Title Me

Ah yes, the title. The first thing anyone knows about your book. It has to be pithy. It has to be clever. It has to be dramatic. It has to perfectly encapsulate your whole book in just a few words.

To be honest, I've never had much of a problem with titles. In fact, I actually love titles. I have a whole file of titles I may use someday. I would say nine times out of ten, the title is the first thing that comes to me. And I find I write to the title, or rather, the title shows its perfection to the point that by the end of the book, it fits the book in several different ways.

Take Personal Demons for example. (Well, don't just TAKE it. Buy it, please.) The title came to me first. Wouldn't it be fun to use the old cliche about battling one's personal demons in a new and literal way? Yes, of course it would. So who might do that? Well, it's kind of cheesy to say you'll battle someone's personal demons, so it might be, like, a talk show or radio show, or the title of a book written by a fame-hungry type. Radio could be fun. But a likeable protagonist wouldn't be the type who likes the catchphrase. Ho ho! Now I have instant conflict and a smidgen of character. If my MC was somehow forced into employing the phrase...and the real personal demons heard it...and something about her made them think she was actually capable of destroying them, like maybe she's psychic...

As the book went on I realized more and more situations and characters in the book could fit the title. Megan Chase's demon bodyguards become her "personal demons" in a way. So, possibly, does a demon love interest. And at the end...well, I won't give it away. But one of the most fun and satisfying things about titles is realizing it fits the book in more than one fashion.

Of course, then you have the flipside. You sell your book, and then find out a Very Famous Author of Whom You're a HUGE Fan has given her upcoming book an extremely similar title. Or, as happened with the Personal Demons sequel, you've barely started writing it before you discover another book with that title (The Demon You Know) had just been released. Luckily I came up with another title which fits the book much better, and I'm getting ready to turn The Demon Inside over to my editor in the next week or so.

In fact, I believe my new WIP is the first book I've ever written--with the exception of my awful trunk novel--that did not have a title immediately. Or rather, it did, but the title clearly didn't fit from the start (although I'm keeping the title in my file, because it is cool). So I retitled it "Hidden Spooks", which is AWFUL, and I basically just it slapped on there so I could save the file AS something. The other day I hit on the perfect title, Unholy Ghosts, which I know is perfect because, again, I can think of several ways it fits the book.

That's not to say I wouldn't change a title. I have. Several of my EC books originally had different titles, and I just sold them a novella which needed a new title (which I'll announce on my own blog tomorrow.) Editors know more than me about what sells or how they want to market the book (and in the case of EC, they don't repeat titles, so once I [and my writing partner on that book] had to retitle because someone else had already used mine [ours]. Which I guess would make it THEIRS, but thpppt. MINE! MINE!) One of the first things you learn is not to get too terribly attached to any of your clever wordplay.

Titles are a silly thing to get worked up about, IMO. Much better to wage war over semicolons. I'll go to the mattresses for semicolons. So back off.


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