Elaine Roberts talks about wrestling with the problem of titles.
I have always read a lot; my mother used to tell me off for not going out to play when I was a child, because my nose was always stuck in a book. There was nothing I enjoyed more than losing myself in a good adventure. Books like The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe were books I read over and over again. Nothing has changed in that I am still an ardent reader, except I now write as well.
Anybody who isn’t a writer would think coming up with an idea for a novel would be the hardest part, but not for me.
Some writers who are learning their trade, like me, may think coming up with the structure and avoiding the saggy middle is the most difficult part, but not for me.
Once the manuscript is written, some might think the editing is the worst part; now I don’t like it, but it’s not the hardest part for me.
Coming up with a title is my biggest problem. Am I the only one? It’s one I have mentioned on a few occasions to different people and have had a number of really good suggestions, yet I can’t seem to make them work.
Why is the title so important?
All the professionals say you should have an attention-grabbing title. The cover and the title of a novel usually draw a reader’s attention first. When you are submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher, there is no cover to grab their attention so the title needs to make the manuscript stand out from the other hundreds they receive. So a title needs to be memorable and easily understood.
Titles can be about the theme of the novel; an example of this is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Alternatively, they can contain the main character’s name, such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronté. Some titles also contain the character’s occupation or title.
It doesn’t matter whether I am writing a short story, a blog piece or a novel, my biggest sticking point is always the title. The name is meant to give an idea of what the story/article is about. What I find puzzling is that I know what my story is about and yet a catchy title seems to evade me and I don’t understand why. Writers come up with excellent titles all the time and yet I can’t seem to.
Several people have suggested record titles, which is an excellent idea but not one that has helped me with my latest novel. Maybe a film title, but no, that doesn’t work for me either.
Perhaps it is my Achilles heel; maybe I have a mental block on the subject.
I wonder how others decide on their titles, where do they get their inspiration? Any advice would be gratefully received.