What to call your novel

file000495818648Among the notes my agent gave about my current story, was encouragement to change its title. I did not. Not for a lack of trying, mind you.

Titles are tricky. They’re used to market the book, and to give readers a hint of what’s inside. The title of my first novel, ANGEL’S GRACE is a pun, only you don’t realize what the pun is until you get to the end of the story. I thought Simon & Schuster was going to change the title, but it turned out that they loved it.

This new story doesn’t feel that clear-cut. I keep waiting to have a moment like Madeleine L’Engle had when her mother lifted the title A WRINKLE IN TIME from a line in the story. My story involves jumbies, Caribbean spirits, but there’s already a YA book out called THE JUMBIE. My original title was eleven words long. And while I loved it, it had some problems (besides the fact that it was eleven words long).

Those that I’ve shared my current story with seem to like the title, but my agent feels it’s too generic. I see her point. But I haven’t been able to summon up something better. So how do you title a story?

You could go epic, using the name of the character, like PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF. You could go with something more subtle, like WONDER, leaving readers to wonder what it’s all about. You could go with something very obvious like ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, or something really vague like THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING. Personally I like simple, like FRANNY AND ZOOEY. But none of that has helped me so far.

The title search continues.

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4 thoughts on “What to call your novel

  1. Cheryl Fassett says:

    Boy can I relate to this post! The novel that I am starting to send out into the great unknown has a title that I think is lacking some magic. I, too, kept waiting for the moment when a line in my story spoke to me, but it never happened! 🙂

  2. Tracey says:

    Cheryl, a friend of mine suggested trying to find the answer in my sleep by asking myself the question before I went to bed, and then seeing what I came up with upon waking the next morning. That worked for the name of the villain in my book, but not for the title. But maybe it will work for you!

  3. jennigreenmiller says:

    Gosh, not knowing what the book is about makes it challenging. Releasing into it might help. Maybe that’s what your friend Cheryl meant. I actually like the idea of an 11 word title. : )

  4. Tracey says:

    Do you? I did like the long title, but it’s for a Middle Grade novel, so I wasn’t sure it would fly. I gave all my possible titles to my agent.
    I know I don’t say much about what I’m writing on the blog. It’s purposeful. I don’t like to give it all away before I’m sure I have a contract and people will really get to read it. Then all bets are off. Titles, character names, plot lines (no spoilers), I talk about it all. 🙂

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