Tag Archives: stories

The Hardest Part

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!)

Paper Towns

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Hunting Fear

The Trench

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

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Novel-Writing Class

About half of our usual group is taking a novel-writing class together this semester. It’s nice, being in a writing class with friends whom you know and trust, friends who have a history of reviewing your work. It makes the prospect of having sixteen classmates and a professor tear a chunk of your novel to shreds slightly less terrifying.

Me, every day of my life. *hides in conveniently located hole in the ground*

I love writing classes. Not for the substance, although obviously I find that helpful and interesting. What I love is what my creative writing professor back at community college told us to expect.

“You’re all writers,” he said on the first day of class. “Other people don’t get that, but everyone in here does. You’re going to become really close as a class, just wait.”

And he was right. For the first couple weeks we sat around silently reading or writing before he entered the room and started class, but one day I started talking to a classmate across the room. When other people came into the room, they joined the conversation. And by the time our professor showed up, we were all talking like we were old friends.

The only difference in our current class is that our novel-writing professor seems a little weirded out about the things we discuss. I feel bad for him, though, because no matter how animated our conversation before class, the moment he starts asking us questions about what Suzanne Collins did well in “The Hunger Games,” all he gets is awkward silence.

(That’s probably just because our age group is not really the target audience for “The Hunger Games,” and although it’s technically well-done we have a lot of complaints about it. Sorry, tributes.)

I love this spontaneous feeling of community, born of the mutual weirdness most writers possess, but the class itself scares me. I started off deciding I would rework a novel that has already been through several years, much brainstorming, and three drafts. It’s had the most work done, after all, and it could use a good workshop.

But I’m writing a story on Tumblr at the same time, just to get myself writing a page every day, and it’s really weird to switch back and forth between two different stories each day. I mean, the oft-redrafted novel is a very modern urban fantasy with a multitude of characters and messed-up personal relationships and stuff like that, but the Tumblr novel is more like old-school fantasy (think “The Hobbit” or “The Chronicles of Narnia”); it’s got a lot of description and a lot of semicolons, and it’s very experimental (for me).

Actually, probably not success. I also use conjunctions. But so did the writers of yore.

I finally figured out a system that worked pretty well for exactly three days: Write a page of the Tumblr story as early in the day as I could, and spend the rest of the day working on the novel for class.

The Tumblr story’s been going very well this way, but the other story… Every time I wrote three pages, I decided those three pages were absolute shite and rewrote them. Then I’d add three more pages, but those three pages turned out to be shite and needed rewriting too.

It was exhausting. I was essentially writing two drafts of a single novel at the same time.

So I decided last night to shelve the rewrite for now and focus solely on the Tumblr novel. I’ll use that for class, though I’m a little worried that my confidence in it will be obliterated by the workshop on March 14 and I won’t feel up to finishing it.

But that’s exactly why it’s on Tumblr. If it’s on the Internet, where people can see it, I’m more likely to keep going. After all, that’s why experts say you should tell people about your New Year’s resolutions: You’re more likely to keep them if you’re accountable to someone other than yourself.

And I have a fan on Tumblr. Just one. But I think that’s enough to keep me going.

Not today, God of Not Writing. Today I will write. Later. But seriously, it WILL happen today.

 

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