At the annual SCBWI LA Conference I learned: Titles matter.
I never really thought much about the title of the book I've been writing and revising for the past year. I have a working title, yes, but I figured that was enough. Turns out, I was wrong!
Sarah Davies, founder of Greenhouse Literary Agency, spoke about titles and she blew my mind. Well, at least she made me think more about titles than I ever had before.
One of the most profound things she said was when reading queries the title is a big deal to her. It MUST create the feeling of the book. If it doesn't, it doesn't hook her.
For many of you writers, who work with a working title, this might just change your mind too. Or at least make you think!
If the title affects an agent in that way, it must be affecting the writer. If your title is boring, lacks interest and has no hook….maybe that reflects in your writing? I wonder...
Think about the title of your favorite book or movie. Now, play with it. Try to change it and see if it still feels the same to you.
The Sound of Music
This title creates a certain feeling inside my heart. But what if I changed it?
The Noise of Music
The Racket of Music
The Notes of Music
The Sound of Melodies
The Sound of Notes
None of these quite hit the same feeling or have the same appeal as the original.
How about another one?
The Dark is Rising
It feels ominous. Something is coming up from below. What if I changed it to:
The Black is Rising
The Ink is Rising
The Gloom is Rising
The Veiled is Rising
The Dark is Coming
The Dark is Climbing
The Dark is On It's Way
The Dark is Surging
None of these give the same scary feeling as the original one does. I can't quite picture what might happen in the book.
Working Title: ANIMALIA
The title has been used before in a children's book and in a science book. That shouldn't matter to agents as they are different genres, but does it say anything about the book? Unfortunately…no, it does not. You can't guess anything about the book from that title.
But how do you come up with a title? How can we play with the title and come up with different concepts? Different feelings?
One way is to go to your manuscript. Pull random pages and read. What interesting words pop out at you? Are there reoccurring phrases? Are some words scary? Happy? Loving? Hateful?
Step 1: Pull out random pages of your book. Some from the beginning, middle, end.
Step 2: Read paragraphs, skipping around and notice interesting words or phrases.
Step 3: Write down all the words that really pop, that really get to the root of your story.
Step 4: Hang them up around your office or bedroom - step back about 4 feet - which words pop out? Underline them.
Step 5: Connect the dots. Which words, when put together, make an interesting title? Which words feel right about your story?
Step 6: Make a list of potential titles.
Step 7: Ask friends and strangers which titles would make them want to pick up the book and read?
Step 8: Start using the most popular title now!
Many words popped out at me from the beginning, middle and end of my book. These are the words that I underlined in Step 4:
- Payton Whitworth
Titles that came to mind:
- The Poisoning of Payton Whitworth
- Skinned Kiss
- Skin Secrets
- The Secrets of Our Skin
- The Monstering of Payton Whitworth
- How Deep is Your Skin?
- Fur, Skin & Feathers
- The Evolution of Payton Whitworth
- The Skin Wars
- Payton Whitworth Phase One
- Teeth to Fangs, Skin to Scales
- Deep Twisted Feathers
- The Twisted Kiss of Evolution
The Final One I am working with:
SKINNED: Payton Whitworth - Phase One
Now, once this book finds an agent and an editor the title will, most likely, change. With their help we will brainstorm again and again until it is perfect for the book and the market.
But, for me, this title works. It gives me the feeling that I need when I speak about this book. It helps me mold the query letter and synopsis into something stronger than it was when the book was called plain Animalia.
I hope this insight to finding a title helps you as much as it helped me.
Until I blog again…