But what do you do when the clock is ticking and your mind is drawing a blank?
I'm talking about titles, of course. We all know that the chances of your working title being kept by the publisher is pretty slim, and for a lot of us, that's probably a big relief, right? I know it would be for me.
But it's still nice to have something to call it, isn't it? And I doubt many agents are going to want to see "WIP #45 is an 85,000-word thriller."
Or if you're shallow like me, and really want to have a pretty banner/cover for your NaNoWriMo project...
All good reasons to need a title.
I usually can pull a decent working title out of my ass, but for the current Nano project, I was stumped, and I mean stumped.
The main characters are chronokinetic, and that is an important element to the story, so for shits and giggles and in need of a folder title to keep My Documents nice and tidy (god, I really am a plotter, aren't I?), I titled the project CHRONO KILLERZ. Yes, with the Z. But obviously I couldn't keep that! Even if it has a nice pulp-fiction (the actual kind, not the "English, M*thaf*cka!"-kind)(and that's only according to my brother, who was worthless in helping me think of a title) ring, it's a total misnomer.
I've been trying to think of a title for almost a month, so today, out of pure desperation, I googled this:
"I need a name for my novel."
Never underestimate the power of Google, people!! For the Google gods directed me to superstar agent Rachelle Gardner's blog post entitled How to Title Your Book.
Here are her tips, in a nutshell:
- Go to Amazon and search your genre, then write down 20 titles that appeal to you. Note what elements they share and what elements are lacking.
- Free-associate as many words as you can that pertain to your novel, theme, characters, and any phrases or images that come to mind when you think of your story.
- See if any of the words you free-associated could work as a single-name title, then start experimenting with adjective-noun, verb-noun arrangements.
From that point, you basically pick out your favorites and narrow it down until you have a winner.
I did the first two. Just out of scientific interest, here's an sampling of random books from the sci-fi and fantasy selections at Amazon that struck my fancy:
Out of the Dark
House of Suns
Devil May Cry
The Devil You Know
Seeing a trend? I guess I'm mostly drawn to short, sparse titles, either one word or an article and a noun (think of Nicholas Sparks' novels: The Rescue, The Guardian, The Notebook). I'm entranced by the idea that one word can really encompass an entire novel's theme. Kelley Armstrong, urban fantasy author extraordinaire, really cashes in on the one-word titles.
Anyway, I wrote down all my words and phrases and images, but nothing really jumped out at me, until I started thinking about idiomatic expressions. I've always liked those as titles, because they're already in the collective consciousness (of Americans, anyway)--kind of like a high concept title, I guess. And that makes it easy to remember, and we all want people to remember our titles.
The phrase the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few is an idiom that could be applied thematically to my plot, except the MC is definitely more interested in what she wants than what's best for all. But Needs of the Few is a little clunky, isn't it? Interesting to think about, I guess, and it certainly could induce you to wonder who the few are and what their needs are and how their selfishness could affect the "many," but it still wasn't ringing with me.
In a very un-Summer way, this project idea came to me in 2 books'-worth of fully-formed ideas. I don't like to think in sequels, but this just so happens to work that way, and I'm pretty in love with it, so I'm going with it. So while I was desperately trying to come up with a title for the "first book," the perfect idiomatic title for the "second book" hit me: Dead Ringer. Several layers of meaning, short and punchy. I liked it!
But what about the first book? I know this is getting long and drawn out (welcome to my last month), so I'll just cut to the chase and show you the banner and "book cover" I made for the NaNo site:
So. My working title is now Dry Run. It's an idiom, and it has the added benefit of being both metaphorical and literal, plus it's a nice alliteration for Dead Ringer.
All this rambling was in hopes of proving that the untitleable are never lost for sure! Definitely check out Rachelle's hints.
And then when you're done, go here for a bit of fun (arbitrarily rates your bestseller chances based on title alone): LuLu Title Scorer. If you're wondering, Dry Run scored a 10.2% chance at becoming a bestselling title. Ha! Thanks a lot, Lulu!