Monday, February 4, 2008

Writing Monday: Titles

That's a pretty boring title, isn't it? "Writing Monday: Titles." It gets the information across, but it's boring. The Writer has a love/hate relationship with titles. The perfect title either comes to her along with the idea, or it never comes at all.

Kind of like lunch around here.

You're not getting lunch today because you ate your breakfast and someone else's, too.

Is it my fault the person wasn't paying attention? That's what happens when you read at the table.

Anyway, The Writer wants to talk a little about titles. Some of her best book titles came immediately: Finding Day's Bottom, Tractor Day, When the Whippoorwill Calls, Listening to Crickets. Other times, the title she chose wasn't right for the book or the marketing department felt a "snazzier" title was needed.

In at least two cases, she believes the title caused her book to sink beneath the waves. She once wrote a picture book about a girl adjusting to a stepfather called Chestnut Acorns in October. The title scanned and was lyrical, like the text. It also referred to the turning point in the story. But the marketing department felt that title sounded like a science book. When her picture book was published, it was called We're Growing Together. The Writer always hated that title--it sounded like Siamese twins or something. The second book was a mid-grade novel about a third-grader whose mother remarries and the girl wants to be adopted by her stepfather. (The Writer writes a lot about stepparents.) The girl put "Cammie B." on her school papers because she wanted a new last name. The Writer titled the book Cammie B., which suited the age of the character and what the book was about. The book came out with More Than a Name plastered on one of the most unattractive covers The Writer had ever seen. Those two books went out of print very quickly.

Yet The Writer isn't always upset over titles the publisher chooses. She called her latest novel Maddie, at Eight. But she felt that title lacked a certain luster. She and her editor batted several titles back and forth. Finally her editor suggested Seeing Sky-Blue Pink which The Writer loved. It's a much better title than her original one.

Are you going to wind this up? I have a pedicure appointment.

Titles should be a reflection of the book. If the book is quiet, the title shouldn't be "noisy." Titles should be memorable. If it's a fun book, it should be catchy. If you have trouble with titles, keep a list. For each book folder on The Writer's computer desktop, there is a file with possible titles. As she writes the book, the list grows. Sometimes you will get lucky and the perfect title will waft in on the same breeze as the book idea.


TamraW said...

Hmmmmm .. .

You've just given me something to think about as I begin a big revision.

thanks Ellsworth!

ellsworth said...

The Writer says to start a list of titles if you haven't already. She likes titles that are lifted from the main story in some way. Good luck!