View Full Version : Problems with titles
April 13th, 2004, 11:24 PM
Hey, this is the first time that i have posted anything on this website. I have read the other posts and the way that everyone seems to support each other with their problems is really inspiring. I was wondering if anyone could help me or give me some advice.
Im writting a novel, or trying to, and im not sure exactly how to decide on a title, what do you look at? Is there a particular aspect of the novel i should look at, for example the setting, the characters, a piece of irony?
If anyone has any ideas on how to help me, or how they went about naming their own work, i'd really appriciate the help.
April 14th, 2004, 02:36 AM
From what I can gather it doesn't really matter as a publisher is likely to rename it anyway. Just give it a simple working title that works for you.
April 14th, 2004, 10:46 AM
Very seldom does a publisher just jump in and rename a work, and certainly they don't like to do so without the author's consent. They may come up with a title when the author's having problems finding one or ask the author to change a title because there's a perceived market problem with the original one. (For instance, titles are not copyrightable, so if another author has used your title on a current work, they may want something different to avoid confusion.)
Titles can come from any number of sources, but usually it's related to some sort of material in the story. Which means you may not know what your title is until you finish, revise and polish the work. You are not obligated to come up with your own title -- you can canvas friends, family, neighbors, small children you meet on the street. You can have a poetic title, a humorous title, a short one-word title, a hip techie title, whichever way you're going.
Sometimes the title comes to me first and may even create the story. Otherwise, the title comes later. I gave one project a title just because I liked it, so now will have to work some material into the story so that the title makes some sort of sense.
Writing genre sf/f, it sometimes pays to consider putting a clue in the title that the work is sf or fantasy. Often sf/f writers are doing series, so not only have the title of the individual work to deal with but a series title too. If you want to tie the works in a series together through the title, there are numerous ways to do it. You could use the alphabet: "A is for Alibi," etc.; you can do it: "Harry Potter and the weird thing, Harry Potter and the...." People have used colors, jewels, astrophysics terminology, quotes from bad poetry and so on, to create linked series titles, though this does encourage the rampant use of initial acronyms like LOTR, WOT, SOIF and SW.
April 14th, 2004, 01:35 PM
Thanks for your advice, KatG!
I've also had trouble coming up with good, original titles. It's a real problem! Right now, one of my novels is temporarily titled The Illusionist, which has certainly been used before, numerous times...but I can't think of anything better for this story.
And I have a series of novels, the Yeresunsa saga, with the first book titled The Nameless. Again, this was the best I could come up with, after years of pondering. All of the lengthier, more descriptive title options just sounded cheesy to me.
April 14th, 2004, 10:29 PM
Ah, titles. I love coming up with titles. With short stories it seems much easier than with a novel or series. With short stories I seem to have a concept and title before I start typing and the story forms around those like a mold.
For novels it's tougher. I finished my first book and wanted to name the series Fantasy Adventure - Book 1. I wanted to have a plain black cover. I wanted it to look generic. I was thinking gimic.
Well I moved past that title and onto Of Gnomes and Dwarves. This is a play on Of Mice and Men as the main Gnome is Maus (German for mouse) and I though 'of mice', 'of Gnomes'. it can work. OGAD is also a cool acronym.
My latest venture in series writing is A boy and his dragon (ABAHD, hmmm) This is a working title and again, generic. I was going to re-name it to Astel when I named the main characters, but Astel is currently unconcious and has been since chapter 1 (I'm now on chapter 10). I don't plan on him waking up until around chapter 20 (very short chapters mind you) and even then he'll be bedridden for several more chapters. It'll be about halfway through the book when he'll finally meet the dragon at the pace I'm writing, but hey, it's a working title.
Title's come in their own time. Don't rush it. You'll 'feel' the title and it'll hit you like a mack truck. If you don't have one, don't worry. Untitled is still open and publishers don't judge a book by it's title. They're going to read it. And as has been pointed out, they'll only change it for very specific reasons.
So don't stress about the title. Just enjoy writing. :)
April 14th, 2004, 11:37 PM
I don't see any way to title anything until its done. By the time you are done, the title likely will be calling you.
From a marketing standpoint, the a great title captures the imagination, is original, is descriptive, etc.
As said before, pick a working title, and then see what comes to you.
April 15th, 2004, 05:10 AM
I find titles, like names of characters hard to think up... most have working titles most often what ever MS word throws up when I save the doc in the beginning. A large project I start with putting down ideas, a sort of brain storm...
Funny the first words of one did become the title "The Hat Man" Or to give it is full title "The Formation of the Weeping Lands and the Breaching of the Cone of Time, taken from the Memoirs of A Mage by Holbrook Adams.... Ok, I was and still am, with Albert, poking fun at the world of fantasy writing in general....
He sits on my shoulder and blows raspberries if my work gets "too serious"
Which gives me an idea.....:D
April 16th, 2004, 10:18 AM
This will probably seem like sacraledge to some, but there is a way to form a title for a book before the writing even begins.
Most of us keep a journal. We write down any especially creative thoughts that come to mind, any time, day or night. I dedicate a page of my journal to titles.
Right now I've got about a dozen that I really like. So how do you attach a premade title to a short story or novel? It's easy if the title is fairly generic (a few years ago a movie came out called Damage. That title could have been applied to almost anything.)
Also titles that are playons for names work well (you just give your main character the name in question). As for sci-fi, I'm always trying to think up interesting titles that involve a name for a planet. Those will work the same way as the character names.
Of course you can always change your title if something strikes you in the course of the writing, but if it helps you, keep a stock-pool of titles and slap one on your work in progress. It might make the ideas for the novel/story seem more real to you.
Anything to help the writing flow.
April 16th, 2004, 10:48 AM
Ah, titles for short stories...
I LOVE coming up with titles for short stories (and writing them for that matter). Some suggestions.
I found This Website (http://www.freedict.com/onldict/spa.html) that has many different languages. It's great for names, places, etc. I also write a story with Chippewa words (as I'm part Chippewa) and it made for an interesting story.
I also like plays on words. For the Time Being was a short-short story (100 words) that was picked up to be printed at red writing hood. The Time Being was an actual being. It was fun.
Often for Short stories, I have a title before a story. It's interesting how that works. I just submitted 3 stories to Alien Skin Mag's title contest. 3 titles, 3 stories. Awesome. It was fun too. But I do prefer coming up with my own titles. I have a list of about 25 titles that need stories. Some have rough outlines, some don't. Of course I need that little spark to actually sit down and write them. I get distracted and usually write something else.
At any rate, I agree with ironchef for short stories. For Novels, that's extremely different. Those, for me, take time.
April 25th, 2004, 07:30 AM
Originally posted by maus99
For Novels, that's extremely different. Those, for me, take time.
Same here. Short stories often grow out of the phrases scribbled in my notepad, so they neatly form the title.
Novels? Pfff... The working titles either sound plain and exceptionally dull (Altered Edra) or irritating in a pretentious, pseudo-poetic way (The Scarlet-Blossoming Vine).
I like odd combinations of words, the random, plucked-out-of-a-hat-ness of them.
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