I love revisions, and couldn’t wait to write about the revision process – how many drafts I write, and how my novels change from start to finish. But when I looked at it seriously, I realized that topic called for a lot of explanation, and Emperor Maximus Angryfish disapproves of lengthy blog posts:
Back to the drawing board.
I thought I’d write about how I revise – first drafts on an Alphasmart Neo, revisions on my laptop, all of it next to the
biggest distraction on the planet aquarium that keeps me in my chair.
That would also let me post seahorse photos, because every blog needs MORE SEAHORSE.
Or maybe not.
In the end, I opted to blog about the hardest edit of all: revising my title.
Originally, my novel was titled SHINOBI.
Shinobi is the Japanese word for ninja. (Take a minute, think that over.) “Ninja” is actually based on a Chinese pronunciation of the characters which the Japanese pronounce a different way. Since the novel introduces my ninja detective, Hiro Hattori, and follows his very first “case,” it just made sense to title the thing SHINOBI.
A couple of weeks after signing my contract, my editor sent me an email asking for “alternative title ideas.” Alternative titles??? Uh-uh. No way. Not happening. It took me MONTHS to title that thing SHINOBI, and in my mind no other title would do.
But I didn’t tell her that.
I fretted to myself for a while and put on my thinking cap. My agent and my writing group helped me brainstorm. The process wasn’t fun. Cherry blossom imagery features heavily in the book, so for a while I considered SAKURA – the Japanese word for cherry tree. Unfortunately, that suffered from the exact same deficits as SHINOBI – a one-word foreign title readers wouldn’t understand.
Then I considered CAT’S CLAW – which made sense, because the novel mentions a ninja weapon known as neko-te, which translates to English as either “Cat’s claw” (or , more precisely,”claws of the cat”). It didn’t occur to me to turn the words around, but when one of my critique partners suggested changing it to CLAWS OF THE CAT the title – and naming scheme for my series – fell into place.
My editor kept Shinobi for the series. Book 1 became CLAWS OF THE CAT.
Months down the line, I’m glad we made the swap – and happier still that I didn’t dig my heels in and object to the change of name. I like this title better than the first one. It fits the novel better in many ways (you’ll have to read it to find them all).
The process also taught me valuable lessons about attachment, compromise, and the joy of discovering it’s OK not to get everything right the first time. As with all good revisions, the changes made the title – and the novel – even better.
And that’s something even Emperor Max can approve of.
Have you ever had to change your title? Would you be willing to do it if asked?