Titling a Novel


So I’m chugging along with the vampire story, but as yet I have no working title. I can’t seem to come up with anything that isn’t a) total cheesy and cliché or b) too obscure. Not only do I need a title for this one, but the novel I was working on before this one abducted me is still without a name, and its prequel really needs a name because that’s what I’m going to be working on in November for NaNoWriMo. I realize that no one can suggest anything since you know little to nothing about any of these novels (or soon-to-be novels) but how does everyone else come up with titles? Do they just pop into your head? Do you brainstorm it? Drop random words in a hat and pick a couple? Hunker down with a thesaurus and keep drilling down until something clicks? All of the above? None of the above?

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33 thoughts on “Titling a Novel

  1. Thanks, Jenna! I’m home today with a sore throat, this ought to keep me busy 🙂 I’m glad I’m not the only one who can’t just whip out some clever, memorable title. I’m starting to think all the good ones are taken! (kind of like parking spaces and men)

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  2. Well I did read that Bowie randomly pulled words out of a hat to make lyrics for his songs. As we all know Life on Mars is the greatest song of all time. But then maybe he was lucky?! Whichever method, good luck in your search I’m sure you’ll find the perfect title.

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  3. Haha! Thanks, Flower Boy. Hell, if it worked for Bowie… 😉 Somehow I don’t think I’d have the same luck with that method. Argh, I guess it’s back to brainstorming.

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  4. Hey DD,

    I wish I could give you some sage advice, but my titles just pop into my head.

    Maybe something will come to your mind if you don’t stress too hard on it. Don’t try to come up with some wonderful, unique, catchy title. Instead, think of your novel and its characters. What feelings and words come to you?

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    1. Figures. 😉 We share so many other traits, why not this?? lol Oh well. I’ve got a sense of what I want the title to convey, but haven’t quite found the right words.

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  5. keep it under 3-4 words, not too cryptic, giving the reader a good understanding of what lies between the covers, and know that if it gets picked up by a publisher, it will go through a titling committee who will probably scrap it anyway

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  6. Heh, thanks, Nathan 🙂

    Yeah, I’ve discarded a few ideas because they either give the impression it’s a whole ‘nother genre (romance) or as you say they were too cryptic. Trying to find that magic title that will get someone to read it in the first place is the trick. Somehow I don’t think I’d much care what the publisher decided to call it, if it got published!

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  7. Zinc supplements are good for a cold, too: won’t cure it, but it keeps it from getting any worse

    Look at some of the best dialogue that you’ve written for your characters – is there any turn of phrase that goes to the heart of what you’re doing? I’m thinking that’s the way Harper Lee & Rita Mae Brown came up w/ “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and “Rubyfruit Jungle,” as well as how Lydia Millet came up w/one of my favorite titles: “George Bush, Dark Prince of Love.”

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    1. Hmmm…I will have to look at that angle. Now that I think about it, that seems to be the case in many movies and books. “GB:DPoL” has got to be one of the most inspired 😉

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      1. Another great title is “Valley of the Dolls” – the book’s a cheezy ol’ potboiler, but who WOULDN’T want to read it, with a title like that?

        BTW, I agree w/you and Nathan – if somebody wanted to publish something I’d written, they could call it “MJ’s Big Load of Bullsh!t” and I wouldn’t mind!

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  8. My thesis would be that as creative spirits, we are all entitled to produce Big Loads of Bullsh!t, and our audience can buy it not not buy it, literally – Therefore, if politicians and so-called statesmen don’t want to stop bullsh!tting {I’m starting to like that exclamation point,) they should just write freelance fiction and take their chances on the “Getting a Sentient Being to Read Your Stuff” lottery, along w/the rest of us.

    Everything I write and teach, y’see, goes to the notion that there’s more truth in art, even popular art, than there is in the so-called hard sciences.

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    1. Well there’s one load due out next month that I won’t be buying. Not that it’s being shopped as fiction but it probably should be, kind of like “A Million Little Pieces” should have been.

      I think the ‘hard’ sciences give us the ‘how’ and art gives us the ‘why.’

      “Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren’t.’

      Julian Barnes

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      1. Yah, her load of bullsh!t is exactly what I’m talking about – although I will say that Sarah did, in part, comply with my thesis by removing herself from public office to become a full-time purveyor of bullsh!t. Now it is up to the public to buy it or not buy it, and anybody who spends money on the b.s. that she and her family have been spreading for free for over a year now, deserve whatever they get.

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      2. Unfortunately, she got to bypass all the usual hurdles in getting this pile published, like she went into the lottery able to pull the the winning numbers for herself. I guess it’s all about creating a fan-base ahead of time.

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      3. Yah; that approach is actually more pandering than writing Still, if there is an audience for it, well, they’ll get what they deserve, sorta like the Californians who chose to vote for Schwarzenegger.

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  9. Any chance you can name a character in the prequel Samson? then your title for NanoWriMo could be “Samson, in Pre-Lila”

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    1. LOL, no I don’t think that would work. 😉 The Lila story was last year’s NaNo effort, nothing to do with any of the three (!!) rolling around in my head now.

      There is a character with a name somewhat similar to Samson, could be shortened to Sam, although he’s using an alias. He will be in both of the non-vamp novels, the prequel is the one being set in our old stomping grounds c. 1880. And he’s going to be a very naughty boy.

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  10. I’ve been a proud lifetime subscriber to the serial version of “MJ’s Big Load of Bullsh!t” and one satisfied customer at that. And heartily agree that it should command the market price. Only problem is the limited audience… 🙂

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  11. I’m flattered beyond words; it’d be my dream job to show up in your respective living rooms to sign copies of my big load of bullshit. I’d bring cheesecake and coffee!

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  12. Cheesecake? Coffee? *gypsyscarlett perks up*

    Regarding the whole truth thing, I read a great quote somewhere online. Unfortunately, I can’t recall who said it. (it was on some forum). But it was: “Non-fiction is facts. Fiction is truth.”

    I really loved that.

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    1. It’ll come to you in a dream, or while you’re brushing your teeth, or washing the dog. Inspiration’s like that.

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