Titles

When I write a book, the title is usually the last thing I think of. The title sums up the book. The title describes the book. Since a manuscript evolves and changes as I write it, I don’t know what kind of title will describe it until it’s actually finished. For me, the title is like the last little dab of icing on top of the cake.

Any time I tell people that I’m writing a new book, they blurt out, “What’s the name of it?”

I shrug and say, “I haven’t thought of that part yet.”

At that point, they frown at me and look away, shaking their heads, almost in disgust. Like there’s something wrong with me. Like I apparently don’t know what I’m doing. If I don’t know the title, I must not know anything.

It annoys me when people do that. It’s like walking up to a college student and asking, “What kind of career are you pursuing?”

And the student says, “I want to be an accountant.”

“Oh really? That’s great! When you become an accountant, what color do you want the carpet in your office to be?”

And the student says, “Well, I haven’t really thought about that yet. I’m just trying to get my degree right now.”

And you say, “Obviously, you’ll never make it as an accountant. That office carpet is a big deal!”

I’m not saying the title doesn’t matter. The title of a book is profoundly important. It has to draw attention to itself. It has to make people want to pick up the book. But there’s no rule that says you have to think of a title before you begin writing.

Many people who don’t write (or even read, for that matter) seem to think they’re experts on the writing process. Bugs me.

(The typewriter image isn’t mine.)

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15 thoughts on “Titles

  1. It reminds me if the struggle I experienced naming my child! I had to get about 7 months into the pregnancy until I had a sense for what I felt would be an appropriate name for him. Never once have I regretted what we named him and he gets compliments on his name all of the time. People never seemed to get why I didn’t have his name picked out when I was only 3 months along.

  2. I have to agree with you there. Currently writing my first book, I have themes and a beginning and an end to my book and even have a purpose behind why I’m writing it, but no title yet. As you said, a manuscript changes over time and we might include stories we never thought of including in the beginning. The first draft we finish, we’ve just scratched the surface to writing a book. The title certainly can wait. Keep writing 🙂

  3. Matthew, we don’t all think alike. As an ELA teacher, I’m supposed to teach kids to compose an outline prior to writing a research paper, That does not and never has worked for me. I have to write first. An outline merely restrains me. In fact, to play the game their way, I would always write the paper and then create the outline that would accompany the paper. Lol

  4. I say “you’re correct” choose a title when you want to…you’re the writer,author.creator and you decide when the book gets titled. I agree with Melanie Curry I don’t do out outlines and I don’t do plans for the “art” I”m creating…I just write and I just put my pencil on the paper and draw 🙂

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