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Book titles - do they help develop the story?

656 Views 15 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  josephfranciscollins
I think I've just come up with a title for my next book and I think it has helped me understand what the book is about. Up till now it has just been the characters and the events - interesting enough and a good story developing but I wasn't too clear on what the book was really about. I think knowing the title has clarified that.
How do others do this? Do you know the title from the start? Do you develop it as you go in response to the story? Does it help shape the story in your mind?
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Not trying to put unnecessary pressure on the 'Titling'. But a title is there to summarise the book (I don't know about everyone else, but man the title and the blurb of a book are sooo hard), so naming the book is what I do after the first draft, when I have the 'gist' of the plot. It's not every authors approach though :) 
KJC said:
Not trying to put unnecessary pressure on the 'Titling'. But a title is there to summarise the book (I don't know about everyone else, but man the title and the blurb of a book are sooo hard), so naming the book is what I do after the first draft, when I have the 'gist' of the plot. It's not every authors approach though :)
Agreed! Titles and blurbs are the hardest part of the process for me. I usually have the plot and characters figured out first, and nine times out of ten I've written and edited the entire novel or story multiple times before I come up with a title.
With my first book I came up with the title after the first draft and it did seem to bring the theme of the book into focus which helped with subsequent drafts. It may not have helped much with sales though!

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I don't know your history with writing, but the book tends to pull the title into focus, not the other way around. How long have you been writing books for? It sounds like you might still be getting to know your process, and that's okay ;) Do what comes naturally for now, and try to become more efficient as you make mistakes along the way (I am not suggesting there are objective mistakes, but mistakes that don't fit your writing style ;) )
For me, the title definitely helps me develop the story. I came up with my first title a short way into the first draft. It was going to be called Powerless, and when I realized that was the title, I worked it into the story as a theme--Are they really powerless, even though they don't have electricity? I had to rename it when I went to self-publish it because I realized just how many books (and series') are titled Powerless. Making that change took weeks. First to come up with a different title and then learn to like it. I kept the Powerless, but now it's in the series title (Powerless Nation). And, the truth is, I love Outage too now. It's probably even a better title.

The third book in the series has definitely gotten part of its plot from the title, but I haven't revealed it yet. I also came up with a book in a different genre that I started outlining just last night, and I already have the title for it. It came to me all at once - the title, the plot, the characters. In the shower, of course, lol. But the title is already helping me imagine the direction I want to take the story. I am so in love with it.

I think it all just depends on your personal style of story development. If giving it a title up front helps you, then do it! :) To each his own. However, if you wanted to publish traditionally, I don't think you'd get to have the final say on a title.
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Honey, I'm lucky if I have a title by the time it's ready to publish.  ???  I sincerely wish it was easier for me!
For me, every project is different. I came up with the title for my first real book as it began to take shape. The second one had several working titles during the first draft. It wasn't until I was near the climax of the story that I settled on one.

I doubt titles and blurbs comes easily to most authors, since they're ultimately for the readers and not the writers.
Titles come easier than they used to. I think because I've gone through the exercise of naming my chapters in every book I've written so far, even if I don't end up using chapter names in the final product, it's developed my mental muscles so that I can come up with something evocative a lot quicker than I once did.
My view on titles has changed since I started, and I have little doubt it will change again.  When I started four years ago, titles were all about being big and readable on the thumbnail cover.  There were pretty strong arguments for one two or three word titles and that was it.  The less the better because you can make it bigger and more readable.  Short one and two word titles were and still are all the rage.  So I had my trilogy title.  "The Eternal Gateway" then each book had a sub title that was a single word that I could make all big and readable.  "Requiem, Guardian, Sentinel".

I am fully convinced the titles of my book did more harm than help.  First, only half the people I met could even pronounce Requiem.  Those that could didn't know what it meant, they just knew it from that movie.  Next I found that all the words in my titles, didn't lead people to my books, but to religious websites.  Eternal, Gateway, Guardian, Requiem, Sentinel...  What a pile of keyword fail.  None of this helped my steampunk fantasy.

I'm in the process of re-branding, thus no book covers in my signature.  But my new trilogy titles are:  Sky Mages and the Gateway of Time, Sky Mages and the Embers of Time, Sky Mages and the Guardians of Time.  Sky Mages should tell a customer that it's fantasy, and steampunkish.  XXXX of Time should say Time Travel.  True story time; most strangers when they pick up a book, or at least mine always asked, "What's it about?"  I would then have to give my little run down.  The very first stranger I showed my new cover to said, "What's it about? Oh, I guess it's about Sky Mages and the Gateway of Time."  That was all the validation I needed that changing my titles was a good move.

Right now I am totally on the side of leveraging your title to help sell your book.  Witty titles can go jump off a bridge.
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It took a while for me to pick a title for both books but I found them about half way through the first draft both times. They don't help me to develop the story but it does help to make it a more solid entity in a way. It felt more real when I went from "Vanessa Kensley Book 1" and "Vanessa Kensley Book 2" to "Blood and Hunger" and "Sanguine Moon".
Titles tend to leap out and ambush me at random moments. Having said that, my latest series were all titled before I started and all fit the series brand.
Titles come really early for me. They help me know where I'm heading and what I want to capture.
KJC said:
but the book tends to pull the title into focus, not the other way around.
With the exception of my first novel (the publisher chose the title so I added a sentence to justify it), I get the title from the book. For me, the title comes from the subconscious, presenting itself in the writing.
It took me ages to come up with a title.

First it was 'Mountain Odyssey', then 'To The Mountain Hold!', then finally I shortened it to just 'Mountain Hold'
From the title comes the book. Since I have a half-a-dozen projects going on at once, it helps me keep them separated in my mind and while I'm doing research.

For me, it's always been that way with the process being title, first scene, last scene and then writing everything in between.

But, like anything use whatever the heck works for you!

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