It’s All In The Title…

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.

My White Board & Plan

My White Board & Plan

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?

IMG_0143All 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.IMG_7427

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.



7 thoughts on “It’s All In The Title…

  1. I have spent ages getting just what I thought was the perfect title and for both of my novels the first thing the publisher did was change it. They know what is commercial right now, and what sells.

    • Hi Viv, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. As you say that’s the other side of the coin isn’t it. It has already occurred to me that I could be wasting my grey matter on this subject but how do you get your manuscript noticed without a great title? I can’t wait for your book to come out.

  2. How I come up with titles is I think about what it’s about and then think of a poetic way of saying it. Sometimes I get the title from a quote from the story. The story I’m currently editing “It’s a stoney road through hell” is actually a warning the villain says to the hero of the story.

  3. I must admit, that, on the whole, it’s the name of the author which appeals to me, or, if it’s an author who’s new to me, the blurb is of the utmost importance. I’m also guided by the reviews I read. I enjoyed your blog, Elaine.

    • Thank you Angela, I am the same. Like most of us I have my favourite authors but that aside it is usually the cover, which first leads me to turning it over and reading the blurb. I must admit I don’t read reviews because I think books, as with any form of art is quite subjective so I won’t be guided by them. I have watched too many films because of a review and left the cinema wishing I hadn’t wasted my time. Having said all that the professionals say it helps to get your book noticed if it has a catchy title so I need to get my thinking hat on.

  4. I agree – it’s really difficult. I thought I was being fairly original in the titles for the three ‘standalone’ books in my trilogy – but then I discovered after they’d been published, that all three titles had been used before. Luckily there’s no copyright on titles but I think I’ll have to Google my next idea for a title to makes sure it hasn’t been used already!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.