Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Title Dilemma

My apologies for all my east-coast friends who are getting this in Thursday, rather than Wednesday: I spent most of my day at the theatre with no access to my computer. Luckily, none of the kids stuck gum in my hair this time. 

I am one of those writers who has to have a title for her book before she actually starts on the book. I like notes and color coding and character bios, all organized in a system that only I understand.

"untitled paranorm project draft 1" just does NOT look good on a word document file. It looks...messy. It throws me off my groove. But alas, no title comes to me. So I am slowly ripping my hair out, foaming at the mouth and constantly IM'ing Tami, who has had to deal with me whining about my lack of title for a few weeks now. So I've decided to expand my horizons and ask all of you for awesome title advice. 

What do you guys do when you don't have a title? How do you pick a title that fits your book AND you think would grab the attention of readers later on? What's your fabulous title secret? Have you ever had to change a title you love, and why? And also, for my own personal interest: do you use your titles when you talk to your friends about your books?  

I'm curious about the last question because when I do talk about my books, I generally don't use the titles. I define them differently: "The book about gay bashing" or "The book about virginity." Sometimes it amazes me how you can condense something as complicated as a 70,000 word manuscript into a few words. Does anyone else do this?

And please, someone pull me out of bad title hell! 


JC Martin said...

I will try to answer all your questions as best I can.

I pick my title most times before the actually story or characters come to me. I have a folder on my laptop with the title "Future Titles."

If a story idea come to me before I have a title I will not start writing until I have it, because I usually try to tie it into the story some how. I will plot the story and if something stick out that is very catchy I will use that.

When I'm talking to my friends I will use the title with them. I want to hear their reactions about the title. If it doesn't sound good to them I will give them a brief rundown of the story and ask their opinions. Then I will take it all into consideration.

I have changed some working titles that only I thought was great.

briaspage said...

I'm HORRIBLE at this game!

I typically have a title too. It feels like part of the story, like the sentence before the first sentence (if that makes any sense)

BUT, I guess it also changes occasionally - but then, so do character names.

So, my point. Yeah, I'm no help at all.

Good luck!!!


Tami Klockau said...

Great post, Tess. I have issues with titles, too. (Obviously, you know that.) I'll keep thinking though!

Tracy Belsher said...

Hey Tess, yeah, titles. I know I've said this about songwriting - but I generate my titles by finding a cliché or phrase that fits my story. If the cliché isn't already ironic, or shocking - then I tweak it.

I so admire authors (or their editors/publishers) who tweak clichés like this. Here are a few of my current favs: "Prada and Prejudice" by Mandy Hubbard, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale” by Holly Black, “Sloppy Firsts” by Megan McCafferty……there’s loads more but those stand out at the moment.

Good luck with the title search, my friend. You’ll come up with a kicker, I’m sure.