What’s in a Name? (Besides Headaches, Heartaches, & Trouble)

Writing is hard. Writing regularly is harder. Doing both well is harder still. Despite all of that, naming what you’ve written can somehow be even worse.

Sure, it’ll depend on the day and the piece, but naming stories, poems, plays, or songs can be a serious headache. There’s so much pressure. The title has to capture the idea of the piece without being too obvious or gauche. At the same time, it needs to be catchy and marketable. And sometimes, it needs to give a hint at something that is implied in the story but never explicitly stated. It might even need to be easily varied for the next books in the series.

That’s a lot for a couple of words to do.

With that kind of pressure, no wonder authors tend to have what is called a “working title.” In other words, it’s  not the final name, but it’s what I’m going to call it for now so that I have a way to title the file and tell it from the other stuff. If you’re not sure where the story is going, that’s a good strategy because it leaves you open to adjust the story as needed (But if I change that, the title doesn’t work anymore! I love that title!).

If you’re planning to try to go through traditional publishers, having a working title is an even better idea. Almost every author I’ve heard talk about titles admitted that the original title was changed in the editing process. Can you imagine being in love with your title and having the editor tell you to change it if you want to get published?

That’s where artistic titles and marketing titles don’t always mesh well. See, the publisher is going to be more focused on the catchy, sellable side of the title – because the title is one of the first steps to hooking a reader. The entire book that you’ve put all your time, energy, and creativity into is relying on that tiny title to get the customer through the door.

No wonder naming your work is so hard.

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