Thursday, December 11, 2008

Choosing a Working Title for Your Book

Sometimes the right title for a book is easy to think of and it fits perfectly with the storyline through any rewrites. Other times you may struggle to find a title you’re happy with, or the one you chose early on doesn’t bear any relation to the story once you change some aspect of the plot that the title initially referred to.

If you’re not sure of your title, or don’t yet know enough about your story to choose one, you might want to settle for a working title so that you have something you can use to refer to your story, save it as, and file your notes under. Personally, I tend to refer to each of my stories by the name of the main character, even if I have a perfect title. It’s usually shorter and easy to remember.

But think of what defines the story for you. If you write a lot of mysteries with the same protagonist, using his name won’t work for you, but using the murder style or weapon might be a better reference point.

Brainstorming Ideas for Titles
Checking Your Proposed Title

Elsa Neal
Elsa Neal is a writer based in Melbourne, Australia. Browse through the resources for writers available at her website or follow her writing insights at her Fictional Life Blog.

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  1. My father (who was a professional journalist) always said, "Never write the headline before you write the story." I've found this to be good advice.

    I like your suggestion to use the main character's name. I use names of locations, myself.

    -Sarah White

  2. I had to change my title for my first book because when I Googled it, someone had a recent book out with that name.

    Google is a good friend.

    Morgan Mandel

  3. Titles usually come to me while I'm working on the outline or within the first 30 pages of writing. But publishers are known to have different ideas. One author I talked to at Bouchercon said she had submitted 52 titles to her editor, and all were rejected! The editor finally came up with her own, and the author was so sick of the whole process, she went along. I liked her original title better.

  4. Titles can be difficult. You want them to be memorable, fit the genre, go along with the story, and make the reader want to pluck your book off the shelf. All that in usually 1 to 3 words!

  5. WhiteSarah:
    I'll have to try your father's advice next time I write an article. I always either type into a form that asks for "Title" first, or start a new Word document with the title so that I can hit "save". Otherwise I get asked for a filename when I first try to save the document and it can be annoying if you're in the middle of a thought process.

    Morgan and LJ:
    Attachment - coming up in the third part of this series...

    Indeed. We ask book titles to do a lot of work for such a small piece of writing.

  6. Titles are the hardest thing for me to come up with. I have a working title now, but I'm certain it will change. Generally I enlist the help of my younger sister--she's genius with coming up with great titles.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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