The Writing Life: Lions and Tiger and Titles – Oh My!

books_public_domainIf you’re anything like me, you start writing because a character (or an interesting situation) comes to visit your brain. And you write and write and write and begin to bring to life the story. You start to get excited about your wonderful writing so you share bits and pieces of the project with your friends and/or fellow writers. And then, inevitably the question arises:

“So … what’s the title?” 

And you pause for a never-ending-moment before answering, “Uh … n-n-nothing yet.”

You say this even if it is titled because you only have a working title and no one in their right mind ever wants to share a working title because it is usually embarrassing or silly or unimaginative or anything but the perfect title you know your masterpiece deserves.

Speaking from experience, I can say this traumatic title trouble also happens with poems, flash pieces, works of nonfiction both long and short, essays, research papers, academic works … and yes, even blog posts.

So what’s a writer to do? 

Well, I wish I could give you a one-sentence magic answer … but sadly, I have yet to master that mystical power. However, I can give you a list of some pretty nifty websites that have helped me tack title trouble in the past. Here they are in no particular order:

    • From comes the post, How to Pick a Title For Your Book (doesn’t get more obvious than that). What I like about this post is that it presents a number of options to brainstorm – I particularly like the suggestion to look for snatches of dialogue.
    • I love this post from Scott Berkun entitled The Truth About Choosing Book Titles because he hits on what matters and what doesn’t, which helps when whittling down that endless brainstorm list of possible titles – I especially like #10!
    • The helpful Tucker Max over at Book in a Box has provided this detailed article aptly named Picking the Perfect Book Title covering everything from titular research to social media to your own gut – very helpful and full of jumping-off points for your title adventures.
    • Don’t forget the value of old-fashioned brain picking – friends, family, even strangers in the supermarket might have the perfect title on the tips of their tongues. My husband was instrumental in helping me figure out the title to a nonfiction piece I recently wrote for a workshop and the first thing everyone commented on was the amazing title.
    • Really stumped? Check out these random title generators from TaraSparlingWrites. I’m happy to see that if I were to ever write Chic Lit (highly unlikely), the title could be Where Smiles Might Tell — mysterious and strange, just like me!
        And when all else fails, keep in mind that if you decide to publish your baby via a publishing house, the editor and marketing peeps may make the decision for you! So sit back, relax, and keep writing. The title will appear, one way or the other. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!

Do you have any tips for title choosing? I’d love to read them and add your wisdom to my writing arsenal! So please – share away in the comments section!


8 Comments Add yours

  1. DMGbyrnes says:

    It took me forever to name the novel I started last year for NaNoWriMo. It didn’t come to me until I was nearly finished with my first draft. I could have used this post then, haha, I was so irked by how difficult it was for me to find its name.

    For blog posts, I use this site, it gives you an analysis of your headline to help you increase traffic to it. It’s a great tool. That’s all I have as far as my own tips. When it comes to novel/poem/story naming, sometimes it’s simple, others it takes a while. I never know what will spark it to life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kat says:

      Wow – thanks for sharing that resource! Awesome!
      Yes … I agree completely. Sometimes the titles come, sometimes they don’t. I feel like the same thing happened when it came to naming my children! =)

      Thanks for sharing! I’m going to be catching up on all of my missed blog reading in the next few weeks and yours is at the top of my list. =D

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, thank you. I’m half way through my novel and still haven’t got a decent title – it’s much harder than it looks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      So much harder! Maybe something on one of these links will spark something for your novel!

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. SCMcCole says:

    Great post! Also great to see you back in the saddle!

    I’m a bit skewed on this subject. I come up with a vague plot idea then I have to work the title until satisfied before I can start planning and writing. Sure, the title may change, but for me it all jumps off from the headline.

    Same goes with characters. I need a name to define her, then the life fills in.

    Also: I believe title generation is vastly different for fiction vs non-fiction. Analyzers, keyword pumping, and niche targeting are critical for non-fiction success but of marginal help with fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      I know other writers who feel that way about titles, too (though admittedly not many!). I love learning about how other writers go about the process — so interesting!

      Title generators – I have actually only used these as poetry prompts… Hey! There’s my next post! 🙂

      Thanks for the comments and the welcome back!


  4. James Stack says:

    LOVE, love, love this post! My novel has already had five working titles, and I know this last one is highly unlikely to be the final. The novel also has subtitles for the four sections. I’m pleased with these, but a publisher may not be. I got them from snatches of either dialogue or copy which seemed to embrace all the chapters comprising the section. Thanks for publishing this post, and welcome back!


    1. Kat says:

      Thanks, James!
      I’ve had multiple workng titles for essays and it’s always funny to see where the title lands after so many false starts. 🙂 Personally, I like subtitles in books with separate sections!!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s