Several hundred wise writers have said that a book’s name comes after the manuscript. I used to think that was ridiculous. Now I’m not so sure.
My current project has gone through several working titles, each less promising than the last. It wasn’t until this year, several years after beginning the project, that I finally settled upon something that feels right. It’s succinct, ambiguous, and speaks to the theme. Problem is, I’m not just writing one book. I’m writing a SERIES of books, and now I’m committed to giving separate titles to each one.
The following conundrum ails me: How do you choose the perfect title, something that makes perfect sense in the hindsight after reading, without having it also be a huge giveaway of what the book is about? You’d think those questions would be easy enough to answer, except perhaps you’ve forgot one key thing: You are biased.
There is no possible way for me to know which of my decisions will constitute a spoiler, because I already know what happens. To me, there are no spoilers. So, how can I know which titles and metaphors are off limits if I want to maintain any secrecy?
There is also the question of unity when writing a series of books. Does one choose an umbrella title, and add separately to each depending upon the content of an installment? Or, does one separately name several books and dub them “The Blank Series”? Essentially, it’s “Harry Potter and the Name of this Book” vs. “This Series: Book One”. Is one method stronger or more captivating than the other?
Other things to keep you up at night: accidental copyright infringement, unintended reference to something unrelated or unsavory, too cheesy, too brooding, too misleading or mysterious, not mysterious enough, already taken, already done, already something else because really, what hasn’t been “already”d by now?
Some poetic jerk once told us “a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet”, but I feel like “rose” would sell more books than “stinkweed”.
Do you struggle to choose a name worthy of your intellectual labors? Share with us some of your favorite examples of books or series that you feel were particularly well named.
October is upon us, and Kathy leads us bravely into the DARKNESS!