…

There once was a time I was bad at writing – and worse, I thought I was good. There once was a time that the piano teacher wouldn’t let me learn to play piano because my hands were too small and my fingers lay flat on the keys. I used to wear drab or terrifyingly horrible clothes, embarrassingly so, and say I didn’t care about what I wore and maybe I didn’t. How naive. But I got back on those horses and I’m basicly a cowgirl now 😉

So, dabble. I guess that’s all I’m saying. Also, look at all the proof I’m not good at everything! *gestures wildly in every direction* 🙂

And finally, to all the hypothetical naysayers out there – “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

for the Writers

10 writing experiments to avoid

My friend was going to do a writing experiment, but was worried I as her writing coach wouldn’t approve. So I sent her a comprehensive list of all the experiments I disapprove of. If you’re thinking of experimenting with your writing, here’s a cautionary look at what experiments to avoid.

  •  Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you refuse to write until 5 years have passed.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you only write when inspired.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you never write again.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you only research your novel but never write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you talk about your idea but never write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you always say you’ll write “someday.”
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you’ll write when you retire.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you open up Facebook instead of write.
  • Oh no, you’re doing an experiment where you binge on movies and books and then talk about how you could write better, but you don’t actually ever write it to write better.
  • Oh no, you’re doing a writing experiment that somehow keeps you from writing entirely.

If you get any idea from this list, know that if you have a writing experiment in mind, I probably wholeheartedly embrace it! In fact, I think the best stories come from being innovative, playing with words, and experimenting.

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If you’re looking for permission to think outside the box, the building, the rules of story, the world of writing, consider this your invitation. Dabble all you want. Just keep writing 🙂

Mental Health, Musings of a Creative

Trust the chai tea latte…

It takes very little to incapacitate me – about 3 minor inconveniences, sometimes 2. But I have my liquid calm, and it’s not alcohol and it’s not coffee:

If you see me holding a chai, you can bet I’m in a situation prone to panic attack. Crowds or stressful days or interacting with strangers. I call chai my liquid sanity. And of course there’s the occasional time I just have a chai tea latte because it’s a cup of dreamy sweet joy 🙂

So one day I was on my way to work and had an urge for chai. But I hadn’t expected a bad day; I’d be fine, skip the chai, and save money and health. Then I remembered the last time this happened:

The Last Time

I craved chai, but resisted the urge because there was no reason for it. I had a no-stress day ahead of me, likely. I’d save money and health. So I drove right past the Bux, got to work to find out I’d sent – the horror – an email to 60,000-ish people that said “Dear FirstNames”… Like it said “FirstNames” instead of “Joe and Sue” or “Dear Mikayla”. I WANTED MY CHAI!!!!! 😦

Back to This Time

I remembered that instant and thought, “Maybe I’d be wise to have a chai, just in case.” But I reasoned, don’t be silly. This isn’t some magical potion that you have a deeper connection with that warns of doom to come. It’s just happenstance. So I resisted, again.

What was I thinking? Life was kicking my patootie.

A friend had given me a mug from Scotland that says “Scunnered” on it. It’s a Scottish word that means “seriously pit-oot, awfy fed up, and greatly unamused” all in one. I dropped it in the parking lot and it broke. And guess how I felt? Definitely scunnered.

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I went home after work and thought “Ya know, I’d rather not have a panic attack soon. I should relax. I should take a bath with a nice bathbomb.” But ohhh no. I relaxed for about 5 minutes before my skin and my tub looked like it came from the Cat in the Hat book:

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Actual image:

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And it wouldn’t come off with just water, it took a lot of scrubbing and cleaner. I had to scrub my tub instead of relax! Can we all agree it’s one of the worst chores for even the best of days, and here I was doing it on a rough day.

And then, I was like “I’m gonna be healthy and eat those green beans I bought yesterday.” Because I’m trying to be healthy and not let life get me down just because of inconveniences. Sure, I wanted the junk food from this insanely unfortunate day (Yes, it counts as insanely unfortunate from 2 inconveniences, I know, first world problems….), but I’d resist the junk food and eat healthy! But noooo, the green beans were all brown and gross WHEN I HAD ONLY BOUGHT THEM YESTERDAY.

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End of day: I threw a fit, ate french fries, and gave up on making the evening worth anything.

And I learned a lesson: maybe chai actually IS a magical potion that I have a deep connection with to know of doom to come, and MAYBE I just need to BUY THE CHAI. If I feel the urge, BUY THE CHAI. No dilly dally over money or health when SANITY is involved! Am I right? 🙂

Buy the Chai!

After sharing this tragic story with my coworker, she laughed, said it was hilarious, and then said I should post a blog about it to make the day worth it. So I hope you laugh enough to make up for my pain 🙂 please laugh!