I thought I’d go off topic today, because what I’ve been obsessing about lately isn’t astrology, but titles. But perhaps my trouble with titles has something to do with me being a Gemini – with being moody and indecisive sometimes to the point of paralysis.
See, I’ve got a list of possible new titles for my young adult book taped up on the wall above my desk. It’s been there for weeks now and nothing’s jumping out at me. This isn’t new. I’ve been through it with Promise Not to Tell, and actually with an earlier incarnation of this YA book too. And here I am, trying all the same tricks. I’ve brainstormed on paper and in front of the computer. I’ve highlighted significant phrases from the text of the book. I’ve harassed family and friends who’ve read it, insisting they give me a good title. I’ve written words on index cards, shuffled them then drew some and laid them out randomly, like tarot cards. I’ve gone to sleep with a notebook under my pillow telling myself that the perfect title would come in my dreams. And I’ve got nothing. I’m still waiting for that bolt of lightning. Or that moment of synchronicity when I’m stopped at a traffic light and suddenly — the street sign, the logo on the fruit truck beside me, the song on the radio all line up in some cosmic way to spell out the perfect title for me.
In the meantime, I’m left feeling like there’s some secret to this title thing that I don’t quite get. It’s a little like I’m stalking some ever-elusive creature — the perfect title for my book has become my own version of Big Foot. Does it exist? Will I ever find it?
I’ve come to the conclusion that coming up with titles is just not one of my strengths. Now, to make myself feel better, I did a quick Google search and found some nice examples we’ve probably all seen before of awesome titles that started out… well, not so awesome.
The High Bouncing Lover became The Great Gatsby
Before This Anger became Roots
First Impressions turned into Pride and Prejudice
and my favorite… They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen became the iconic Valley of the Dolls
Somehow or other it comforts me to know I’m not the only writer who struggles with titles. Let’s face it… some of these working titles are true duds. They Don’t Build Statues to Businessmen – what’s up with that? (Many heartfelt apologies to Jacqueline Susann.) But then, what each of these authors ended up with are true gems. The kind of titles that live in our hearts and minds forever.
So what I want to know is what is it that makes a great title? What’s the magic formula?
I found this great little widget, the Lulu tile scorer, that implies there might be a some sort of formula, magic or not.
Do you have a favorite title of all time? And if all of you writers out there would indulge me – what’s your secret? Where do your titles come from? And do you all have this sudden “a-ha” moment when you just know you’ve found the right one?
Latest posts by Jennifer McMahon (see all)
- The more things change, the more they stay the same… by Founder Jennifer - August 20, 2008
- Confessions of an ex-debutante by Founder Jennifer - December 15, 2007
- A Scary Day in the Neighborhood by Founder Jennifer - November 10, 2007
- Color-coded secrets by Founder Jennifer - October 6, 2007
- What am I missing? by Founder Jennifer - September 1, 2007