Here’s a post at Jane Friedman’s blog: Choose the Perfect Title for Your Novel or Memoir: 7 Authors Offer Tips
Oooooh yes, we are all familiar with the traumatic process of choosing a title! Here’s how this post begins:
Heather Young, author of literary murder mysteries, loved her initial titles, but her publisher asked her to change them—a very common experience.
“I pitched my first novel with the title White Earth, but the marketing department said it sounded like an alien invasion novel,” explained Young. “My agent recommended that I go through the book and find a phrase that leaped out at me. I found ‘once we were light’ and I pitched it, but they said it sounded like a weight loss book. Finally, the publisher suggested The Lost Girl. My contribution was, ‘Let’s make it plural,’ so the title The Lost Girls came by committee, between me, my publisher and the marketers.”
And who knows, maybe the marketing people were correct, but as far as I’m concerned “Once We Were Light” does not sound a bit like a weight-loss book and DOES sound like a great title. It sounds far better to me than “The Lost Girls” — which sounds like mystery or true-crime to me, or actually, no, you know what that sounds like? A take-off on the Lost Boys from Peter Pan! This sounds like some sort of Peter-Pan-adjacent story, maybe a retelling or something! Now that I’ve thought of that, I’m really certain that “Once We Were Light” would have been better.
Anyway, what about the idea of going through the novel and finding a phrase that leaps out at you? That’s not a bad idea.
Another good tip: Once you settle on a title, go back and fit that title into your novel. In this post, one author describes adding a stanza of poetry to one or two scenes in her novel in order to justify a phrase from that poem as the title. That’s a good idea. I retrofitted a line into The Mountain of Kept Memory in much the same way — I added the phrase “kept memory” into the book occasionally, and at least once “the mountain of kept memory,” after coming up with the title, not before.
But I created that title … let me see if I can remember … there was a post about coming up with titles, but alas, I can’t remember and now I can’t find it. After all, there are a zillion posts on this topic. It was about picking evocative words … no, I really can’t remember, sorry.
Mostly, when it comes to fantasy novels, everyone seems to default to The Noun of the Noun or the Adjective Noun. Or else to the name of the main character. Certainly I’ve done both. That can work perfectly well.
Here’s another post about creating titles: Book Titles Made Easy(-ish). That’s certainly a good title for the post! Made me click through. Let’s take a look at the advice offered here …
… Ah, the power of one! One-word titles, she means. Often that does work well. She’s thinking about books other than fantasy, but it doesn’t matter, one-word titles still work well. A single word can be powerful. She points to a book called Blink, which immediately makes me think Don’t Even Blink, which would actually be a great title, as long as you wanted to evoke that specific Dr Who episode as well as suggest something about your novel.
Also, one-word titles are easy to remember, which is no small advantage.
Oh, here’s an interesting suggestion — verbing your title. That is, starting the title with a verb. Bury the Chains. Finding Narnia. It’s never occurred to me to use a verb like that.
Her last suggestion: Numbers. Well, maybe, BUT, I strongly recommend against titles like 2312. I can NEVER remember that particular number. I had to look it up just now. I always have to look it up. It’s also just … what is the term for the opposite of evocative? Meaningless? That’s not quite what I want, because of course the title does convey meaning. But in an important sense, that title just sits there, doing nothing.
Or maybe that’s me. What do you all think of 2312 as a title?
My personal favorite book titles … let me see …
Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandi Nelson — and while I didn’t care for the first book on this list and haven’t read the others, this is a beautiful book about grief and recovery. Contemporary. Here, let me link it for you — there. I don’t believe I’ve ever reviewed it; I don’t seem to find a review when I poke around. Well, it’s lovely and I highly recommend it, but it is about grief and recovery, so you need to have a box of tissues handy.
If you’ve got a favorite title, drop it in the comments! You needn’t like the book or have read the book, this is just about titles.