A Title by Any Name?

Recently there has been an interesting discussion on one of the online writer groups which I follow. The original question posed? “Why do some writers stress out about the title of their work?

Does the title matter?

Not too long ago, 0ne of my friends asked her readers to name her latest work – a big brainstorm session.  A favourite was chosen. That did not guarantee it would be the name of final published book. In the end, the publishers used their choice.  That is how it works in traditional publishing. The publisher can change the name. After all, they have an entire marketing team whose job is to get maximum sales. They know best. Don’t they?
I have heard both pros (the advantage of accessing professional marketing) and cons (not always being relevant to the story or unique) on this point. Whatever the outcome, it probably pays not to get too attached to a specific title for those who intend to follow the traditional publishing route.

For those who self publish, the freedom of choosing their own title can be a thrill – or a curse. There is the satisfaction on keeping creative control.  For others, fashioning a meaningful title seems to be a harrowing experience. What if it is not marketable? Not catchy enough? Irrelevant? What if does not stand out from the crowd?
For me it is exciting to discover that key phrase or word to describe a year’s worth of work.

How to find a name?

First there is the organic method. Write the words and the title will come. Eventually.  This frees the mind to wander along a non-set path, opening up creativity. There is no restriction to stay confined within the pre-set theme.

From the discussion, it was obvious that some writers can not write one word without first knowing the story’s title. This allows the writer to stay focused, not to meander off in unrelated directions. This would seem to be ideal if you are a concise writer or an obsessive plotter.

I seem to  fall somewhere between the two extremes. I can write without a title but (I must admit) I find that the title finds me – usually very early in the project. It is an organic thing. A picture, word or sentence can inspire me. Sometimes it just pops into my head, bold as brass, demanding attention. When it does, everything falls in place. It gives something for the ideas to gravitate to,  like a shining beacon… or sometimes like a big black hole.

Which type of writer are you?


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