In the beginning, I always title my stories with the character's name(s). As in the case of my debut book, Dealing with Blue
, which was originally called "Suzy & J.J." At the time, I saw lots of teen romances with the couples' names on the cover--sort of like Jessica Sorenson's Callie & Kayden
, Violet & Luke
, Seth & Greyson
--so no big deal, was my thinking.
Until I attended a conference at SCBWI a few years back...
At a round table event, I was one of six authors reading my first five pages to one professional, either an agent or an editor, in exchange for some professional wisdom. After I read mine to the group, the agent handed back my manuscript with the words written at the top, "Suzy's name is too old-fashioned." That was it. No further investment necessary. Have a good life.
As an author, you only get one chance to impress and simultaneously un
impress. If an agent, or an editor, or more importantly, a potential reader sees something they don't like...boom. That's it. It's over Johnny. "Suzy & J.J." was a working title, and not one I'd given much thought to. Apparently, this cost me the agent's attention that day.
I wasn't willing to forgo Suzy's name as a character, but I was willing to change the title. Soon after, "Suzy & J.J." turned into "The Pretend Girlfriend." I searched out the title on Google and Amazon, and it wasn't overly used. It was a possibility, but one that didn't resonate with me. It portrayed one aspect of my story, but it wasn't a good representation of the whole.
Gypsy Moth Caterpillar
Book Worm Says...
So I did a little research, and it paid off. Check out the awesome advice!
1.) A title can have hidden meaning, says Writing-World.com
2.) Make certain your title matches your story, says Writer's Digest
3.) Character names can work, but another option is to describe them. Check out Miss Literati's
4.) After the book is written, then peruse through plot, theme, characters, and motivations. "...it is simply a question of sorting through [raw material], searching for hidden diamonds," says Novel Writing Help
And the best one, my favorite, is one I read SOMEWHERE, and now I can't find the source to give credit where credit is due. Natch. If anyone recognizes this gold nugget, please let me know!
5.) The title probably lies somewhere in Act 2, the middle, the 25% - 50% section. If you read, Blake Snyder's book on screenwriting, Save the Cat,
he gives the label "fun and games" to Chapter 8. Could what happens around this chapter be the best title ever?
For Suzy & J.J., the middle section, the fun and games, started when J.J. approached Suzy with his pretend girlfriend scheme. That's when things started getting interesting. They'd made a deal. The title, Dealing with Blue
also has multiple meanings: it's Suzy's last name, Suzy needs to deal with her mom, her mom needs to deal with the Blue Room, and J.J. is dealing with Suzy.
"Writers spend [a lot of time] rearranging 26 letters of the alphabet." ~ Richard Price