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This week’s QOTW comes from Victoria, who asks:
Where do you find inspiration for your titles? Do you find it easy or difficult to think of them?
It’s pretty rare for me to have an easy time coming up with titles. Usually, it involves me + a pad of paper + 20 blank slots. I’ll then write down words associated with the novel, then see what I can come up with. For A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES, I wrote down every word/phrase associated with elements of the novel: faeries, court intrigue, the “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, the dark fairy-tale feeling, etc. After many, many failed titles, I wrote down ACOTAR, and realized it was The One. When I know a title is right, it’ll just HIT me. However, QUEEN OF GLASS was a different story.
It started out as a placeholder title while I worked on the series–I originally intended to change it someday. Somehow, over the years, it stuck, and became so closely intwined with the story and its characters that I can’t imagine changing it. So, my experience with titles has been a bit of a roller coaster–and it DEFINITELY helps to have a critique partner to brainstorm with!!
Recently, I needed to change the title of the book that I currently have out on submission. The very week that I signed with my agent, there was a major YA sale of a book with the same title as mine. It was extremely difficult to find a new title, because I had come to think of the book as being defined by the previous title, (which, in case you’re curious, was STAR-CROSSED.) It took days for me to generate any new ideas. In the end, I searched the book for symbols – images that represented in my mind what the book was about. There was a single scene in the manuscript involving a firefly. To a reader, that scene could pass by with little significance, but to me, the firefly represented my male MC. The title FIREFLY seemed to fit. But once I had the title, I realized I needed to justify it a bit. I expanded that scene, and added a few more images of fireflies throughout the text, all meant to emphasize their temporary and otherworldly nature. Once I had made those edits, I was just as satisfied with the new title as I had been with the original.
I used to stress about getting the perfect title. The original title for Prada & Prejudice was “How to Snag a Duke– and other things I learned in school.” Yeah, no idea what I was thinking with that one. My agent kind of said she hated it, so I started thinking of new ones. I was in Borders and saw a book called “Pride and Petticoats.”
So then I was like…. well…. how can I use something old meets something new? Within 24 hours, Prada & Prejudice hit me. Of course, the original drafts had nothing to do with Austen. I just wanted the whole Austen era meets 21st century. It ended up being that editors had all these expectations based on the title, so I had to rewrite it!
Ever since, I’ve just considered my titles to be “working titles.” Trust me, even if you think your title is the best thing since sliced bread, someone at your publisher will consider changing it. Think of your title as a placeholder. YOU WISH started out as THE GHOSTS OF BIRTHDAYS PAST, and my editor proposed YOU WISH. SHATTERED (coming in 2011) will be changed too, though I don’t know to what, yet. if RIPPLE stays the same, it will be my first book to keep its title–And it’s going to be my 5th published book! ha!
I think an amazing title can help you (since you’ll put it in the subject line of E-queries) but I wouldn’t stress to much on it.
The first novel I wrote was originally named WOMAN’S WORLD, because that was what I slapped on the document I was working on when I got called to dinner. And that was all I had at that point: a world where women were in charge. It was only after I got an agent that the title was changed to ANTEBELLUM, and to be honest it might get changed again (too many people think it’s about the Civil War, lol). The other books were named almost instantly, sometimes even before I had a story. The next two books in the ANTEBELLUM SERIES, APOSTASY and INSURRECTION had names before I really knew where the plot was going. The title GO LOOK THERE stuck with me for years before the characters approached me, and the new novel I’m working on had its plot inspired entirely by the title: A CLEAR AND BEAUTIFUL LIE.
I’ve found that when I don’t have a name for a project it inevitably falls apart and I don’t finish it. For example, a time-travel drama novel I was working on last year. I didn’t have a name and I didn’t have a name, and soon I didn’t have a plot either. I’m just glad this particular curse didn’t affect my first book, but I have a feeling I’ll be suffering from it all my life. 😉
I’m terrible with titles. It always feels as if I need to describe my entire story in a title; and as a result, I get a bit hung-up. The best for me, though, is just to jot down words, lines, or ideas that come to mind when I think of my manuscript. My current one is still untitled, but I have pages of notes to help me start thinking of one. I also find reading poetry to be great in terms of inspiration for titles. I figure that forcing it might not work, especially seeing as how I’m still writing it; stressing out about it doesn’t particularly help. I’m sure it’ll come to me when I least expect it.
As for my shorter works, I tend to get inspiration from music. One of my short stories on FictionPress is titled “I Know You’re Still There,” which has significance in the story as well as the song that inspired it. It’s not the title of the song, just a line, but it fits really well in my opinion.
The funny thing is, I was brainstorming titles one day a while ago, before anyone even KNEW of Twilight …. and I came up with “Breaking Twilight.” Breaking Dawn + Twilight = my title. I should sue for plagiarism!
I almost always have a really hard time with titles. Usually, I can’t think of anything right off the bat, or when I do it doesn’t seem to fit. Sometimes, I sit and just try to think of titles but this takes forever. PRISCILLA THE EVIL was one of the few times I knew right almost immediately what the title would be and felt good about it. My other titles often come from snatches of songs or phrases that just fit some part of the story.
Oh man, I hate coming up with titles. It’s so hard to come up with a really, really good title that means everything you want it to mean, and gives the best first impression to the reader. People judge books on titles as much as covers, and it’s true that after reading the novel the title will make a lot of sense, but the name is its only identity before it’s read. Even though I know it happens, and even though I do it too, I hate the thought that what I’ve written will be judged by it’s name first, and content later.
Especially since right now my placeholder title is TIME IS A FUNNY THING. That’s terrible as a title! It sounds cliche; it sounds like I’m putting on airs and trying to be profound when really, it was just the first sentence ever written of the novel, and it’s said in the sardonic voice of somebody too proud being trapped in a place against her will for too long. Now though, I can’t think of anything else to call it because the book has become the title, and there are plenty of ‘time’ elements in it, so changing it will be really hard, even though I know I’ll have to. If only so that people don’t sniff at it and walk away. Because even though I think it works really well with the tone and content of the book, people don’t know the tone and content when they haven’t read it.
The day I start making brilliant titles that correspond beautifully to the work is the day I’m happy!
How do YOU pick your story titles?