Creating A Working Title

You’ve finished your manuscript. Now the thought of that “Just Right Title,” is haunting you. This is where the research begins. Develop a great title if at all possible. An editor might be the first set of eyes to view your query or the manuscript.

The title is like making that first impression. It reflects a promise from the author to the reader. Short catchy titles will be remembered. Titles should be meaningful, giving a hint or clue which threads throughout the story. Lyrics from songs can produce great titles. Piquing the interest of the reader. Plots and subplots throughout your story might be another way of creating that title you are striving for. Characters who have a past make super titles, making it a memorable one. Comedy or funny lighthearted stories have titles with that flare of a twist to touch the funny bone.

Now that I have just said all this, a title must appear at the top of Chapter One of the manuscript for me. It gives my story a sense of purpose. Maybe it’s a mind game. But it works for me. I look at my first outline draft. Thinking of all the possibilities my story could and will develop. I know the title may change, but it helps me to begin typing the story. With excitement flowing from my fingers to the monitor screen.

I asked a few non-writer friends what was the first thing they saw when buying or looking for a book.

* First and most important was the title. With the cover art grabbing them in an emotional or exciting way.

* Blurb on the inside cover caught their eye.

* Enjoyed reading the style of writing on the first three pages.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. Never be afraid to ask others. Titles can be just as exciting as the content of the story. Don’t be hesitant to explore the possibilities. Feel free to share your methods on how you create A Working Title.

- Sharon.


Joan Vincent said...

Great explanation! Titles generally spring from the story for me. I've had three title changes with my published work. "Doll in Red" (about a doll in a red dress that was key to a mystery) became "Scheme for Love;" "The Dowagers" (uninspired but it was about three little old ladies who aided romance) became "Rescued by Love;" and "The Scapegrace Miss" (I was told scapegrace was too little known and too harsh) became "The Betrothal." I work on title's while I'm doing the preliminary "mental" work on a story. I play with phrases the heart of the story brings to mind. I've titled one of my WIP's "Ciphers of the Heart" not because it involves spies (though it does) but because at its core it's about two people working in a stumbling sort of way to decode what their hearts are telling them. It came to me after I learned the hero had written a sarcastic "Code of Love" guide as a disappointed-in-love young man. I was lucky with this one, others have been a much harder struggle.

Starla Kaye said...

I'm one of those lucky authors who gets to keep their titles when they sell their project. Which makes it even more important, at least to me, that I choose the "perfect" title for the manuscript. I keep them simple, but the title absolutely must relate to the story. Years ago some of the publishing houses went to choosing titles that they thought (for some insane reason) were catchy and hot to appeal to readers (mainly with historicals) but were actually almost degrading. I stopped buying any of those books and, to this day, I won't buy a book that has a worthless or degrading title. Just a quirk of mine.

snwriter52 said...

Joan your experiences is exactly what I was talking about. I like "Doll in Red" Maybe some day you can still use that title. Putting in some thought to find that right title, gives us a deeper understanding for our story.
Thank you for sharing.

snwriter52 said...

I agree with you Starla. Titles shouldn't be misleading. We've come along way in this industry, when it comes to choosing a title for our books. I enjoy going to the library and the book store, just to look at the existing titles out there.
Yes, you are lucky in the fact, you get to keep your titles. You're doing all the right stuff.

Penny Rader said...

Great post, Sharon. Song titles and lyrics are one of my favorite ways of coming up with titles.

Sapphire and Gold came from a perfume ad I saw a long time ago. I worked hard to make it mean something inside the story.

When I'm reading a book, I like seeing how the title ties in to the story. If it doesn't, I'm disappointed.

Pat Davids said...

I almost never get to keep my titles. Only one so far has been my own. They will ask for my in put but they rarely take it.

A Child of His Own became His Bundle of Love.
Garden Angels became Love Thine Enemy.
The Color of Courage stayed the same I think only because my editor quit in the middle of the editoral process.
I can't even remember what my title was for Military Daddy, but The Price of Honor became Military Match. At least it was one of my suggestion.
Knowing I won't get to keep my titles doesn't keep me from naming my books. I need something to call my baby, something in the title that connects to the story and to me. I've tried calling them Amish book One, but I couldn't do it. I called it The Swallow's Nest because like the swallow, Katie had returned to her home after a long absense. Katie's Redemption was one of my suggestions, but I still liked the metaphor inspired title best.
I'm just thankful that I've never gotten a truly horrible title. Something like the "Once Upon a Pregnant Princess."
Yup, that would be a really hard title to swallow.

Rox Delaney said...

My experience is similar to Pat's. Very few books keep my original title.

The Rancher and the Runaway Mom became Rachel's Rescuer because the original was too close to that of a book that had just come out. Cowboy Over a Barrel became A Saddle Made for Two, which was close to my suggestion of A Saddle for Two. They didn't like the use of the word "drifter" in The Drifter's Legacy, which became A Whole New Man. Darlin' in Disguise (I really liked that one) was changed to The Truth About Plain Jane, probably the one I come closest to disliking. His Queen of Hearts stayed the same, as did Family by Design, but we're back to changes again. Because I now expect the change, I haven't spent a lot of time on titles, thus we have, Tanner's Prize and Taming Kate, Morgan's Pride and Tucker's Return, etc. Those don't have a chance, but knowing it means I can save ALL the title energy until they ask for more suggestions. Well, that and pure laziness. ::grin::

Reese Mobley said...

Great post, Sharon. I struggle with titles that are too long. I need to learn to pare them down to a couple of words. Of the two manuscripts I'm working on now, one has six words and the other has seven. See what I mean? It's also nice to have a title before I start but sometimes they change as I go along.

Starla Kaye said...

I'm working on several new projects right now and in that "coming up with a title" stage. As I said before, titles are very important to me. They are so tricky, needing to accomplish so much (convey something about the characters or setting or time period or sub-genre). To me, this is especially true for a working title that may go away later.

snwriter52 said...

Theresa I use to have long titles too. I've found in this "quick attention society." Less words to remember for the reader is better.

snwriter52 said...

Penny I didn't know Sapphire and Gold came from a perfume ad. I've always liked the title.

snwriter52 said...

Pat & Rox thanks for sharing your stories. Titles are the finishing touches to wonderful stories.