What's in a Name? How to Title your Book

Mar 29, 2010

I had some serious trouble titling my latest short story. I’ve been perfecting the story over the last few weeks, and I let it sit for a bit before submitting it. Over that time, I have agonized over a title. I know there’s a chance of it changing if it ever gets published, but I just can’t submit it with a sub-par title. My husband Dan, ever helpful, suggested I call it Daniel the Dangerous.

Thanks hon.

Sometimes a title will pop out at me while I write. Rarely, I start with a title and write the story from it. Usually, I go through a process to come up with a fitting one. (I got the idea here, which gives some other great ideas.) First, I leave the piece alone for a bit. A few days, maybe a week. Then I come back, re-read it, and see if there’s anything that comes to me. If not, I’m on to the Second step. I make a list of all words that could work in a title. For this piece, some of those words included: music, song, sound, emotion, feeling, synesthesia, empath, symphony, orchestra, genetics, brothers, childhood, stolen…and a lot of others. (Curious about the story yet? Just wait…) The point is, I took any word that related to my story theme and any word related to those words. I made a big, long list of all of them, no matter how stupid.

Third, I went through my list and circled the ones that seemed to fit the best: song, feeling, music, and a few others all made the short list. Fourth, I left the list alone again for a day or so. I let the words simmer in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I’ll go back and do it all again, but not this time.

As I was doing my hair for church Sunday morning, thinking idly about the story and its themes, I froze mid-brush. A word had just occurred to me that wasn’t even on my list. I dashed to my computer, pulled up the story, and triumphantly typed the perfect title. And so, without further ado, I give you:

Songs of Humanity

I’m submitting this week…wish me luck!

Meanwhile, let’s talk about how you choose your titles. What’s your process?


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