Thursday, 6 December 2007

Mutable Titles

There have been some interesting posts about titles recently. How do you come up with titles for your books? Do you have a 'placeholding' title while you think of a better one or do you call it (for example) 'Five run away again'?

What about your editor? Your agent? Did they want the title changed? Or have you had your title accepted all the way down only to think right at the end "I should have called it...?

Mine are mutable. An Ungodly Child comes out next April. It started life as 'The Harold and Jasfoup story" which became "The Ungodly Child" until the second edit. People thing the title refers to Jasfoup when it is, of course, Harold. I've ploughed through several since then. I might even start subbing Dead Line to agents next year after collecting rejections for Nephilim's Child.


CTaylor said...

My novel was called "Lucy Brown: Diary of a Dead Girl" for AGES but everyone said it was too morbid and, thinking about it, it probably was. I still like "Diary of a Dead Girl" but probably not for this novel.

Dunno if I should share the new title (are comments googleable?) but the critiquers in my writing group have unanimously declared it a "good title" so I'm happy now. Just hope any potential agents and publishers are.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

I am so rubbish at titles that I'm not even going to tell you the working titles for my current WIPs because I would immediately die from an overdose of embarrassment. I am consoled by the suggestion, from various quarters, that at submission stage the title is the bit agents are least bothered about.

Talking of agents... no news, and I suspect there won't be until the New Year. But my good news for this week is that I have now written over 10,000 words of Novel 2! So I feel v pleased with myself.

Jen said...

Wow, I can't believe how much difference the change from 'The' to 'An Ungodly Child' makes.

I still haven't conjured up a decent title for my novel - it has a title of 'Perfect Lives' but I definitely need to come up with something more alluring.

I like 'Diary of a Dead Girl' too - seems kind of incongruous, like 'Diary of a Nobody'.

Hope you're on the mend Rachel X

Cathy said...

I have a working title for my novel which I think fits the themes perfectly. I've done my research and knew that a book of poetry had previously been released with the same title, but that it was out of print.

I've just found that a new edition of the poetry was recently released. So now I suppose my working title will have to change eventually, but I can't think of anything as good!

Lane said...

Working title is Past Tense. It will probably change.

Good luck to all of you waiting to hear from agents.

Lookin forward to your book next April Rachel:-)

CC Devine said...

I'm the same as Cathy - I have a working title which seems to fit the main themes but, like Zinnia, I imagine that the title is of less importance than the actual writing at submission stage (not that I'm there yet!).

Kristin over at Pub Rants had some good points about titles last week:

Kate said...

One of my WIP is titled Fleeting Life, which I think covers the theme pretty well. I haven't looked to see if anyone else has published something under that name, but I'm not too fussed.

I dont really pay much attention to the titles of novels, especially if they're part of a series. All I want to know is if its book 1, 2, 3 or whatever so I read them in order.

My other WIP is very badly title 'Cloud People', but only so I can call it something when I talk about it to people, rather than just calling it untitled. It will eventually be titled "[untitled], Children of the Ether: Book 1" or something like that. Who knows. As long as its not called something stupidly irrelevent then I dont really care.

In fact it'd be a weight off my mind if someone else came up with the title for me. Same with chapter titles.. though I may scrap them and just number them instead.

I'm the same with character names. I dont really care just as long as they dont sound poncy. Cloud People is being written with character names such as 'Boy1', 'Friend1', 'Friend2', 'King', etc. Although I have chosen a few character names that I am going to cling to for dear life.

Juliette M said...

Titles are my great love and my bugbear at the same time! Usually I will title the piece after the main character: 'Jessica', 'Polly' etc, but sometimes a title comes to mind and fits perfectly like 'Size Hero' 'Womanhood', 'Pepper's Ghost' and 'Secret Agent Man'.

I dont have an agent or an editor, but they will probably change all my titles when I finally get published...

I second the difference between 'The' and 'An' for the Jasfoup book. Makes it so much more mysterious!

Hope the leg's mending well Rachel.

Rowan Coleman said...

titles, titles, titles - All I can tell you right now is that the title of my next book The Accidental Wife, also out in April 2008 will be different when its published in the USA in October 2008, I don't know what it will be yet! A good title is SO important (An Ungodly Child is a genius title, I can't wait to read it already, plus I LOVE the idea of Diary of a Dead Girl - I think the YA market would go crazy for it), I've had some great ones and some not so good ones, if I could I would change the title of my last book The Baby Group because its about much more than a baby group and I don't think the title did it justice, but maybe when its published in the US next year I'll get a chance to do that!!

ps I blew my promise by forgetting to blog yesterday but I am off to do just that now!

Graeme K Talboys said...

Sorry I've not taken much part recently, but it's been a bit hectic getting an anthology I've edited into print and into circulation.

I have always found it easier to produce non-fiction titles, and they have usually been the working title (other than my games book with the editor came up with). My fiction invariably has a boring working title 'spy novel', 'sf novel', or if it has no genre, as in my current wip, then it generally gets called after the central character, hence 'Charlie Cornelius'. Although I play around with titles during the writing, I tend not to worry about it as one has always popped up that seems suitable.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Have thought about several titles but one just keeps coming back. There are so many different titles out there it's hard to find one that isn't the same. I think I might write a lot more before I find something suitable and then I know I will be asking for advice on which one sounds best!

Crystal xx

JJ said...

I haven't come up with a title for the novel yet. With articles, the titles just come to me - eventually. It hasn't with the novel, but I have faith that it will.

I sometimes hear a phrase, and think, oh god, that would make a great title for a novel, but I don't really think it works that way round.


Kate.Kingsley said...

I have no problem thinking up titles ~ I have a head full of them at any given time, it's just writing the entire book that follows on from them that I have trouble with! Maybe I could get a job as a Title Broker or something?

For the current WIP the title ("Should have been me") came to me at the exact moment that the theme occurred to me. If a publisher wanted to change it I might feel quite perturbed by that, I think (although it also has a secondary working title of "what you wish for", which might actually be an entirely different novel along similar themes but narrated from a different perspective. Confused, yet?)

I think a title does pique my interest and can be the deciding factor between me picking up a book / author that I've never heard of before and giving it a go. But then again if I heard great reviews of a book with an uninspiring title I would still read it. But for reeling in the uninitiated I think an intriguing title wins a large part of the battle.

Lots of luck to all of those awaiting publisher responses, and best of writing to luck to everyone for the forthcoming week.

B.E. Sanderson said...

I'm probably not the best at titles. It's hit and miss. My first book was called 'Spectacle' for the longest time, and then this past summer, I changed it to 'Fear Itself'. My second book started out as Caldera, and now it's 'Nature of Destruction'. For my own purposes, my books have working titles that are more meaningful to me and work better as filenames: Justice, Redemption, Blink, etc. Whatever the titles, I expect some agent or editor is going to come up with something better along the way, so I try not to get attached to any of them.


My title just came with the story and sadly I have no Agent nor Editor to object to it but I am valiantly seeking either or both and quite frankly I would happily agree to rename it a concise history of macrame if some one would publish the ruddy thing!!!

I do however live in hope!

ps love illustration!

ChrisH said...

I get a bit precious and don't feel comfortable until I've got a title I'm happy with. I also keep a titles folder in which I make a note of phrases which might be useful. Saw the anthology I contributed to in Tesco this morning (albeit in Haverfordwest) yippee! Honno, the publishers, called it 'Strange Days, Indeed' which I really liked.
Hope the ankle is on the mend.

leatherdykeuk said...

CT: I love "Diary of a Dead Girl" Dunno if I should share the new title Probably wise!

Zinnia: I find it helps to have a working title that you're fond of but not precious about. Well done on the novel 2 progeress!

Jen: Thanks. I was surprised, too. I'm still mending though I'm ultra peeved that I'm missing four jitsu gradings this weekend.

Cathy: Titles aren't copyrighted, it just depends upon if you think people will mistake the two books.

Lane: Thanks :) It's rubbish though. The later, unsold ones are much better.

CC: Yes! Pub Rants! I couldn't remember which of the 200 blogs I read it was on.

Kate: I'm seriously impressed that you can write with 'boy 1' 'friend 2' etc. I *have* to assign a name to the character in order to assign a personality, even if it changes later.

Juliette: That's pretty much what I do, too. I refer to the books as *something* and wait for the 'real' title to emerge later.

Rowan: I love the Accidental Wife as a title. It's reminiscent of the phrase 'fell pregnant' which I always found amusing.

Graeme: Congratulations on the anthology! Working titles are always handy, though my non fiction works tend to have very long, dry titles.

Crystal: Good idea. I found my latest working title by asking a group of friends.

JJ: Funny you should say that. A title came to me yesterday and now I want to write the novel to it.

KK: I wish they came to me that easily. How much would you charge for title broking? I'm certainly interested ~G~.

BE: Filenames are good placeholders, though mine get excessively long.

Un Peu: ~laughs~ I'm with you on that one!

Chrish: I need a title to work with too. Congrats on the anthology sighting!

sheepish said...

Hi everyone, my title appeared in my head even before I really knew what the novel was going to be about. It still fits and I hope that if or should I say when its published I can keep the title unchanged. I would hate to have a publisher insist on a change but hey if it got it into print then I suppose you have to go along with whatever the great gods say. I also find that I have to have names for my main characters that I like, I probably spend valuable writing time worrying about names. Perhaps I should try Kate's approach of Boy 1, friend 1 etc, I might get on quicker.
And you are right An Ungodly Child sounds so much tighter.

Fiona said...

I love both Diary of a Dead Girl and An Ungodly Child although I tend to look at the subtitle first - must be just me being weird.

I would call my WIP, Adsa's Awesome if it would get me sold in there.

Are you walking yet, Rachel?

KeVin K. said...

My title for Wolf Hunters was "A Lycanthrope's Guide to the Galaxy" but the folks at WizKids Games and/or Penguin weren't amused. "Wolf Hunters" was their idea, arrived at without consulting me. (And to tell the truth it does have more to do with the plot than my name.)
To Ride the Chimera is all mine -- it was my first working title and nothing better occurred to me.

I called my first Star Trek novel Orphans as an homage to Robert Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky -- the novel that first introduced me to the concept of multi-generation slower-than-light colonization vessels.
My working title for Honor" -- my second Trek novel -- was "Heretics" because it involved upsetting the social order of two cultures. But when I finished it I realized the characters' motivations, not their actions, was the heart of the story.

My working title for my mystery-in-progress is "Coastal, Carolina" -- the name of my fictional small town. That is going to change. (My goal is to develop a series, so I need a unifying theme for the titles.)

(And I liked this topic so much, I expanded this answer to be a post in my own lj.)

leatherdykeuk said...

Sheepish: I was almost surprised that my publisher kept my title.

Fiona: Subtitle? I never even thought of that. I'm on crutches still, at least another 2 weeks.

Kevin: Changing the title without consultation would annoy me. I used to love star trek novels, but I think I went off the genre before I read yours, sorry! I'm glad you liked the topic :)

Helen Shearer said...

Hi all. I'm a full day late but I suppose it is better to be late than absent. My current wip has a one word title, although I'm superstitious about sharing it. Titles usually come to me when I'm well into the work. I don't consciously think of them; they usually just present themselves. I'm not published so I don't know if I'm any good at coming up with them but if my current novel gets published I would really love to keep the working title. Many friends and acquaintances have told me they love the title. We'll see what happens. I think that while the entire work has to be strong, a great snappy title is important. Bridget Jones's Diary : great title. Bridget Jones's Diarrhea : not so much.
Have a great week everyone.

dabrah said...

I have had a title from the very start, but haven't done much with my book for a while. I've just come across this Club and wondered if I could join. Not quite sure if this is the right way.

liz fenwick said...

Very very late this week - soory. For August Rock that was what came first. We out in Falmouth Bay and I was looking at the charts when I asked dh what it was - he said 'oh, it's this rock that only appears a few times ayear in the very low tides - normally in August." I sat back and thought what a great title for a book and went from there. For the others they are more working titles than anything else.

Can't wait for An Ungodly's such a great title:-)