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Titles. They're Hard to Come Up With.
Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011 3:21 PM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 24

Please, tell me I'm not the only one who struggles with finding a title.  I'm still using my working title (Forbidden). I don't think it really conveys much about the story or the voice but I'm struggling to come up with something better.

How did you all name your books? 


Tim Gordon
Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2011 6:06 AM
Joined: 5/28/2011
Posts: 23

I'm not sure that the title is all that important, at least in the short run. I remember reading this interview with Philip K. Dick asking if he was upset that they changed the title of his book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" to "Blade Runner" for the movie.

His response was that he almost never titled his books because the editors always changed them on him anyway. Sure, a good title and be a great grab, but if it gets published the marketing department will take care of it, and if it's not published then "Forbidden" is just as good as anything else.

Besides, Forbidden is a pretty cool word.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 11:59 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

Titles are hard. In some ways they're harder than hooks, and for all the same reasons. In a hook, you've got two sentences to pull in a reader. In a title, you've got a few words.

Of course, depending on your genre, you can stretch that a little. One of the reasons I love SteamPunk is the ability to have titles that run to "That doesn't fit on the cover, Bob" length. The worst was "The Strange Fate of Capricious Jones - OR - Genesis of an Iron Angel". It took a go round with each level of editor to explain that I was deliberately mimicking old radio plays with the dual title. In the end each title in the Iron Angel series is like that; two seperate titles, one for the story and another which relates loosely to that story's place in the series. Also, the alternate titles are shout outs to one of the inspirations of the series.

It helped a lot that my publisher likes Steam Punk and everything associated with it.

I've had some titles that I really love, and want to stick with, and will back, like the Iron Angel titles. In other cases, the title is important to the series, like the Artifice series: they're all plays on makeover show titles. The first title was actually generated before the first book was written, as was the third. If the editors *know* that, they'll be less likely to change them.

Then there are the titles like "Crowbar Girl", "XLI", "Blue Bloods" and my current WIP, which originally was "the shifter thing", became "Baby" (which is still the file name) and is now "Cat's Paw". If an editor or marketer wants to change the name of those, I'm completely willing, but I do expect the title to keep the feel of the book, and I would push back against something that didn't fit. I'll also push back against something that just flat sounds bad. I've had one or two suggestions (not by my publisher, thank god) that were... less than pleasant on the ears.

A friend of mine had a book title changed by the editor, and she actually was *more* pleased with the title the editor came up with, because her working title was kind of silly, and didn't fit the story she eventually came up with.
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Saturday, June 4, 2011 12:45 AM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61

I don't really care too much about the title. I come up with something with a nice ring and some significance, but I don't keep myself attached to it, and I think when it comes to it, I'll have my publisher decide on a title. My current project goes by "The Dust of Dead Desire", comes from a poem by Algernon Swinburne that fits the themes of the novel, plus it has some alliteration. It works, and that's all I need.
Toni Wyatt
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 6:13 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 53

I just came across an article on Mental Floss about what classic books were almost called. A couple were..'The Last Man in Europe' which became '1984'. Also, 'Atticus' which became 'To Kill a Mockingbird', and 'The Dead UnDead' which became 'Dracula'. Looks like we aren't the only ones who struggle to find the perfect title!
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 7:01 PM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 24

Love Mental Floss. Is this from a recent article? I'm a couple of issues behind in my reading ...
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 7:21 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

While it's true that the title might be changed in the editorial process, it's still so crucial to come up with a title that grabs attention. (I've asked agents about this and I know agents have blogged about it.) You want to convey to the people you're trying to get to read your book that you are as passionate about this story as you want them to be. If your title is just a boring filler one that you slapped on the manuscript because you had to call it something but assume that it'll be changed, that doesn't really say "I love this project as much as you would think I do."
Toni Wyatt
Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:15 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 53 was from an article called, 'What 10 Classic Books Were Almost Called' by Stacy Conradt. It's dated October 10, 2010. Hopefully, that will help you find it. I also love the article, "Try, Try Again: Rejection Letters Received by Bestselling Authors' by Adrienne Crezo dated December 17, 2010.
Adrian Saturday
Posted: Saturday, June 25, 2011 11:25 PM
Joined: 5/9/2011
Posts: 3

Titles might not be ultimately important if the content is fantastic, but I know that for me, when I'm browsing at the bookstore or the library, I only pick up books that I think have an intriguing title. I've found a couple of my favorite authors this way: Haruki Murakami with "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World," Jonathan Safran Foer with "Everything is Illuminated," Mark Haddon with "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." I'm much more willing to pick up a book with an interesting title than one with a one-word or generic title.
That said, it is really hard to think of an appropriate and interesting title. For me, I usually try to pick out a vaguely relevant linguistic term, but half the time I end up giving up and saddling my story with a temporary title that ends up being the final title because I can't be bothered to think of a better one. That's really bad form on my part though, and I need to put more thought into my titles.
Katie Kerr
Posted: Tuesday, June 28, 2011 8:33 AM
Joined: 6/28/2011
Posts: 5

I have a lot of trouble titling one-shots. My YA novel has gone through "What I Should Have Said" (because I liked the acronym), to simply "Gray," and then on to "Sisters and Lovers" -- none of which I'm profoundly fond of, and will likely end up cycling out again by the time I get around to editing it. The first novel I tried writing, back in high school (long since back-burnered/abandoned) went through "Where on Earth?" "Touched," and "Starfire, Reflected" before I finally gave up.

The only one-shot title I came up with that I'm proud of was supposed to be a filler file name but which I ended up falling in love with, the long-winded and too-descriptive, "a couple hundred poems and some notes" (intentionally lower-case).

Series are always easier to name, because there's always a thematic link you can pick up on. The space opera trilogy that I'll die plotting and never get around to writing is titled after the three pseudo-mythologically-named starships at the centre of the plot ("Star of Eden," "Light of Avalon," "Pandora's Hope").

My best (read: only) advice though, if you're having a hard time with it, is to source an inconspicuous line out of your manuscript (preferably the climax), like Libba Bray's "A Great and Terrible Beauty."
Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 1:25 PM
Joined: 5/5/2011
Posts: 24

I love 'a couple hundred poems and some notes' and I couldn't begin to tell you why. I'd absolutely pick that up if I saw it in a book store or library. Great advice about picking a line from the ms. I might try that. Right now, I've gone from Forbidden to Afterlife Ain't Fair to God, Angels Can Be Such Jerks Sometimes, and back to Forbidden.
Tara Kollas
Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 1:24 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 19

I agree coming up with titles is difficult (as is naming characters). For the MS I'm querying now, I just pulled out a line of dialogue that repeats (Smoke and Wait).

The working title for one of my WIPs is taken from the place where the bodies are dumped. It's a pretty localized term for what's left behind when the top layer of coal is stripped off. But I suspect the Stripping Hole brings to mind Thursday two-drink minimums (as opposed to a good place to dispose of a corpse).

I think title influences me if I'm just picking something up and don't know anything about the book. Some books I'd have never read without a recommendation because the titles are geared towards a specific genre. Urban fantasy and paranormal romance especially grate on me, because they seem to reflect the genre and not the book or the characters in it.
Ava DiGioia
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:17 PM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 39

I gave my current WIP, World Lines, its title because it needed one to be posted on BC.

The phrase comes from a crucial part of the story, but no one knows what it means before they encounter it, and it doesn't seem to be a "catchy" title.

Even I don't think it's a very good title, but I haven't been able to think of anything I like better.

Many times books go through several name changes before the published title is given.

So I do agree naming is one of the more difficult aspects of writing -- title, places and characters. I think it's because we want to select names that resonate with readers.