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And The Winner Is…

A week ago, I set up a contest for my Loyal Blog Readers to suggest a title for Cathi’s novel, which she’s been working on for about five years. That contest is now closed and Cathi has named a winner.

Here’s what Cathi sent me in an email:

And the winner is:
David Benedict

David’s suggested title was:
Dark Heritage

Congratulations David!
I chose David’s title because putting the words “Dark” and “Heritage” together best sums up the whole of the logline and has real potential as a title, especially for the second book. The Black Dark is the name of a place, but the word “Black” does not necessarily refer to a color and “Dark” does not have to mean the absence of light. The word “Dark” in Dark Heritage is a bit curious. I like that – I don’t want my story or my title to be predictable. I want to thank Randy for his time and help by posting this contest, and everyone for their creative entries and well wishes. It has been a fun week! -Cathi

Randy sez: Yes, congratulations, David! Thanks to all my Loyal Blog Readers for pitching in to help Cathi get unstuck on this title thing. I know we all had fun, and there were a very large number of strong entries.

David, please email me at your convenience with the first five pages of your novel and I’ll critique it as soon as I’m able.

Tomorrow, I’ll resume answering questions submitted by my Loyal Blog Readers about all aspects of fiction. See you then!

A Contest to Name Cathi’s Book

Recently we discussed the dilemma of what to do when you don’t have a decent title for your novel. This was raised by one of my Loyal Blog Readers, Cathi. I suggested that if Cathi could tell us a bit more about her novel, we might run a contest.

Cathi emailed me over the weekend with the details. She’s writing a young-adult fantasy. Here’s the storyline:

A young man learns he is part of a family harboring knowledge of The Black Dark, a place where people exist after death.

This is a series and Cathi is reserving the title THE BLACK DARK for the last book in the series.

I hereby declare a contest to name the first book in Cathi’s series. Here are the rules:

  1. The contest runs for a week and will end at midnight Pacific time on Monday night, February 7, 2011.
  2. The winner will be determined by Cathi and her decision is final. If she decides that there is no winner, then there is no winner. But she can’t choose more than one winner.
  3. The winner doesn’t have to be a title that Cathi will actually use. It just has to be the best idea of the lot, in Cathi’s opinion.
  4. The winner gets a free critique by me of the first five pages of their novel.
  5. Cathi is not eligible to win, for obvious reasons.

Some thoughts on titling a book:

Look for something emotively compelling. Or look for something that arouses curiosity. Or look for something that suggests the actual story. Or tell something about the main character. Or do something completely different.

Coming up with titles is hard. Coming up with titles about a book you’ve been laboring over for five years is really hard. Somehow, it’s easier when you don’t know that much about the story and you aren’t all that invested emotionally in it. Cathi’s given us a clear one-sentence summary of her book. That may just be enough to come up with a title. At the very least, it’ll jiggle some of Cathi’s neurons and possibly suggest a title she can use.

So have at it, Loyal Blog Readers! Post your suggested titles here as a comment and we’ll let Cathi decide if any of them can break her mental fogjam over this pesky title thing.

Barbara Picks A Winner

A couple of days ago, I posted Barbara’s one-sentence summary of her novel and asked you all to see if you could improve on my best attempt to revise it. Thanks to all of you who responded!

Barbara has picked a winner and has asked me to post this message:

“All you people are, (pick one) awesome, wonderful, fantastic, awe-inspiring. There were a lot of great entries and I narrowed it down to two:

“J.R. Turner submitted:

This is 15 words:

Three scientists unwittingly give a clandestine government agency the power to alter the human genome.

“While this was very good, an even better entry and the winner was supplied by Caprice Hokstad, who submitted:

A secret government agency manipulates unsuspecting biotechnologists into altering human DNA.

“This was the best short entry. I would change only one word giving:

“A clandestine government agency manipulates unsuspecting biotechnologists into altering human DNA.

“In my original version I used disgruntled but unsuspecting also works for the story. And I like the use of manipulates.

“The first draft of this story is done. I wrote it during NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every November. During the month of November you have to write a novel of at least 50,000 words. You’re allowed to have an outline and character sketches beforehand. It’s a lot of fun, and I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now. The down side is when the first draft is done then you must edit, and edit, and…

“I’d like to thank you all for your responses. Sometimes I get too close to the problem to see the best answer.

“Take care, Barbara”

Randy sez: As you can see, less is more in this game. Barbara’s original version was 36 words. I cut it down to 20 words. Caprice chopped it all the way down to 11, and it’s clearly stronger than mine or Barbara’s original.

Caprice, you won! Go ahead and email me with a one-page Word excerpt from your novel and I’ll critique it.

Thanks to all of you who participated! This was fun!

Let’s Do A Contest For Barbara

We’ve been discussing for the last week how to write a one-sentence summary of your novel, as I advise in my article on the Snowflake method.

Barbara emailed me with this very long one-sentence summary of her novel:

Three disgruntled scientists are hired by a biogenetic research laboratory — run by a clandestine government agency — to evaluate possible modifications to lower life forms, never realizing their results will be used to alter the human genome.

As Barbara noted, it’s too long, at 36 words. The question is how to shorten it. I believe in making it as short as possible, but no shorter. Let’s see what we can do here.

One thing we can do is to change the subject of the sentence. There is no rule that the subject has to be your protagonist. Why not make it the government agency? Let’s try this:

A secret government agency manipulates three disgruntled biotech scientists into research that can be used to alter the human genome.

That’s 20 words and I don’t think it’s lost anything. By being shorter, it may even have gained. Less is more in this game.

Can anyone improve on this? You folks are getting quite good at this!

Let’s do another contest, shall we? Whoever comes up with the best revision by Friday night at midnight, PST, wins a free one-page critique from me. This is Barbara’s novel, so she gets to decide which version is best.

Go to it!

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