Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Title Within the Book

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Finding a good book title for my novels was at times, harder than writing the manuscript. Titles are as critical to the success of the book as are the cover art and the first few lines of the book. It has to grab and intrigue the prospective reader and it also needs to say something about the story.

Most writers give their manuscript a working title. I do too so it’s no surprise that neither of my published novels began life as SILENCED CRY or THE DEVIL CAN WAIT.

It was weeks before SILENCED CRY was due to go to press and I was desperate to give it a proper name. Days passed and we were getting really close to the drop-dead deadline when I was thumbing through the pages and I finally found the title on page 110 in the line: “Someone had to know what happened sixteen years ago to silence a baby’s cry.” That was it! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? Every victim in the book had been silenced at one time or another and it seemed—perfect.

When it came time to name the second book, I read the blurb, and thought about the plot. I knew the title was somewhere in those few paragraphs but I wasn’t there yet.

I began by writing down all the verbs and nouns I found in my blurb and added several other words that came to mind as I thought of the plot. I also included synonyms of some of the key nouns to see of any of those might spark ideas. I asked a few of my friends to help by doing the same thing and for the next several days, we played around with a combination of those words. I instantly knew some titles were out of the question, but soon a few good titles began to emerge.

If you try these steps and you’re still not happy with the results, think about the plot, what drives it? What theme runs through the book? Trust me, the title is somewhere within its pages. All you have to do is find the right two or three words and juggle them a bit to find the right blend.

Right now, I have two other completed novels that have been on my shelf for several years waiting to be edited. Guess what? I’ve yet to name them. I call them my spy novel, and Harper #4. On the other hand, my WIP isn’t quite done and it’s already had several titles. Currently it’s called SHROUD OF LIES. Will I keep that title? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Keep up with my daily progress on SHROUD OF LIES by visiting my Prose & Musing blog!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Good post--I've tweeted it.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Kim Smith said...

Thanks for keeping us alive out there, Elizabeth! We love our posters :)

Marta Stephens said...

Thanks Elizabeth. Sometimes I drive myself crazy trying to come up with a good one.

Terry Odell said...

Great advice. For the life of me, the title seems to be the LAST think I can come up with. I'll have to try this technique.

s.w. vaughn said...

Any advice on coming up with titles is always appreciated. I suck at them. :-)

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

I love working with my crit partners to come up with titles, but it drives me crazy doing it for my own work. It's SO challenging!!! Great piece, Marta. Thanks!

Misa said...

Coming up with that perfect title is absolute torture! Love to hear about your method.

Marta Stephens said...

Seems we're all in the same boat! LOL Glad you found this helpful. :) One thing that helps me is to just start jotting down words that I associate with the manuscript. Ask yourself what you think of when you say *** (whatever word comes to mind). Before you know it, you'll have more than enough words to choose from. The hard part is turning those words into a good title.

kanishk said...

the title seems to be the LAST think I can come up with. I'll have to try this technique.

Work from home India

The Stiletto Gang said...

Sometimes I know the title from the beginning, at others I have no idea and have to search for something much like you've done.


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