Monday, October 11, 2010

What's in a name?

As you know, Lisa and I began writing a brand spanking new book last week (shhh...), but unfortunately we've already run into our inevitable snafu. We suck, (suck, suck, SUCK) at titles. We've had five million okay, fine three titles for THE LIAR SOCIETY (GMAIL, FINDING GRACE, THE HAUNTING OF PEMBERLY BROWN). Our agent declared most of our titles inadequate and one "wet." Not sure exactly what it means, but context clues lead us to believe it's less than fabulous.

As of now our new book is named "Document1." Creative right? Despite being in the car for over 10 hours this weekend, I'm still coming up lame. I listed out the themes in our work in progress, tried to draw inspiration from music on the radio and even called upon my husband for help. Still nothing.

So tell us, dear readers. How do you title your manuscripts? Beginning, middle, end? What do you use for inspiration? Do you change your title multiple times? Does it drive you crazy until your title is absolutely perfect? Do you know when it is perfect?

Titles are the first clue readers get for what's to come, they're part of the reason people pick up a book and maybe even part of the reason they buy it. So what's your secret?

36 comments:

Fi-chan (Bookish-Escape) said...

Maybe you should deal with title later, just give it a temporary title, from your favourite song or whatever, even if it's unrelated. I think the title will somehow come naturally, I guess. Maybe when you're half way done or after you're done with your book, you'll find the suitable / perfect title! Just relax!

Renae said...

I try not to stress about the title. It usually comes to me sometime during the writing. I also keep a little list of names and words that I hear that stick with me. Usually I refer to this for my title. Good luck! I know you girls will come up with something fabulous!

Matthew Rush said...

I've only ever written one novel, so it's not like I actually know what I'm talking about, but with that one I just went with the first thing that came to mind and rolled with it. Yes, it sucks, but if I ever manage to get it published it's going to get changed anyway, so who cares?

Christine Fonseca said...

First, I suck at titles too and usually have to harasses - I mean ask - my CPs for help. I title it something lame initially and eventually find a name (that always winds up changing!)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I used to stress over titles until I read somewhere that most titles get changed by the publisher anyway. (Okay, I still stress a little because a good title can help snag an agent.) Most titles just come to me. Sometimes a better title will present itself as I write. Once I thought of the perfect title after the book had already been rejected by everyone. I know I'm not being very helpful, but at least you know you're not alone. Finding the right title is hard.

Good luck. :hugs:

storyqueen said...

I usually (but not always) think of the title first, then figure out the story that goes with it.

However, on my middle grade book, I went through three really "wet" titles before I discovered the right one.

I couldn't believe I actually liked the other titles at one time....eeeesh.

Shelley

Tess said...

oh, I suck at titles too. But, what I try to do is put it aside until the ms is completely written and then go back and re read the work for lines or words that might work. Trying to decide on the title at the start seems like an impossible task to me.

good luck..hope all is well w/ you ladies :D

Michelle McLean said...

I generally name my books after the main character until the book is finished. I might pick out a working title every now and then, but they never stick. I SUCK at titles. So, I usually email everyone I know and ask them what I should call it LOL

By the way, I find it interesting that most writers I know think they suck at titles LOL Though, I do think it's easier to name someone else's book :) So, perhaps we just suck at naming our own books :D

Kristen said...

I usually name my WIP as I start it, and then when it's finished I go back and think about it some more. It's kind of like naming your kid before they're born, and then looking at them and saying, "Wow, you really aren't a Natalie..." lol.

Sometimes my inspiration for titles comes from the silliest line in the whole story...

KT said...

Gah I suck at titles too. Drives me crazy. As far as naming the document...it always seems to end up being named whatever my main character's name is...Don't ask me why. And then I use that to talk about it with betas. Ha! But I used to name them "umm" and "hey" because I didn't know what else to. I'm serious.

And real titles...? Yeah, no. I never just think, "THIS is the title. It's amazing!" Because mine never are. But when I decide to choose one, it's usually something I've repeated in the novel a lot. Love the post!

Katie said...

Look to your pitching skills. I pull mine from my pitch. I know you guys are pitching geniuses. So, write the pitch now, and find the title in it.

Ommm

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

ugh, i'm terrible at titling my novels. Short stories, no problem. Novels, forget about it

Carolyn V. said...

My title keeps changing through the writing, until something awesome pops down. Then I keep it. =D

Nicole Zoltack said...

I usually write the story first. Sometimes the title comes to me, other times, I ask for help. Maybe you could post the main theme and key words and let us help you?

Laura Marcella said...

Ugh, titles! I admire creative titles so much, and that's what makes me pick up a book. I'm lousy at titling things! I don't have a secret; I just make a list of possible titles and just pick the one that seems to sing off the page. Sometimes it's singing off-key though. Sigh. I feel your frustration!

Melody said...

When you discover the secret, let me know. I suck at titles. :/

Stina Lindenblatt said...

For the book I'm now querying, the title came before I started writing. For my new wip, I wasn't so lucky. I outlined it months ago and struggled with all kinds of titles until recently. Not sure it's the right one, but it's better than what I used before. ;)

PS. Did you see the awful title that Lisa McMann queried WAKE as. Thank goodness someone changed it. :D

R. B. LeMoyne said...

I don't usually worry about title until I have the first draft done and I have a better idea of how my little outline plays out as an actual manuscript. Then I come up with an insanely clever title that works on the literal and symbolic levels - the kind of title where you pick up the book knowing that it means X, then finish the book realizing that it also meant Z.

All that said, I haven't figured out the title to the book I'm working on just yet. It's being stubborn. But I do have a title for the entire trilogy that it'll kick off...

Rebecca T. said...

I stink, stink, stink at titles. I usually end up titling it after the main character and then glare at the top of my screen every time I open the document. so I have no helpful hints. But lots of sympathy :)

lbdiamond said...

Yeah, titles are not my forte. Like at. all.

I like LIAR SOCIETY though. It works. ;)

Dara said...

Titles are the bane of my existence too. I seriously changed the title of my first WiP like five times and only mildly like the one I have now. I named it what it is now because of the connection to The Scarlet Letter in the story.

The NaNo novel I wrote last year had a spectacular title, but it was a fluke. This year's NaNo novel was painful...I went through literally a dozen titles. Then one came to me out of the blue while I was in the shower (that tends to be the place where most of my decent ideas happen) and while it's not as awesome as last year's title, it works.

Marsha Sigman said...

I love that they used the word 'wet'.lol I have no idea what it means.

Ok, so don't be hatin' but...I think coming up with a title is the most fun and for me...the easy part.

I tend to favor the cryptic one or two word titles. Think about your story, the theme, the location, the characters. The title could be something they do, or how they feel, or even related to where they are at.

If it's about a girl who discovers a secret portal to an alternate universe in her high school bathroom, call it 'Toilet Tales'.

If it's about a girl who falls in love with a sparkly vampire...call it 'Twinkle' or something like that.lol

Mariah Irvin said...

I always name mine at the end. For the longest time, my current manuscript was called "Other Novel".

Shooting Stars Mag said...

I really like titles, and I hate not having one when I first start writing. It might change, but I tend to find a pretty cool title in the beginning...maybe because I think things over a lot before I ever start. Sometimes titles come to me first or right in the beginning. Right now I'm writing something and it's called "The Heartbreak Boys" and I really love it because it just FITS, you know? If I was everrr lucky enough to publish this particular m.s., I'd really hate changing the title. haha

-Lauren

Linda Benson said...

I usually give my manuscript a working title, and worry about it later. Sometimes, an insignificant line or phrase from the book will be a perfect title (and I love books like that, when you read the line and say to yourself - yeah.) But girls, don't stress, because as you know, the publisher might change it after it's sold anyway. Just pick one, and go with it for now.

Sara B. Larson said...

Oh boy, titles. Sometimes I just know what they are from the get-go. But those are also the hardest to let go, if someone wants to change it. Other times, nothing feels right. And then your agent/editor changes it half the time anyway, so...what's the point really? Jk! Good luck with it.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Hmmm... good question! No idea. Helpful, wasn't I?! I love titles, but I have no idea why. :-)

Tere Kirkland said...

Horrible with titles myself. I say wait until the ms is complete, then do a word cloud to see if any word or words that might make a good title jump out at you.

Good luck!

Krispy said...

I suck at titles too. Sometimes I'm lucky and there's just something that fits, otherwise, I pick something that'll let me know what the doc is about and hope something better comes along. One of my stories is just called Story of Questionable Origin because that's what it is. Good luck!

SWK said...

I had the same working title (which I rather liked) for a ms for two years. Then, as I began to revise it, the REAL title came to me in a flash and I LOVE IT. Kinda think it's a zen thing. You've gotta relax and let the book speak to you. (Do I sound like I should be burning incense & eating granola right now or what?) Happy Monday - Stasia

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hey, LiLa!

This is probably REALLY late, but I love your new layout! :0)

So my titles don't usually come until halfway into writing the manuscript. I've gotten to where I don't even worry about it anymore. Titles are not my strength. And I hear they are usually changed anyway, so I try not to stress about them. :0)

Sara McClung ♥ said...

I haaaaaaaaaaate coming up with titles. I sucked at it with my first ms and I'm sucking at it with my second. Thankfully, the title for my third came to me before the characters/plot did, so it will be a NICE break when I can finally start on that one!!

Karen Akins said...

Unless the title comes to me first (and that's only happened one time), I just use a working title, something significant from the plot or the MC's first name. Then, it usually just hits me later on.

Little Ms J said...

I don't stress about it, don't overanalyze. It just kind of comes together eventually. One day I'm driving or eating a Krispy Kreme donut and sudden brilliance hits me. I feel absolutely no pressure to come up with a title. It just happens when it is supposed to.

Claire Dawn said...

9 times out of 10, the title is the inspiration for the story, so it's the first thing I know.

I recently read, "The Color Purple." And the word purple is mentioned twice in a discussion on God. It got me to thinking about the seemingly random titles. Maybe, I'll try one someday.

Laura Pauling said...

This made for fun reading. Kind of like with my query, I write it and then keep coming back to it. For my current wip I have a doc. just for all the different titles I come up with. And eventually one sticks out. Or my cp's help me decide. I'm sure you'll come up with a kickin' title.