Friday, 17 August 2007

Coffee Break

Goodness me, is it Friday again? Come on in, put your feet up, have a cookie (well, I thought a change might be nice) and let me get you a drink.

So how's your week been? I've done quite a bit on my third draft, and I have a Whole Week Off next week for writing (ssshhh – I told all my clients I was going on holiday!) so I expect to have more progress to report next Friday. It's still slow, but I can feel it starting to come together, which is great.

The thing that's bugging me this week is titles. I'm rubbish at titles, whether for books, chapters, short stories, articles or blog posts (so I'm glad the title for these Friday posts is so easy!). One of the major themes in my book is death, so I started out with a death-based title, until a friend pointed out it sounded like a crime novel – and it isn't, so that was out. Then I tried some love-based titles, as that's another major theme, but they all sounded like romance, and it's not that either.

A blogging novelist recently suggested on her blog that poetry was a good place to look for titles. I mentioned this to an erudite friend last weekend when we were talking about my book. 'Hmmm,' she said, 'Andrew Marvell, for you, I think.' Out came the Dictionary of Quotations and, sure enough, there was the perfect quote. I was euphoric for about ten minutes until she suggested I Google it, just in case it had already been used – which it has, by a book written decades ago and still in print (told you it was a good title). Since then I've had another brilliant idea, based on the third theme, only to discover that's been used too.

I'm beginning to feel as if I'll never find a suitable title for my book. So this week I thought I'd ask: how do you create titles for the books, stories, articles, blog posts etc that you write?

19 comments:

liz fenwick said...

First point there in no copyright on titles so even if someone else has used - it doesn't necessarily rule it out. There is a great discussion on this same subject here http://csharris.blogspot.com/2007/08/on-titles.html.

Also just to point out your title may never see the light of day.....so I have been told.

A titla can make a book like the Devil Wears Prada and on my tbr pile is a Judy astley book called Laying the Ghost which I think is brilliant :-)

Good luck Zinnia and thanks for the scrumy biscuits :-)

JJ said...

Hi all, Gosh, those biscuits look divine and they are calorie free! I'm so sad they're virtual though. I need carbs... Oooh, and tea please Zinnia.

I can only speak for the articles I've written rather than any novels. The novel I'm writing now was provisionally called 'You cut, I chose' but I'm fairly sure that's not right anymore so I'm just not worrying.

What happens when I write articles is that I just write away, and my subconcious usually throws the obvious title into my head (thank you subconcious, I so love you). The magazine I write for here is quite lightweight and so often I use puns.

It's one area in which I have faith: faith that the right title will come. If it doesn't, Husband's a good source for titles.

I am very excited to be able to report this week that my word count is going UP! I've written most days and am reasonably happy that I want to write and not go out!

Thanks for the tea and biscuits, Zinnia, and have you tried song lyrics?

JJx

Rowan Coleman said...

Hey there zinnia, biscuits, cookies bring 'em on! am in last throw of writing the very last pages of the first draft of the book today. Hope to be sipping champagne (ok, guzzling in a blearly eyed frenzy) tonight. Titles, titles, titles are my bain, I'm terrible at them. My books always start as untitled and stay that way for along, long time until something pops up and so far that always been before pub date. Phew! Liz is right you can use any title even if it's been used before and if your perfect title is on a book that been out for years and not a major best seller (for example you don't want to call your novel Harry Potter and the something of something or The Da Vinci Code) then you should use it, why not? I would. My favourite kind of book title is one you don't immeadiately get but that when you're reading the book suddenly clicks and gives you a lightbulb moment. The best example of this I can think of is 'Thin Air' by Sue Gee. But the fashion amongst readers/publishers/booksellers these days is for something much more literal, particularly in the commercial market (which by the way doesn't mean its not a well written book, can you tell what my coffee morning subject will be???)For example my first novel was called GROWING UP TWICE, about how you get to thirty and you're grown up in so many ways, but yet you still have a lot of growing up to do (geddit?) that for me was quite an offbeat title, two novels later my third novel was called RIVER DEEP, using a song title (also not copyrighted, though lyrics are I think)that was about when you are so crazy in love you'll do anything for that person. Then THE ACCIDENTAL MOTHER which people think is about unexpected pregnancy when they pick it up, but it's not, it's about unexpected motherhood! My last novel for adults was the most literal title yet THE BABY GROUP and yet its the title I've recieved most comments on from readers because they say the book doesn't match the title and that although they love the book they would have preferred another title (answers on a postcard). The truth is a good title can really make a book whatever market or genre its in and a bad one can sink a work of genius (ukranian tractors not withstanding)so no wonder it drives us all to the brink of a nervous breakdown! Perhaps the racers should start a title pool, a password access only area where we put all our title ideas and then we can apply for permission from the other racers if we want to use them! (I am only half joking) Rx

CTaylor said...

I'm pretty rubbish at titles. Until recently I LOVED the title for my WIP - until I told it to two of my cousins who commented "Christ, that sounds depressing." Hmmmm...not quite the effect I wanted.

Back to the drawing board now.

CTaylor said...

p.s. Love Rowan's idea about somewhere password protected we can talk novel titles. Mine needs as many suggestions as it can get!

Cathy said...

I have a working title for my novel...which I also used for the (unpublished) short story on which it is based. I know the same title has already been used for a book of poetry, but it does suit the subject matter, so I think I will stick with it for now, as I can't think of anything better!

The cookies are yummy, Zinnia!

Lazy Perfectionista said...

I need a big cup of coffee this morning, and one of those biscuits would go down very well!

When I don't have time to write or am in a situation where it's impossible (like when I'm driving), I enjoy making up titles and wondering what they could be about. I came up with the title for my current project like that - one of the 'fake' titles really seemed to match the themes I was playing with at the time. On the other hand, that doesn't always work. I have another project that has been on the backburner for ages, partly because I just can't come up with a title that fits it, but I think that's probably because I'm not at the right point in the development of the story and characters for it to become obvious what it should be called.

ChrisH said...

First of congratulations on the progress with your third draft. What a killer rewriting is turning out to be! I'm finding it requires immense self-discipline. As for titles, I like song titles, at least as a starting point, but yes, it is tough - hard enough to think of titles for my blog posts! 'Fighting The Tide' began as 'Beating the Tide' which I've tried to do many times when sailing (no not on swanky yacht - on ancient wooden yacht with sails patched with shower curtain by me!). Anyway I ditched that title when a rude friend kept asking how 'Beating the Meat' was going. Charming! I do think a good title invites you in and, as Rowan says, if it then reveals itself within the novel too it becomes even more satisfying. Another coffee I think - feeling a bit fuzzy with painkillers for a frozen shoulder - a right pain!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Thanks for the biscuits :)

I can't work on a book without at least a working title, but I also tend to give chapters titles. While I'm writing the chapter it will be saved as "Chapter XX - untitled" but when I've finished the first draft of that chapter I'll then give it a --usually quirky-- title based on the contents ("The Eyes have it" or some such).

When I was a professional artist I took titles for paintings from a random page in whatever book I was reading at the time (this is how I now find writing prompts) thus I had paintings entitled "Suddenly Nervous" and "Patiently Waiting"

Current progress

I've written about 10K this week on "Dead Line" and around 3.5K on "Diary of a Demon" (http://jasfoup.blogspot.com/) another novel in blog form.

I have to stop now, though :( My editor wants a complete re-write of "An Ungodly Child" by the end of next week. Mostly typos and inconsistancies, but also a large saggy-middle cut and an expanded ending.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Great cookies, perfect with orange juice on the verandah (well, out the back where the shed is).

Titles are scary. You can spend a year or more slogging over your novel and yet it is often the handful of words on the cover that prompts people to pick it off a shelf.

As has already been mentioned, titles aren't copyright although some authors trademark their creations. I don't know about HP, but Discworld is trademarked so you cannot use that without permission.

Poetry is a good source (but be careful - I once looked into using a phrase from Yeats and got jumped on by his estate who wanted my signature on a 32 page contract plus a small fortune for the privilege). Shakespeare and his contemporaries are a great source (Brave New World, for example).

Lyrics of folk songs (which tend to deal with basic things in life - birth, sex, death, jealousy, etc) are a rich mine as well.

If you enjoy cryptic crosswords, how about a cryptic style clue?

I often find a title will come from within the piece I'm working on, a phrase spoken by a character or a juicy bit of prose that captures the essence.

Having said all that I'm struggling with titles for my works in progress. I want to use Blue Shift (as in light moving to the blue end of the spectrum when objects approach each other - it's about somoen going home) for the fourth book of the quartet, but worry about the connotations (e.g., is it sci fi, is about firemen?). But it is all early days yet and I usually trust to the Title Fairy to leave one under my pillow when it is needed.

Good luck with finding one for yours.

KeVin K. said...

I think "The Second Coming" is the most quoted poem in history when it comes to titles. Can't find a line in it that hasn't been used somewhere. Yeats looked at violence in Ireland and Russia a century ago and thought civilization was coming to an end. Produced the most eloquent wail of despair in the English language.

My week is taken up with GenCon. You'll have to Google it (tyr "GenCon Indy") because I don't have any of my bookmarks available. I'm typing on the computer in the hotel's "business center" (a closet with a printer/fax, three Dells of archeological interest and a row of clocks displaying the time in various parts of the world). This place wants $9.95 a day for internet access in the room.

No writing done, but I have had very interesting conversations with three game developers and spent an interesting hour with a program that lets you create and annotate maps. Looks like a nifty tool for fantasy writing. On a couple of pannels tomorrow and will be signing the few books I brought with me. Today it's mostly hang out, schooze, help run the Catalyst Games booth and spend as much time as I can with my family (all four of them are here with me).

Except for this guilt about not writing, I'm having a wonderful time.

Kate.Kingsley said...

I’m not great at titles either ~ I agree that they can back you into a particular corner of the market. Although I’m undecided if it’s better to be cosy in a niche market then out there on your own, cold and lonely. The title for the novel I’m currently working on came to me in a flash as within seconds of the main premise falling into place, so that was fortunate. I have a “reserve” title in place too, in case the narrative goes off in another direction, which it could potentially do.

(ChrisH: “beating the….” ~ I laughed out loud! That’s a whole different niche market! And sorry to hear about the frozen shoulder suffered something similar recently and oh lordy it hurts!) )

My week: I haven’t done much on the novel this week, as I’m at the point of my OU creative writing course where everything seems to be clustering, so I’ve had a fair bit of work to do for that. On the plus side it does mean that I’m banging out a lot of words and I’m consoling myself with the fact that A215 is all valuable learning for when I get back to the novel. Also, our online tutor group had a tutorial exercise to participate in this week, and my effort received very positive comments, including “I always really rate your writing”, & “write more, please!”, so I’m very very pleased and encouraged by that.

I’m also thrilled that my bravery in posting the first page of my novel on my blog for public scrutiny was met with such positive comments from my fellow racers ~ thank you all so much for taking the time to read it and comment, I do appreciate the support and guidance. I think I needed reassuring that I was on the right track, and I now have that reassurance, so thank you all for commenting.

Have great weekend, all,

Best wishes
Kate K

Jen said...

Ooh, fascinating - I didn't know that copyright doesn't apply to titles! Am intrigued to find out why now.

I find titles tricky too - for blog posts, I like something quirky and alliterative though they do tend to be rather random to say the least.

http://www.fictionalley.org/primer/title.html
is quite interesting have a play about with. My working title at the mo is 'Perfect Lives' which is far from perfect.

Anyhow, am toiling merrily. Am blown away by the amount Rachel has written. You are superhuman!!

Biscuits on that site are amazing - almost tempted to actually do some baking :)

Have a happy weekend, everyone! X

liz fenwick said...

I have to say August Rock started with the title.......We were out in Falm outh Bay and I was looking at the charts and ashed dh what is was. he pointed to a bouy and said it's there. I said what is? He said you can only see it a couple of times a year when the tide is really low - mostly in August. I thought ah, sounds like a great title for a book and so August Rock was born :-)

NoviceNovelist said...

Afternoon all - hope there is till some coffee brewing for latecomers!!! Absolutely useless at titles and I like the idea of looking at song titles or random lyrics for inspiration. This week I have written a cover letter to agents and rewritten my synopsis now that I know what the novel is really about!!! It's amazing how much easier it was to rewrite the synopsis with a finished draft in mind and interesting to see how the story germ remained at the core but sub plots developed around it. I continue to work my way throught my second draft and await my reader's feedback on the first 10,000 words. Zinnia have a great week writing!!!

Caroline said...

Hi.
Yes title traumas are wonderful! For ISoA I picked something vital to the plot - but with current wip I had major traumas. I wanted to call my current novel Blink - but after searching on Amazon (com and co.uk) I realised that the title had been exhausted. The key is to look what is in print or to google main themes and look at words that link to the theme.

This week, Black Boxes has been read by 2 trusted readers. I am on the redrafting of the final 10,000 words, then will do a print out and read through again. I am still on target to start thinking publishers/agents in September ... fingers crossed
x

B.E. Sanderson said...

Like Liz said, chances are your title won't make it through the publishing process anyway. And also, so what if someone else's book has the same title - especially when it's an older book. Unless it was something famous, there's little chance someone will mistake your book for theirs or vice versa. I've got a book on the back-burner named 'Redemption' - not only is a Leon Uris book named that, but currently hot author Karin Tabke is working on a book with that title. I'll rename the book when it gets closer to being published.

I just give my books a working title and hope for the best. The only real thing about a title pre-publication is how well it grabs an agent or an editor. (Which is why I just changed the titles for my first two books - Spectacle and Caldera. Accurate, but too boring.)

Good luck, Zinnia. Thanks for the great coffee break topic. =oD

Helen said...

Hi all, I'm late today. Been a busy day with a meeting to potentially do some freelance work for a company come September, plus physio on my ankle where my physio invited me to join his writing group, then took son out for a play at a stately home garden this afternoon. A good and positive day.

In terms of titles I have to say I don't think about them too much. I do have a working title for my current WIP but who knows if that will stay. I do like food related titles though - even though my book is nothing about food. I wonder why?!!

Fionamac said...

Decaffinated for me, if you have it, please. I'm so late, it's nearly bed time (Forgive me but I've only just got back from visting the Out-laws.)
Being nearly bed time reminds me about something I read about sleeping. Apparently your brain doesn't sleep, but tries to solve things while you do - image of me with head back snoring after too many units while grumpy brain is sulking on a nearby chair. Not pretty.
So...why don't you tell your brain to think of a title, tonight, while you're in the land of nod and see what happens?
Super biscuits. Thank you.
Fiona