Saturday, February 18, 2012

My Problem With Titles

Last week I finished a new book I'm very, very excited about. It's not an Eli book, but the first book in what I hope will be a new series that, quite frankly, is about nine million miles away from anything I've written before. I call it my abusive boyfriend book, because I gave up on it 3 times while I was writing because I thought things would never work, but in the end, I never could quit it. I always came crawling back, and eventually, by blood, sweat, and keyboard pounding, I finished that sucker.

But unlike an actual abusive relationship, this one had a happy ending. I'm so glad I stuck with it and finished things, because this book feels like a breakthrough for me, writing-wise. Unfortunately, though, as different as this book is from everything else I've written, one of my career long persistent writing problems remains - I have no idea what to call the thing.

This is my eternal problem. See, I have tons of titles and tons of books, but none of them ever seem to be able to match up. Without fail, any novel I finish lacks a name. The Spirit Thief was just The Eli Book until it was time to query agents and I had to call it something. Same with another new book I just sold (but can't talk about yet, sadness). This book is currently The Lola Book (sensing a pattern?).

I'd been casually messing around with possible names for months, but now that the book is done, I've started seriously searching. I have a long list of possibilities already, but nothing sounds right. I can't even explain what I'm looking for, but I'll know it when I find it. And as soon as Google learns how to search for that, they'll have world domination in the bag.

In case you're wondering, this is how I pick titles:
Step 1 - Think of something cool.
Step 2 - Look it up on Amazon, if a book in my genre that came out in the last 5 years (or is super famous) already has this title, go back to Step 1. If title is free, go on to Step 3.
Step 3 - Look it up on Google. If title is already a band name/album name/linked to some tragic affiliation, go back to Step 1. Otherwise, proceed to Step 4.
Step 4 - Yay! A title!

Of course, I can name the book whatever I want, but in the end it's the publisher, not the author, who decides the final title. This is why a title isn't as big a deal as you might think it is, though, if you have an amazing title (Current favorites: Never Knew Another, I Shall Wear Midnight, All The King's Men, John Dies At The End), that can do amazing things. Even so, I like my books to have names. Good names, the sort I can send them out into public with. Shoving a book off into the world wearing nothing but "The {main character name} Book" just feels irresponsible.

But this book, though, this one is special. After all the trouble this little bastard put me through, I don't just want to find it a name, I want to find it a great name. A name that grabs you and won't let you go until you pick up the book to see what it's about. I want a name that sums up everything this book is about in one beautiful phrase...

But that's in my ideal world. Right now, I'd settle for something other than "The Lola Book." I feel like a mom with a tired kid at a department store. "We're buying the first thing that fits, and then we're going home. Don't like it? Well, if you'd told me your name at the beginning, we wouldn't be in this situation, would we, book?"

And book just glares at me with its black and white glare until I give in and go home, nothing purchased. Going to be one of those nights, isn't it, book?


Heather from 10 to Writer said...

Like having a good cover, having a good name is really important. I feel your pain! I have a hell of a time coming up titles. Usually my stories are called "The...".
The Hospital
The Necklace
The Boogeyman

Not ver original, huh? Why is it that we're creative enough to come up with an entire book's worth of words, plot and characters but we can't come up with a quick, couple-word title?

Rachel Aaron said...

I always envy those writers who can come up with amazing titles on the fly. I don't know how they do it. I seem endlessly nameless.

Deshipley said...

Ah, more for the Terrible Time with Titles Club? It's encouraging to hear I'm in good company. (Maybe between all of us, we can come up with a better name for the club...)

Naming a book can be nerve-wracking business. As with character names, I wish the title to be *just right* -- to fit the tale like a well-tailored glove, to mirror the story's essence. I almost started turning cartwheels when a friend helped me find such a title for my current writing project. Book buddies are awesome. (:

Tirzah Duncan said...

You managed to come up with a great name for your blog. ^.^
No, seriously. I don't know if it was a cop-out or not, but no matter; it makes me smile every time I see it. :)

Rachel Aaron said...

It totally was a copout. I couldn't think of anything! So glad people like my Pretentious Title!

Shadows Express said...

What can I say? I have titles that don't have books. Which is the worst problem to have?

You tell a good story; you put it through its paces, and if you have to yell at it 'hey you' during the process, perhaps it is not really that bad.

Looking forward to finding out what Lola's story is, and I hope it has the title you think it deserves.

Nicole Feldringer said...

Sometimes when I'm really stuck for a title, I'll paste the novel into a word cloud generator (like to see if any patterns of recurring words pop out at me. Surprisingly effective!

Angie said...

Naming is certainly agonizing, I feel your pain. I know you'll choose something great!! I always get something I don't want stuck in my head and I can't think of anything Right now all I can think is "L-O-L-A Lola" hehe.

Aisling said...

Alright this is a random idea and I can not offer any assurance that it would work, but what about this:

Think of some songs or artists that you could see being part of a sort of "soundtrack" for this book. Load said songs/artists on your listening device and go for a walk in a relatively peaceful, non-distracting area. Walk along and try to keep from thinking too hard about anything or concentrating on problems, just listen to the music and let your mind float.

Maybe something will then come to you from out of that void!!

Haha, like I said, I have no idea if this would work for you; however, I know that once in a while as I was walking aimlessly and listening to music, fully-fledged ideas have popped into my brain. Everything from characters to plot twists to scenes. Maybe it would work with finding a title? :D

Also I have a question if I please may, Mrs. Aaron?

I've noticed in several interviews you've mentioned a ("phonebook", I believe it was called) very long fantasy series that you don't think will ever be brought to public light.

But... would you ever consider selling it *"as-is" as an independently-published ebook, or something like that? I'm really, really dying to read it, and if it was released I would snap it up right away.

*I say "as-is" since I don't know what stage the book is at, as far as rereads or editing or what-not. But seriously, you should just not even bother with any o' that and put it up for sale this very night!! Yeah!! I'm sure it would be awesome.

I suppose that might raise some issues with your current publishers, though, huh? :/

Well, just crossing my fingers that someday, somehow...

Anyway, good luck with your title!

Liquidenvy said...
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