Friday, September 3, 2010

Finding a Good Title

When I recently mentioned on my blog that my fourth novel is still untitled, even though it’s written and I’m in the process of revising it, commenter Dawn Simon mentioned that she hadn’t named her new project yet either. Why is it hard to come up with a good title? I’ve been thinking about what I want my title to do:

1. Hook the reader

2. Capture something significant about the story

3. Sound good when you read it (e.g. it shouldn’t make you tongue-tied)

4. Stand out by being a little different

Up ‘til now, titles for my novels have just come to me. I haven’t had to work at it. Sometimes, I’ve even thought of the title first and then the book developed around it. This time I’m stuck. Maybe as I revise, I'll stumble across an idea? Let's hope so. Novel #4 won't sound so great in a query.


  1. Some other things a title might do—ask a question, startle or surprise the reader, or suggest a mood or tone.

    I bet a title will pop out at you as you re-read and revise your novel. Although, Novel #4 is intriguing. :) I'm just saying...

  2. Titles are no fun sometimes. Too much work. ;)

  3. I hate titles! I really do. I met a writer last night who said it took her over 10 years to come up with a good title for a novel she was revising. But it was a very good title!

  4. Oh, I don't know. Novel #4 is kind of catchy. :-)

    When I'm stuck on a chapter title, I type: "Insert Brilliant Title Here" as an holder. (My kids think this is hysterical.) One of these days, I'm might write a book and title it that. Wouldn't that be funny?

  5. LOL Novel #4 could work :)

    Titles usually fall into my head too. If they don't I might ask a crit partner what they think. Sometimes they have good ideas about titles because they know your work so well. Maybe that would help you?

    all the best finding a title soon.

  6. I can never come up with a good title until I'm almost done with revisions and even then they don't really speak to me. Usually my working title is "Current Project" or "YA Project #3" -- I know so sad!

    Don't stress yourself too much about it though. A lot of my published writer friends say that their titles change at least 80% of the time.

    But good luck, you may just stumble across a beauty of a title.

  7. Wow - thanks for all the great ideas about finding a title!

    Car, you make me laugh, I love "Insert Brilliant Title Here." Maybe that will work for dialogue, scene descriptions, plot devices too?

    I am getting kind of attached to Novel #4, though. It will be hard to let it go, when I do manage to stumble across something a little more meaningful. Kate, I hope it won't take me 10 years!

  8. I have one of two experiences with titles: either a title is there from the very beginning, wedded to the premise, or it's the last, last, last thing I write before submission. Nothing moderate with titles. It seems to go about 50% each way. Interestingly, my published books have been retitled during the pub process also about 50% of the time.

  9. I come up with a title early on. It's either the first thing or it comes to me when I'm outlining.

  10. Mediea, I usually have my title pretty early in the process too. The fact that it's not so easy this time has me a little worried. Maybe it will be the last thing I write too, Marcia. Your comments about retitling (is that a word?) are interesting!

  11. Titles are hard but so important! Sometimes, I get a title but put more effort into it later. It's a mysterious process, for sure.

  12. Mysterious is a good way to describe a lot of the writing process, Laura! The right title is important to me, even though I know it may get changed later.


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