Monday, April 6, 2009


I'm curious how many of you have trouble with titles? Do they allude you? Do you have a hard time summing up your book with one phrase, or do you not bother with trying to make the two line up that way?

I've found my problem with novel titles is coming up with too many. James Scott Bell wrote in his book Plot & Structure about different ways to come up with new, fresh plot material. One of the ways, interestingly enough, was to come up with the title first. I was surprised, as I have about two pages in my "idea notebook" fully dedicated to titles. My personal preference is play on words.

Bell says you can think of a title that will set your mind "zooming, looking for a story." He suggests looking at poetry, the Bible and quotation books (like Bartlett's) for ideas of titles. For my current WIP, I went with a line from Darrell Evans' song "Trading My Sorrows," although I struggled between Blessed Beyond the Curse and Ward of the Heart (which was a play on the phrase "ward of the court," but I didn't think anyone would get that who wasn't in social service circles).

Q4U: How do you approach titles? Do they come first? Last? Or do they come at all?

Wordle: signature


T. Anne said...

I love quotes! Music helps too.

Patricia W. said...

I don't know. Sometimes I have an idea about a character or plot, and typically a title will pop into my head while I jot down a few notes about it. Sometimes I get nothing but the title, typically when it's a summary/message type title, and I have to figure out the story.

Jody Hedlund said...

I HATE coming up with titles. I think I need Title therapy!! Please! :)

I did such a horrible job coming up with titles for one of my Genesis entries that I realized too late that I'd sent it with two different titles; the one in the entry didn't match the one I'd picked on the application! Oops! Thankfully, they take the one out of the entry for the judging.

I'm just hoping the title isn't crucial to grabbing the attention of agents and editors. Don't they end up changing what we pick most of the time anyway? Let's hope they do on mine!

Cindy said...

I usually try to come up with a title first because I hate to refer to my WIP as "untitled" or "my WIP". Most of the time, though, I can't think of anything and end up naming it something ridiculous just to get going. I hate coming up with titles. I tend to stick to something safer and unfortunately probably rather cliche. Thanks for the tips, though. I need them!

Jeannie Campbell said...

jody - Title Therapy! lol! i don't know if editors/agents change the title most of the time, or not. i hope not, because i really like some of my titles...esp. play on words.

cindy - your welcome! thanks for visiting. you'll have to come back for Treatment Tuesdays and Thursday Therapeutic Thoughts! :)

Katie said...

It's a love/hate relationship with me and titles. I also have a lot of them typed in a document on my computer - but none of them seem very appropriate for the current books I have in the fire. When I can't find a title - it drives me absolutely bonkers! I do not like referring to my current ms as my WIP. I'd much rather have a title for it.

PS How awesome that you got in contact with the guy who wrote that song!!

sherrinda said...

The title for my WIP came to me from a line I wrote in the middle of it. It seemed perfect (at least at the time) Maybe by the end of the story it will be something totally different!

I did think of a title for something that I have stewing on the backburner, waiting patiently for me to finish the first ms.

Like Jody, I've heard publishers change them anyway, so maybe we shouldn't fall in love with one so soon.