The Painful Process of Choosing a Title

  

I am at that point. That point where I need to find a title for my novel which still, after tens of thousands of words and months of drafting, remains nameless.  

I am terrible at choosing titles. I think there is one, perhaps two examples of a good title just coming to me with little effort. All of the rest of my short stories have been repeatedly renamed in an endless series of bad titles, while this novel remains completely, stubbornly, nameless.  

There are just so many things to consider:

Are there other books with the same or similar titles? 

Does the title adequately reflect and/or cleverly hint at the primary theme/plot point/subject of the book?

Why on earth didn’t I pick a main character name that could double as the book’s title? * Bangs head on desk *

How do I pick something that is original yet not obscure or completely cringeworthy? (You should see some of the options I’ve come up with)

Should I resort to other languages to find a title? (Latin is trendy right now, isn’t it?)

A book’s title is an important marketing tool – but how do I know what’s going to attract/turn off readers?

Why is this so difficult?

Excuse me while I go and have a panic attack.

  

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14 thoughts on “The Painful Process of Choosing a Title

  1. I have been trying to cone up with a title for two and a half years. I understand your problem. The title is the very first thing someone sees or hears about your book. I have narrowed down my choices and I have one title that keeps popping up in my thoughts. I teally like it. For now, I use it as a “working title” . Have you began the book cover process yet? I bet that is another stress causer.

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    • I’m glad I’m not the only one that stresses out about titles. There is so much pressure to get it just right. I have some vague ideas about a cover, but when it comes time to set down something solid, I’m sure there’ll be another post here where I’m panicking over that decision too, lol.

      Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend πŸ™‚

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  2. Try coming up with something that sums up the general story so that you at least have something to work with. Who knows, a literary agent or publisher might be able to come up with one better once they have the manuscript. As for myself, I’m in a similar boat. I’m finishing up a novel that I have planned as a trilogy. I’ve got a name for that one and a name for the third, but for the life of me I can’t think of a name for the second. Hopefully, I’ll come up with one once I have the plot and what not down or shortly thereafter before I get into your position. πŸ™‚

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    • Titles seem to be a common struggle for writers. At least I know I’m not alone πŸ™‚ I finally have a working title at least, so I can move forward. I can always adjust it or seek other opinions later. Thanks for your comments!

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  3. Hey, Flynn- I’ve taken the practice of thinking up titles as I first start writing so I have a few months to ponder my choice and see it from different angles- its surprising the angles you start to see given time. I spontaneously titled one of my short horror stories ‘Harlequin Midnight’ which wasn’t bad considering the subject matter, but after some outlying one star reviews I realized that this title inadvertently sounds like a smutty romance novel, having two keywords people probably use to search the romance genre. The cosmic horror-y concept of children melting into a skyscraper-tall clown probably doesn’t hold much crossover appeal… Oh well. Anyway I’ve finally submitted to the fact I can’t predict what others may think (or the stock market), so if I like a title (after I live with it for a while) I just go with it and try not to second guess. Better to fail doing what you want to do than to fail and wonder what would have happened had you done it your way.

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    • I would’ve never considered the alternative connotations of ‘Harlequin Midnight’ either. You make an excellent point about going with your instincts and doing things your own way, and not worrying so much about all the possible interpretations. I’ve finally got a tentative title (it’ll probably change) that I’m happy to work with for now. Thanks for your comments!

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  4. I had a creative writing teacher who gave us a worksheet full of different methods on how to come up with different titles. It really helped me. I wish I could remember them all. Ones I remember are: sum up your story in one word, now in three words; create a rhetorical question that your story seeks to answer; take a phrase from your story and use it as the title. Hope those give you some new ideas. Best of luck.

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    • Thanks for your suggestions, they’re really helpful. I’ve accumulated quite a few tips through the replies to this post, and the sense that I’m definitely not alone in my dilema! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment πŸ™‚

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  5. Hey Flynn, sometimes I’ll just take a few words from the text itself to use as a title. That’s how I titled my chapbook, The Clock Tower Black.Another aspect to ponder, the title has to match the books style. If it’s gothic the title should reflect it (more words), if it’s modern writing the title should feel like it, use a shorter or one word title.

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  6. We are about to do something crazy. leave our 3 bedroom 2 bath 2 car garage rental home in Florida on an unknown journey. Basically living in a 17 foot trailer with no foot space, oh, with two small dogs. I’m scared and crazed. We are selling our stuff, hopefully keeping some in storage for a future place. But as the house opens up, some of the relief kicks in. Even though we will have to get full time jobs to pay the bills, we will have more free time for things we love. Art, writing, reading, and for him music. Anyway, I digress. I was thinking of starting a book about this adventure but can not think of a decent title. I may ask my online writing site for help here. Writing fiction, I had no problems with title, but this is hard. Thanks for your article to let me know I’m not alone.
    Hugs Heidi

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