Agent Rachelle Gardner had a post some time ago about how to think of good titles for your books.
I have kind of an anti-knack for titles: I can never think of anything good. Sometimes my editor and I go back and forth for weeks kicking titles back and forth and it’s all very annoying and tedious and unpleasant, especially when you never really like ANY of the suggestions.
Now, what Rachelle Gardner suggested was this:
a) Find 20 titles you love, all from your genre.
b) Make a list of 100 words (nouns, adjectives, and verbs) related to your book — words that evoke the setting or relate to an important character or capture the action.
c) Evaluate these words: Would any make good single-word titles? Any good combinations leap out at you?
d) Develop 20 possible titles which all:
i) have a tone that fits your book,
ii) convey the genre,
iii) don’t seem too generic,
iv) might realistically catch the eye.
e) Wait 24 hours and select 3-5 for a short list.
f) Send these to friends and have everybody pick their favorite.
Okay, now, if this process worked to generate fantastic titles, wouldn’t that be great? Unfortunately, only steps (a) and (b) are actually easy,and those don’t get you all the way to a title of your own.
Twenty great titles that caught my eye? No problem. I selected:
A Fistful of Sky
The Forest of Hands and Teeth
The Silent Strength of Stones
A Blue So Dark
Darkness Be My Friend
All Unquiet Things
Shades of Milk and Honey
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Somewhere to Be Flying
The Life of Glass
The Paths of the Dead
The Sky is Everywhere
Past the Size of Dreaming
The Knife of Never Letting Go
Against the Tide of Years
From which you might (correctly) surmise that I like evocative, poetic titles. I suspect this is the hardest kind of title to come up with. My least favorite titles are merely a character’s name, which is too bad, since those would certainly be easier to think of!
Now, does this suggest anything for my current WIP, which for the sake of convenience I’m calling KEEPER, a title I dislike?
Ummm . . . well. If only.
How about THE MOUNTAIN OF MEMORY? I don’t much like that.
THE MOUNTAIN OF DEAD GODS? THE MOUNTAIN OF SHATTERED VISION? THE MIRROR OF SHATTERED VISION?
No? Okay, then.
How about GODDESS OF SHADOWS? Don’t much care for it, and it seems awfully generic. Is
THE GODDESS OF MEMORY
THE WALL BETWEEN THE MOUNTAIN AND THE WORLD is obviously too long, right?
THE KIEBA? THE KIEBA’S MOUNTAIN? THE KIEBA’S LAW?
But isn’t “Kieba” kind of hard to pronounce, maybe? And also this is pretty close to just using a character’s name as the title, which is still not my favorite thing.
CRYSTAL OF SIGHT AND MEMORY? ASHEN RAINS AND CRYSTAL MEMORY?
This is just harder than seems reasonable. Phooey.
Easier to quit fussing with the title and finish the darned book.