As I mentioned in another blog post, some of my best ideas come to me while I’m in the middle of doing something trivial, like brushing my hair or making a cup of coffee. The plots that grow from those little glimpses are ones that I develop into novels and work on for several months or years. The hardest part about writing a novel, though, is choosing the right title.
When I write short stories or poems, the title will come to me with little or no work at all. I’ll be in the middle of writing a sentence, and WHAM, there’s the title, clear as day. I’ll always tell myself that it’s a working title and I’ll probably end up changing it later, but for the most part, I don’t tend to think of a better one. My main inspiration comes from music. It’s not as though I choose the title from song lyrics, but something about looking up song lyrics awakens the “picking the name” element inside my head. I’ll be scanning through the lyrics to several songs stuck in my head, and part of a line will jump out at me. I only use that tactic if nothing pops into my head during the writing process.
For novels, though, I struggle for months to think of a name that I can use as a solid working title. I think the difference between novels and my shorter pieces is the length. A novel is hundreds of thousands of words, where as a short story is a couple thousand at the most. Picking a title for a short piece doesn’t worry me, whereas trying to come with one for a novel is something I have always found intimidating.
It seems like a big deal to put a name on something so huge and diverse as a novel. You’re picking a name that will forever be linked to what you’re writing, and it’s hard to get it just right. Personally, I really like having short titles. One word titles are the best, and I won’t usually pick a title with over three words in it. I think that the shorter titles pack a punch that the longer titles don’t. They create mystery for a potential buyer who reads the title off a bookshelf, and the more mysterious the title is, the more likely they are to pick it up and read the blurb on the back. When I say “mysterious” I don’t mean that it has to be a question, I’m just referring to peaking the interest of a potential reader. Titles have a powerful effect, and it’s the first impression that a reader will get. So, it has to be a good impression, right?
How do you pick a title? Is it easy or hard? Do you think a title should reflect the writing style on a book, or can it be something totally unrelated? What are some of your favourite titles?