Diana posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
How do you think of a good titles for your books?
Randy sez: You find good titles wherever you can get them. While driving. While taking a shower. While cleaning up the dog barf.
You really can’t force inspiration, so just relax and wait for it to strike. And if you have to spike Fido’s dog food with Instant Ralphie to speed up the process, then you are one sick writer, but go ahead and do it for the sake of your art.
Of course, thinking up a great title is no guarantee that it’ll get used. As we talked about not too long ago on this blog, a lot of publishers seem to believe that they have a perfect right to change your title. (Since they paid for the rights to publish the book, there’s a case to be made for this surly attitude. Since it’s your name on the cover, you have a right to object if they try to foist off a bozo title on you.)
I’d say to not worry too much about the title until you’ve finished the book. Start writing the novel. Keep an eye out for some word or phrase that keeps coming up over and over. Maybe it’s something one of the characters keeps saying. Maybe it’s part of the action. That word or phrase just might make a good title.
Or not. Like I said, you can’t force inspiration. Let’s be honest. A missing title is nothing to keep you up at night. If worst comes to worst, you can always try to sell it as “Untitled.” Editors might prefer that to something dreadful like, “Samantha Gets The Guy” or “Johnny Saves The World.”
Truth to tell, I’ve come across some incredibly bad titles when critiquing manuscripts at writing conferences. I’ve come across some incredibly good ones. I can’t remember any of them now. What I do remember are the manuscripts that were actually good. A number of those manuscripts have gone on to get published.
If a manuscript is good, any editor alive can come up with a passable title in ten minutes and most editors can even come up with a pretty good title in that length of time. (It takes a full committee — with Marketing, Sales, and Editorial all working really hard for hours — to come up with a total loser of a title.)
Trust me, your readers aren’t going to be running around telling their friends, “I just read the most incredible title!” Anyway, if that’s all they’ve got to say about your novel, then you should probably just slit that story’s throat right now and throw its ugly carcass out for the wolves to eat. No, you want your readers running around telling all their friends, “I just read the most incredible novel!”
Write an incredible novel. The title will pretty much take care of itself.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.
Blog of the Day: My friend Brandilyn Collins blogged today on “The Home Stretch in Writing” — namely, the last 30 days before the book is due. Since I have known writers who had not STARTED their book 30 days before it was due, this business of calling the last 30 days “the home stretch” seems a little bit of a stretch to me. In any event, you might find it interesting to see what a number of published authors have said about their experiences in that pesky home stretch.