There are a lot of things about writing that are difficult. Whether you’re battling with a character who doesn’t want to do as you tell them, or curling up and crying because your twenty subplots are screwing up your main plot, sometimes writing can offer enough problems to make anyone throw their hands in the air and call it quits.
At least for a few hours, because any writer knows it just drags you back in no matter how hard you try to stay away.
Anyhow. There’s one thing about writing I find more of a challenge than anything else. Plotting? No problem. World-building? I can manage that. Character creation? Leave it to me. Drafting? Yeah, just let me use Write or Die and I’ll write as if my life depends on it*.
But eventually someone is going to ask you what your book is called. And that’s where I find the biggest challenge: coming up with titles.
A title is the summation of your book. A brief glimpse into a piece anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 (or more) words long…and you only have a few words to cover it. And hopefully to drag your audience into your work, because I think we all know a book is more likely to be picked up if there’s an appealing title.
And how the heck are you supposed to do that?
I have a few ideas, things that work for me. Or sort of work, anyway. There are some books that just seem impossible to title no matter how you go about it.
Idea #1: Look in your genre. Obviously you want your title to fit your genre, or someone might look at it and think it’s something it isn’t. Consider the following—can you identify the genres just by the titles? (The answers are at the bottom of the post!)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
You shouldn’t be copying anyone else’s title, mostly since theirs won’t fit your book and you don’t want to copy anyway…do you? But you can definitely take inspiration from others, and see what does and doesn’t work.
Idea #2: You know exactly what your book is about, right? You know your characters and your setting and all of those tiny little things that are important to the story? If not you might have bigger problems than naming the thing, so let’s assume you do know those.
Now start thinking about all of those things—and anything else relevant to your book—and make some lists. Just free-write. Maybe you’ll end up with something that could be a perfect title. My own example is my novel Weeping. The main character’s most important possession is a violin by the name of Weeping, and the love interest’s name can translate into the same word. It only made sense.
Idea #3: Ask your beta readers! Odds are they won’t give you your final, perfect title, but they can probably give you some inspiration. They’re coming with an outside view, and they can identify what seems to be the most important thing in your work. Or the most important things. Maybe they’ll point out something you never wuold have noticed because you’re too close to the work—forest for the trees and all that.
Or hey, maybe you don’t find titles as difficult as I do. In that case, I envy you. But if titles torment you, hopefully I’ve given you some kind of idea for coming up with the best possible name for your work.
*And if you’re using Write or Die on Kamikaze mode, your life might not depend on writing, but the lives of your words do.
Answers from idea #1:
Paper Towns is a young adult contemporary novel by John Green
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a young adult fantasy novel by Laini Taylor
Hunting Fear is an adult suspense novel by Kay Hooper
The Trench is an adult sci-fi novel by Steve Alten