A novel title is an interesting bird. It can be boring and mundane, or entirely rare and unique. The best novel titles are those which are both intriguing and descriptive. That is to say, they pique reader interest while also giving a look into the novel itself.
Looking at a book shelf, it seems so easy. There are so many titles out there that fit the book while also giving a little taste of what it’s about. But—as you probably know if you’re reading this post—writing your own title can be an extraordinarily trying experience. All of a sudden the words escape you, and you’re left with either a ridiculously long title or something too short to interest any readers.
Don’t worry, this is where I come in. Or rather, where feedback comes in. If you can come up with a few options for titles, you can poll friends, family, and even your Twitter followers. I’ve even gone to the extreme of muttering different titles as I passed random strangers to see which ones would make them perk up and look at me strangely. You may not think the ideas you have at the moment are very good, but often the responses you get will help guide you toward something better.
In many ways, this hearkens back to my post on coming up with stories for a novel. So long as you can kick the assumption that any ideas are ‘bad,’ you can utilize every idea to eventually reach the final goal.
Another strategy is to ask yourself what the heart of the novel is about; whether it’s a place, a person, or an element of the story. You can write the title based upon that, in essence turning it into a description of the most important element (a la Dumas and his The Count of Monte Cristo or The Three Musketeers).
This strategy works and fills the second requirement (of a descriptive title) beautifully. Of course, you’re then forced to rely more heavily on your cover and blurb to draw reader interest, but if you feel that the title you come up with this way is the right one then you should stick with it.
In some ways, I wish there was a simple trick. It would be nice to write a post telling you that all you have to do to come up with the perfect title is ask the wizard in the well or something. But unfortunately—as with everything else in writing—it’s going to involve a lot of guesswork and a lot of introspection.
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