Friday, June 4, 2010

Title Trauma

So, we talked about book titles the other day. And we talked about the right ingredients to make a delectable character.

But when you've written your masterpiece, how in the freaking world do you find those sparkly, shiny, perfect words by which your masterpiece will be know? Seriously. I have three kids. Naming them was a piece of cake. It helps that my husband named two of them. But naming my manuscripts?

Pure.

Torture.

Where do you get your titles? From a phrase in the book? Or... see, I can't even think up more than one way to get a title.

Or are you one of those people who name the story before you ever write a word of it?

People, I need to know! Ease my struggles! Teach me how Titles are done!

And if you want to know what writers love to hate about other books, check out Elana's post here.

36 comments:

Ina said...

When thinking about titles, I usually make a list of 10-20 words that describe my novel. Then, I look for a pattern within those words, and if they seem mundane and boring, I use a thesaurus to come up with better versions.

If it's a character driven story, you could think about combining your MC's name with one of the words on your list (i.e. "Carrie's War").

Personally, I like titles that have two meanings. The reader will likely have an interpretation of your title when beginning your story, and another when finishing it. I think a truly successful title manages to reveal a second layer of meaning to the reader who makes it all the way to the end of the book.

Good luck!

Mary McDonald said...

Some stories almost name themselves, and others run and hide as soon as the subject comes up.

Janet Johnson said...

Titles are my bane! Can't wait to see what everyone says. :)

Jen said...

I have a tree in my backyard and it has the word titles engraved on the bark, when I have exhausted all options I quickly run outside and grab a title from the tree, it fits every time. I think there is magic dust all over that damn tree and it keeps my sorrows away.

If you'd like I can run out to the tree and see what it comes up with. I told you it works everytime. If I didn't have that I wouldn't be able to ever have a title.

KM said...

I'm HORRIBLE with titles, and I agonize over them. But typically, I go with a major theme in the book and come up with a title from that. For my YA dystopian WIP, I used the idea that the culture was hollow and dead; also, I used a Biblical passage for inspiration (Ezekiel 37, which talks about a valley of dry bones coming to life). Thus, the title became "The Valley of Dry Bones."

For my current WIP, the title came before the story. It just sort of popped into my head and stuck. For some reason, "In the Shadow of Ilium" just had the right ring, you know?

So I don't really know. Just keep trying them out 'til you find one, I guess. lol

Kristi Helvig said...

The title just comes to me - in 2 of 3 cases, the titles came to me before the books did. I've gotten great feedback on my titles from my crit partners, so for me, the issue is making sure my book is as good as the title - which is darn hard! :)

Riv Re said...

Title before book.
In Eberheardt, I heard a word similar to the title and liked it. I took it.
In Payment in Blood, the title came to me, so I built a story around a vengeance theme.
Submerged (a random anecdote that was around 250 words) we had a picture of a car in the water, and had to write about it. I decided on drowning when I saw the half-"submerged" car.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

WISH I could help--but I stink at titles. No really. My CPs had to title my book for me. So if you figure out the secret please, do pass it on!

Have a great weekend!

John Sankovich said...

I generally use a theme for my titles. Like my current project is "Unveiled Secrets" Because of the secrets that are revealed throughout the book. But that's just for me. Titles are very hard.

Angela said...

For me, I can't push too hard for a title . . . otherwise, like you said, naming my MS is pure torture.

I like what Julia Cameron says about creativity. When I actively try to come up with stuff, pull ideas from the well so to speak, I can't do it.

But if I take a walk, do some laundry, wash some dishes, then ideas usually come to me on their own. They practically fall like rain from the sky. But then I have to write them all down and check on Amazon to make sure there aren't a bunch of books with the same title.

Linda Sandifer said...

I find that some books have titles before I ever begin. Others I stumble onto while writing. Still, others are a struggle. Then you finally come up with one and, if you are lucky enough to get the book published, low and behold the editor will change it (and oftentimes to something totally stupid!). Overall, I try to pinpoint the main theme of the story. For sure, the better your title, the more likely you will be able to keep it! Good luck.

Christine Fonseca said...

I recentl had to retitle my current YA novel...and that was rough, cuz I LOVED my old title. But the suggestion made since, so I went on the hunt for new titles. I asked my writerly buds, my teen readers, my husband - everyone I could think of. None of the 100+ titles I played around with worked.
Until one day, I was chatting with one of my BFFs about some writerly drama in my life - I said "I'm such a mess." She replied, "Yeah, but a beatiful mess". We both paused and I KNEW I had the title...A BEAUTIFUL MESS. Now I can't picture it any other way!

Stephanie McGee said...

With my last project, the title was sort of an allusion to to an event in the book. But then it also became a more metaphorical title, without changing the words.

Current project's title is a play on words as part of the book is set in Texas, has metaphorical and almost literal meanings, and really I just enjoy it. I know it'll probably change, but it's a good working title.

Usually the titles either come to me randomly or something in my research will lead me down the title lane.

Sandy Williams said...

Wish I could help, but I have no clue where titles come from. Most of mine are mediocre. The one I really loved was a phrase from my book, but I ended up not using it because it didn't feel like the right tone for the novel. (Maybe I can use it in the future? Pretty please?) I try not to get too attached to titles, anyway, because I think there's a good chance a publisher is going to change it anyway, especially if it's one of my mediocre titles. :-)

G said...

It's funny, but a good chunk of the time, my titles have no discernable connection to the story.

For my recently finished project, I pulled the title from the 1040 tax form.

Specifically, line 21 aka "Other income".

The title fits perfectly with the story, which is about a woman who needs to raise money to pay off a debt collector.

Olivia Carter said...

When I read other books I totally judge by the title. So I think its so important.

I like it when the title relates to the story but isn't totally obvious and also when it's a line in the story.

I always tentatively title my books something just terrible I need to change.

Good luck!

DaniSue said...

I am awful at titles! But honestly, it almost always ends up being changed by the publisher so I really don't worry about it. I'll leave it up to the people who get paid to think up great titles and settle for mediocre ones as I write and query.

Jemi Fraser said...

Titles either spring into being with the idea of the book - or must be dragged kickiing and screaming from the bowels of hell. Usually it's the latter *sigh*

Katie Ganshert said...

I am SO with you on the titles. I'm working on a story right now and I hate referring to it as Novel # 5. How uncreative is that? But I have no idea what else to call it!!

Posey said...

Thanks for posting this. I have the same problem but I love Ina's suggestion. Loving the blog, btw. :)

Sarah Billington said...

Oh, ugh, I KNOW. I am also in title trauma. My previous book I had the title before I even had the BOOK. I have some other good titles waiting for books to be written from them, but when I start a book first and decide to come up with a title later? No title feels right.

I feel your pain.

Renae said...

I have a horrid time coming up with titles! I keep a list of phrases or clever words that grab me and use those, but even still titles are almost always problematic.

Tez Miller said...

Hmm, any chance you can get your husband to name your manuscripts for you? ;-)

By the way, will THE HUNTED by published under the surname Wiggins or Pinnell?

coffeelvnmom said...

When thinking of the title for my completed MS I used something that has to do with the main character and her husband. But on one of the WiPs I've been working on occasionally for the past few months, the title came to me out of the blue two nights ago while I was trying to fall asleep. It was actually something that I imagined she would say and then *lightbulb moment* I realized it could be the title!

Bethany Wiggins said...

You guys rock! I'm so not alone in this title trauma zone. Thanks for the fabu comments.

And Tez, my book will be published under Wiggins, my actual last name. I'm tickled pink that you asked! *blushing*

Vatche said...

I always come up with titles almost the first time I step into a story, because I know the general plot.

I usually title it something catchy like "Rules to Live by", "The Human Compass", or "The Good Left Undone."

Titles are always important to me, because I never want to use a title that's been done before or is very common.

So, that's my two cents. Cool and interesting post and comments. Write on!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

My titles comes to me in a variety of ways. For my last project, a song from the movie ENCHANTED inspired the title. I have no idea how I came up with a title for my current wip, but it made sense. Plus it shaped the ending paragraph of the book. Those titles came to me before I wrote the story.

Not so with the project I'm outlining. I have no idea what to call it. Right now it's Snow White, but that's definitely NOT what it will be called when I'm finished. But that's better than having a file called YA contemporary. ;)

Dana Elmendorf said...

My current WIP is called DAY GLOW BLUE, I really don't like the title but figured I have time to come up with something more genius later. Also I did not convey that to my crit partners either and yet two of them went our of their way to tell me the LOVE the title. I think maybe I might keep it.

Where did I get it, it is the color of the light my MC can see and no one else.

Titles are torture but you get the right one and your audience is hooked on title alone.

Southpaw said...

I played around with titles but nothing clicked until I was almost done. It just seemed to fall into place.

Michelle H. said...

Ugh! I hate titling my manuscripts. I come up with a name at the beginning, change it umpteen times throughout, and then change it back to the original at the story end. And I'm still never satisfied.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

My titles come to me when the concept comes to me...They occassionally change, but not normally...of course I don't have any books to my name...so I may not be the person to listen to.???

Caleb said...

Usually, the name comes to me before the story, but this can tend to be distracting in the end. I find poetry is a great place for inspiring titles.

JEM said...

I lurve to title books. It's never really difficult for me, I just wait until something "cool" suggests itself. I know, not very helpful to you, but it's one of my favorite parts of writing. And then when I talk about the WIP with friends and family I get to call it by it's cool name, which makes me feel even cooler. Which now makes me sound kind of lame. Dang.

JEM said...

Also: the Valley of Dry Bones is an AWESOME title.

AchingHope said...

Generally I pick one or two words that sum up the entire plot... Other times I come up with the MOST corny thing imaginable.

Right now one of my manuscripts is saved under the name: "Oh My Goodness," and I'm not really sure why.

Nishant said...

Just keep trying them out 'til you find one, I guess. lol
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