Thursday 16 February 2012

The Perfect Book Title...

Last week’s post  ‘Arresting the Reader’– a masterclass in opening lines - resulted in a variety of wonderful responses and examples here on the blog and prompted an interesting discussion on Twitter. One tweep (twitter user for those who are not familiar with Twitter jargon) quipped that he thought all his readers should be arrested - and I had a giggle at that one - so thank you to @himupnorth!

Another writer tweep said that after reading the post, she had ‘revisited her opener’ and having taken on board the advice to get a sense of mood, tone, content and place in those first few sentences, now felt ‘really proud’ of her opening lines. Fantastic!

This week, I have been asked as a result of a writer’s title crisis to do a post on book titles. This is a subject I also need to explore for my current unnamed WIP (work in progress) and one I covered early last year when I first started blogging and writing ‘Reaching for the Stars’. As many of you may not have read this post before and others may appreciate the refresher - I am therefore reposting it below.

Do you decide upon the title of your novel first and write the story to suit or do you finish the manuscript and choose a title afterwards?
With me, the title usually 'pops' into my head while I'm pondering the theme, the premise and the characters, then it is fixed. I just can't help myself. Of course, it might not be a good idea to get too attached to it if you have a publisher, as I know lots of writers who thought they had the perfect title, only for it to be changed later. Famously, Jilly Cooper's latest blockbuster 'Jump' had a working title of 'Village Horse' during the four years she was writing it.

So what makes a good title? Well, surely it has to be the minimum number of words that sum up the feel of the book. If you can relate genre, setting, time period and premise, as well as attracting attention to the cover, then you have to be backing a winner.

I had an interesting time on Better Book Titles today - it's a website that features recognisable book covers of bestsellers and classics and updates them with a twist - giving a much more descriptive title. You can also now follow this site on Twitter at @betterbooktitle. The site is run by Dan Wilbur and he aims to give you the meat of the story in one condensed image. Great fun!

My advice if you are struggling to name your magnum opus would be to think about what you want the title to convey and to make notes, jotting adjectives, verbs and nouns, which can be associated with the story. Use a thesaurus and refer to a reverse dictionary - a reverse dictionary allows you describe a concept and get a backlist of words which have definitions conceptually similar to the words you search with - a good place to find a reverse dictionary is

Next I would suggest giving yourself some time and space to process your ideas and to allow your subconscious to work. Then, when you have a title or a selection of title ideas to work with, go to Amazon and look up other books with titles that are similar or the same - noting in particular the ones in the same genre as your work. Originality is always best but remember that there are no laws of copyright on titles.

If you are deliberately trying to be controversial with your choice - or simply like to be a little different - then don't be surprised if you find yourself shortlisted for next year's Oddest Book Title Of The Year Award. This year's worthy winner, as announced recently by the Bookseller magazine, was an inspirational guide: Managing a Dental Practice:The Genghis Khan Way
Writers - do tell us how you came up with the title of your book and at what stage in the writing process you did it...?

Readers - what makes it a perfect book title for you...?

All comments and tweets appreciated.
Love, Janice xx