Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How YOU Title

The hunt for the perfect title.

It's hard.

You start our basic: Untitled, Sucky First Draft, {insert character name} Story

Then you write the damn thing (okay maybe half of it).

Realizing something better has come along, something worth changing it to: best book ever, the title that's going to stick, Less Sucky first draft

Writing more (if not the whole thing) you realize the title still isn't working so re-name again, this time taking it seriously, possibly a little too seriously, coming up with what you think is the title that will stick, the epic finale: The Grand Finale, {Insert Authors name} Best Novel Ever, NY Times says its the best EVER.

Then you submit your work (okay so obviously this is WAY in the future... you still need to revise, but you think that the title ALONE will BLOW these agents away)

Until...

You get it back and they say you titled your novel: Jen's Most Amazing Novel, Even Better than Harry Potter, and when that super awesome agent looks inside (because they're obviously insane) they see it's a story about serial killers, not magic or even meant for young adults.

Needless to say you're rejected and back to square one.

Look on the bright side, maybe the title is the least of your worries.

Can you relate?

Go on, tell me how you get your perfect title, and what steps you take.

60 comments:

Bish Denham said...

I collect titles. I have pages and pages of them in a three ring binder. Sometimes I look through them and an idea for a story will jump out at me. The title that seeded the idea may not be the title I use.

When I'm working on something new that doesn't have a title I make a list of possible titles as they come to me. But mostly I seem to get the title before I've writen anything. It's like alot of the time I get the first sentence and then everything else follows.

One must remember, though, that a majority of the time titles are changed by editors. So we mustn't get too attached to them.

Jessica Carmen Bell said...

LOL. Nice hypothetical situation you've created here. I can't really relate, though, because I like titles that are symbolic, so I guess I think about them more before I name anything. My first book, I stuck with the very first title I thought of,a nd I wouldn't change it for anything (unless I got offered a pub contract and they asked me to). I've changed this second one, due to Slushpile Slut's title blogfest, and now like it much better. Who knows, maybe I'm on the track to title traumas too!

The Golden Eagle said...

I try to take my books' titles from the words that are in the books. I like titles that are only one word, too, so I try to ferret out a word that relates the book, is a few to several syllables, or might relate to a message the book carries.

Boonie S said...

I got my title from my parents. It’s a hereditary thing.

Have a nice day, Boonie

Renae said...

Titles to me are harder than writing the book! I keep a log of names for books, just like I keep a list of character names. Whenever I hear a word or phrase that I like I write it down.

But I just love Jen'S Most Amazing Novel!

Ellie said...

I can definitely relate to that. Sometimes finding a title is easy; I've got before I've started writing the story. Other times it comes to me part way through. Other times I think the title is perfect and really it isn't!

Creepy Query Girl said...

Good question! I try to create titles that reflect not only the theme but the tone of the book: if it's humorous, light, dark, or dramatic.

Christine Fonseca said...

I usually start with avery lame title that almost always has to be changed...then it takes me MONTHS to find a new one. Yeah, I suck at titles!

JW said...

Oh, this is too funny, yet not. I am in the beginning of wrting my book and I do feel just as you described.. the title alone will blow them away.. lol. Now, I have.. rejection? to look foward to? Well, at least I have been warned, right? That will soften the blow. :) I love reading about the experience from those who have btdt. My title is pretty basic, kinda cliche so I bet it will be shot down... we shall see!! I am thinking it's so basic it works... could be wrong. lol

Erinn said...

I make a list of about 20-30 titles ranging from the super lame to the super catchy. Then I sent it to my betas and they help me choose--- because I can't make a choice on my own---ever.

The first billion drafts of my novel was No System At All--- now it's How to Pwn nOObz and Become a Rock Star.

I figure the title doesn't matter too much because if it gets published--- the publisher will change it anyway. Really your title should catch an agent's eye but you shouldn't get to emotional attached to it.

Diana Mieczan said...

I bet when you decide on your final title it will be perfect!!!...Its good to trust your first feeling:)
Hugs,sweetie pie

Karen Lange said...

Some titles just jump out at me and others I have to wrestle with. I brainstorm, play around with words, ask for input...I've not found a foolproof method yet. If I do, I'll let you know:)

Joanne said...

Titles are tough, they're like the very first hook of the story. I've heard it said that using food in the titles is effective.

Hannah Kincade said...

I actually come up with titles before books sometimes. I have been known to use song/album titles for book titles. Just take a look at my "WIPs" page, I think most of them are song titles. Thank god there's not copyright for titles!! :D

Speaking of song titles, the WV for me right now is the title to a BEP song, "Bepot." or is it "Bebot?" Huh...

Justine Dell said...

I normally get the title before I write the book. Or it comes within the first chapter or two.

I almost can't write unless it has a title. LoL

~JD

clp3333 said...

I'm going to sound like a jerk too, but... I usually have the title before I start writing and I tend to think they are pretty strong or I won't go much further. For me the idea and the title pop into my head or develop first, then I sit down and try to write it and that is where my problems begin.

Christina Lee said...

Eek--I kinda suck at it! I try to pull out something from the WIP that fits.

beth said...

I hope I shouldnt be doing all that b/c it usually just comes to me!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I tend to pick out bits from my WIP, or a song from the playlist I listen to as I'm writing.

Shannon said...

The title also comes to me when the idea for the WiP hits. I've changed the subtext on my current WiP a few times, but the main title has remained the same.

Good topic today, Jen. :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I asked for help on FB for my assassin story. Although I didn't end up using any of the titles suggested, it inspired me for my title - Hidden in Shadows. And if I write a sequel, one of my FB friend's title suggestion will be used - Assassination of Love.

Quinn said...

My title usually comes from some line in the book. But that's after I've written it. During the writing process it changes a lot. Sometimes I'll change it only to go back to the title I had decided on before. Then I go back to the other one. Then back. It can go on and on.

aspiring_x said...

i'm terrible at making up titles... just terrible. :)

Melissa Marsh said...

Oh boy. Titles. I always have trouble with them, so much so that I will leave a work-in-progress untitled for months on end. I still don't have a title for it and it's halfway completed. I'm hoping the perfect title will simply smack me in the head one of these days...

Carolyn V. said...

Titles are hard!!! I've changed my current wip at least a dozen times. But even then, the editor/agent gets the last word about it.

Elena Solodow said...

1) Realize that I suck at coming up with titles.

2) Ask my Dad.

3) Use my Dad's title.

Teenage Bride said...

Your posts never fail to make me laugh hysterically.

I try to keep them short and catchy but also try to really tie them into what the entire story is about.

i usually come up wioth the best titles when I stop trying so hard

madameduck said...

Somehow my book title wasn't so difficult for me. But, coming up with a name for each chapter is just about killing me. I want something that will inspire people to keep reading, but not give too much away.

I'm seriously considering just numbered chapters.

But I kind of love chapter titles, especially if they're quirky! Scott Westerfeld once used song titles to name his chapters. I thought that was pretty cool!

LTM said...

OMG! This is like the worst of the worst. I mean, I suck at coming up with NAMES for my characters, but a name for the WHOLE BOOK? I seriously freak myself out. I know.

The good news is I think the publishers change them anyway, so I try not to sweat it. But you're right. It's a problem...

Now get your little self to my blog! I got you something... ;o)

Colene Murphy said...

lol! Well, dang. So, "Suck on This Stephenie Meyer" isn't going to work? crap.

Madeleine said...

I too collect titles, in my little notebook. There is a great pdf document about titles on the Mslexia website: http://www.mslexia.co.uk/getpublished/pub_wkshop1.php

I did a crime writing workshop on Saturday (will post about it tomorrow) and Vanni said that you can often get your title from the first paragraph! :O)

Candyland said...

The perfect title is a tough one. Mine usually hits me after a lot of crappy ones get canned.

My favorite title: Cats go pee-pee too

Piedmont Writer said...

I know I have a crappy title and probably one that's already been used. I hate titles and decided the publisher is going to change it anyway so why bother worrying about it.

Dominique said...

The titles for my work that I've liked came to me in a flash. The titles that don't, I'm usually not a fan.

Tamika: said...

I'm no where near close to perfecting a title. I have a working title right now that's decent enough, but I'm not in love:)

Bee said...

I'm terrible with titles. I generally keep them for last. Like when I start working on something new, it's always untitled till I'm atleast half-way through.

My current book title, though, came as a surprise, and my critique partners love it :))

Joanna St. James said...

Ha I suck at Titles I am just going to leave that to editors or agents, it seems they love to change titles. So that will be my gift to them.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

I too suck at titles, so no need to describe my process. No one should follow my advice. lol.

I figure my publisher can figure out something less sucky. :)

Terry Stonecrop said...

I blogged about my doubts about my title awhile back. I think we all have them. But, it's called a "working title" because the publishing-powers-that-be, so often change it, whether we like it or not.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I use a Magic 8 Ball to choose my title. It seems to be working. :) I have lots of titles. (LOL)

Lenny Lee! said...

hi miss jen! i got my titles at the same time i got my ideas. i did change two up a little after i got done reading what i wrote. i did a story called a fish story and its about shark finning so i changed it to shark fins: a fish story so it says more on whats inside my book. the forever forest im writing just came into my head with a story all at the same time.
...hugs from lenny

Theresa Milstein said...

My title usually pops in my head along with the first lines. So far, my titles seem to be liked. But my manuscripts must have other problems!

By the way, awesome title.

Sandy Shin said...

I often have a page full of possible titles, and have the hardest time narrowing down to one (and sometimes, none of them work, not at all). I've taken to collecting phrases and words that might work as titles -- and I find I'm trying to cook up stories to fit them. :)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I always spend way too much time trying to come up with titles, all the while knowing that it's a great possibility that in the event the book ever gets published it will probably change. But still, I just can't help myself. :)

Robert Guthrie said...

A good working title is essential for clarifying my writing. What it becomes later doesn't really matter b/c its work, for me the writer, is already done.

Mimi said...

A title would be easy to me, it's the rest of the book that would pose the problem!

Lynda Young said...

Only once I had a big issue with the title of a short story. I just couldn't find one that matched. My advice: keep it simple :)

Vicki Rocho said...

I offer up a sacrifice to my muse and let him/her send me word on The Most Perfect Title Ever.

Or maybe I just pull something out of my errr...back pocket (yeah, yeah) and hope it holds

Melissa said...

Not sure I even have the perfect title so I'm not very fun in this aspect. Though I love your process and I think I may have to start from square one and follow your process. :D

Kelly Dexter said...

Titles are the bane of my existence. I'm currently quite happy with the one I have, and I'm hoping it stays that way.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Um, don't shoot me, but my book's title has been CassaStar since day one.

Bess Weatherby said...

I have a series that has a title, but Book One is still just the name of the main character . . . which is Grey . . . which is boring. Oh well. Will worry when I finish it, I guess . . .

Bethany Mattingly said...

I can definitely relate. I'm in the middle of anther rewrite and the story has not worked with the old title at all and I feel like I should have some sort of title. I just keep coming up blank. Hopefully, that totally, most super, awesome title will just walk in one day and wonder why I didn't figure it out way before that. :)

Jennie Bailey said...

Oh Alex, NOT FAIR!!! Mine start out with great titles like "Dystopian" and "Forest Story" and "Untitled Sara Project"...and stay that way through a few drafts. I still haven't perfected the art of the title. :-( Always reading for tips! GREAT post idea!

Jennifer Hillier said...

I suck at titles! Usually one comes to me out of the blue mid-draft, but I'm never, ever able to invent one consciously. Wish I could.

Meredith said...

Haha, I hate titles! I'm just hoping some agent or an editor comes up with a better title for me if I ever get published. I don't want to have to think that hard :)

Jai Joshi said...

Most of the time I don't stress about it, I just wait for the title to come to me. Eventually it does and I always love it!

Jai

Amy Holder said...

It's funny, but coming up with titles is one of my favorite parts of the writing process (I know, I'm strange)! But I definitely know a lot of writers who get stuck on titles... which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because once a manuscript is sold, the pub will replace any sucky titles with brilliant ones. Yay for title clean-up crews!

Jen Chandler said...

Oh titles. I have the HARDEST time conjuring them. Sometimes, they come at me out of the blue and when they do, I never EVER have a book ready for them. The books in progress, however, all sit there, wondering if they're ever going to be named. It's a nasty trick played on me by the title gods.

I do like Less Sucky Second Draft personally. Maybe I'll tack that onto my WIP!

Happy weekend,
Jen

Botanist said...

One story took ages. Lived with a working title (knowing it sucked) all the way through writing then had to sit down and dump a load of ideas onto a page. Tried mixing things up a bit until something stuck.

The title for the sequel came to me at the same time as the opening scene, and I still like it. Trouble is, now I'm having a hard time writing the sequel.

I suspect a bit of Heisenberg's Uncertainty here - you can either know the story or the title, but not both at the same time...