Thursday, January 27, 2011

Panel Discussion - How Do You Choose the Title of Your Book?

Debra L Martin
For The Crystal Façade my co-author Dave and I were toying with a number of titles, but finally settled on our title because crystals are important to Otharians.  Crystals are essential in helping to fuel their PSI powers of telepathy, empathy, telekinetic. This book is about solving the mystery of the crystal trade or diamonds as they are called on Earth.  Where do they crystals actually come from?  Are they mined in the Sharellians Mountains on Otharia or is there an illegal diamond smuggling ring from Earth?  

The definition of façade is “a superficial appearance or illusion of something” and that was the perfect description and thus The Crystal Façade was born.   

Cathy Wiley
For the Cassandra Ellis series, since my main character is a mystery author, I came up with the idea to use word plays with the word "write". I listed a number of phrases with "right" or "rite" in them and used that to brainstorm plot ideas. So upcoming books include "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Write", "Write of Passage", "Write Field", etc.

Outside of this particular series, I generally struggle with titles. The story is often completely written before I come up with an idea. I'll read through the work to see if there is anything that sums up the story or just sounds like a good title.

Ellen O’Connell
For my first book, the mystery Rottweiler Rescue, the title was the concept and was there from the beginning. I own and love Rottweilers, did rescue on my own for ten years and am still involved as a volunteer with a Rottweiler rescue group. My purpose in writing the book was (and will be with others in the series) to counter the media portrayal of Rottweilers as "killer dogs" with a story that didn't go to the other extreme but gave a realistic picture of the dogs and what they need in an owner.

Titles for my romances came to me only after the books were written through several drafts. In my opinion many romances have titles almost indistinguishable one from the other, and I wanted something different. One day, thinking about the importance eye color plays in many romances (eyes that are "emerald green" or "true violet"), it occurred to me how often gray and light brown eyes are described as silver and gold. I went back and changed the eye color on my hero and heroine so that I could use the title Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold. For my newest romance, I tried several titles and wasn't happy with any of them. Then in later drafts, as I worked on a scene where the heroine is noisy and the hero encourages it, I came up with "sing my name" as a bit of dialog and fell in love with it myself. There are reviews on Amazon that mention how much the reader likes the title of Eyes or Sing, and I've had emails saying the same. Those readers make me believe I succeeded in finding good titles.

Rachel Howzell
The first title for any manuscript I start is Untitled Novel about [insert subject]. I'm one of those crazy writers who must have something on the title page and computer file name to move forward. Then, I write -- longhand on a legal pad alternating between micro-black-Uniballs and micro-blue-Uniballs. At chapter three, I have no title. At chapter three, I usually don't really know what my story is really about. Around page 75, the fog of this new world starts to clear some. Themes and goals pop out more. That's when a possible title rears its head. I still don't know what it is yes, but I have a subject.

With that vague subject in mind, I go to one of my favorite sites, The Quotation Page. There, I will look at quotes by subject -- famous people are good at saying awesome things. Three words may strike me and I put it on a Post-It note, roll it around my mind for a time. If it's 'sticky', then, "Aha!" I have my title.

Rachel Howzell is the author of The View from Here and A Quiet Storm. Visit her at her blog, Writing in My Car at

Julie Ann Dawson
Once I get the concept fleshed out for a story, I normally start with a ‘working title’ for the sake of staying organized.  Since I often have multiple projects going simultaneously, I need some sort of title to maintain the semblance of order.  At the early stage the working title is just a place-holder.  As the story develops, some key element will grab my attention and help me develop the final title for the story.

The working title for A Game of Blood, for example, had originally been “Club Decadence.”  That working title was never going to fit as the book title, but it was the starting location of the novel so it was just as good an identifier as anything else.  At one point in the book, the protagonist, detective Mitch Grogan, accuses the vampire Darius of treating him like a pawn, and Darius quips that he doesn’t consider Mitch a pawn, but rather a well played rook.  The chess motif eventually led to the title (and also inspired the cover art choice). (A Game of Blood homepage) (Tales From the Sith Witch, Julie’s blog)

KC May
For The Kinshield Legacy, I struggled for a while trying to come up with the right title. I was constantly flipping through the thesaurus, looking for words similar in meaning to various words that hinted at significant moments in the story. It wasn't until the third draft was finished and I was doing revisions that it came to me. While I was working on one particular part of the story, the word Legacy popped into my head, and The Kinshield Legacy just felt right.

For The Venom of Vipers, I didn't worry too much about it, figuring the right title would come to me sooner or later. I was completely fine with calling it Rep Story for about a year (before I called the engineered people Saphers, I called them Reps because of their DNA). Because some of the bad guys were with an organization called Arizona Security and Policing, my main character called them ASPs (the members of the group preferred the acronym ASAP to suggest a quick response). I found myself using snake references now and then, and because the Sapher females have reproduction issues, I decided I needed to use the word Viper in the title. (Some vipers supposedly give live birth.) I also love the way George R.R. Martin titles his books in the Song of Fire and Ice series: A Storm of Swords, A Game of Thrones, etc. and I wanted to use that pattern. I really liked the sound of The Venom of Vipers. And there's not a single snake in the whole book!

For my novella, Sole Sacrifice, I started to call it Soul Sacrifice, but I liked the play on words I got by using the other spelling & meaning.

Julieanne Felicity
Inititally when writing The Kindness of Strangers, I wanted it to be called Sydney’s Story.  But after I kept writing, the POV changed in a few places so it wasn’t JUST about Sydney.  It was also about the individuals she met throughout the tale.  Then one night while I was at work, I thought about it; if it weren’t for the kindness of strangrs she met, she never would have such a positive outcome.

I create a title after I begin writing usually.  I get a better feel of what’s going to happen when I put the words to paper (or txt pad).  There are times I’ll have one idea for a title, but something will happen mid-story and it won’t feel right or fit any longer, so I’ll re-evaluate what the story has become about and decide on an appropriate title then.


  1. Great post. I struggle with my titles and love knowing how other authors deal with the titling process!

  2. I think I've changed every title at least once. Sometimes because I was beaten to the punch other times because once I got deep into the story I realized how different it had become. I am working now on a series that will use terminology from drag racing because it is an integral part of the stories. The beginning title was Long Winter Hard Fall; now it's Elapsed Time, which fits closer to what happens in the story. Thank you for letting me know I'm not the only one that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of titling the story.


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