The Epic Search For a Novel Title

Novel titles. These two words strike fear into my heart. The little blighters elude me. They take me on an epic search to rival any fantasy novel.

What’s In a Name?

Epic Search for a Novel Title - Pussy BookShakespeare, the answer is: so very flaming much.

There is so much pressure in getting the title of your novel just right. This will be the label for your book. Like the cover it will be one of the first things readers will encounter.

If you get it wrong you’re denied your pass into that reader’s brain. Get it right and you have the keys to their imaginative kingdom. It’s a burdensome responsibility.

I don’t like to do other writers down but these appalling titles, whilst making us pee our pants, also give me the heebie jeebies that I’ll pick a title one day to join this crappy Hall of Fame:

  • Games You Can Play With Your Pussy and Lots of Other Stuff Cat Owners Should Know – no comment.
  • The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice – still no comment.
  • How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis – oh, the difficulties of being a eunuch.
  • The Manly Art of Knitting – picture a Hell’s Angel wearing a knitted helmet cover.
  • Mommy Drinks Because You Are Bad – actually, I like this one.
  • How to Raise Your IQ by Eating Gifted Children Waiter, I’ll have the child genius with a side order of prodigy.

Much as I like a laugh, I really don’t want to be that woman whose novel title becomes a meme. The angst continues…

Many Titles

My first novel had about forty titles before I chose one and I’m still not sure if I like it. That novel has been sitting in a drawer due to personal reasons but the title still haunts me.

I found myself playing around with the words and changing their order so many times that I could have become a Scrabble champion. Still, I’m not sure.

Keep it Simple?

Epic Search for a Novel Title - Without a PenisDo I go for one word titles? Apparently they’re punchy and memorable.

You’d think one word would be so much easier to conjure up than a collection of them. You’re wrong. It’s harder to choose one that stands alone and is given the dubious responsibility of summing up your whole novel on its own.

That poor little word stands there asking what it ever did to hurt you. It sits under the spotlight of your synonym scrutiny and finds itself lacking.

I admire authors who can do the one word title and your readers know it makes sense. Now share some of those solo words with me. There are plenty to spare.

Misery Loves Company

Let’s give that one word some companions. I try adding other words to it to make more sense and I land up writing an essay.

I am a wordy blighter. I used to write first drafts of university essays that were three times longer than the word count. You can imagine how this has set me up for a lifetime of hatred for editing. Wonderful for a writer.

If you leave me to write whatever I want for a title you’re going to be exhausted just reading the front cover.

Literally Literal

I hate anyone who uses the word “literally” when it’s not literal. It makes my inner “proper words usage” not only tingle but combust. The literal has its place though. Maybe in a title?

How about if I title my novels literally so they tell readers exactly what they’re about?

  • A Girl Kills Another Girl and Then Goes to Prison – well, that’s unique. Not.
  • A Woman Talks about Depression and Gets Really Depressed – bloody hell, I was depressed when I picked up this book. Now…
  • A Family are Dead Hard and Dodgy, Getting Caught Up in a Crime – Er, The Krays anyone?

Yep. There’s a reason why no one should take being literal lightly or, often, literally.

Fluffily Metaphorical

What about the other side? How about I get highly metaphorical and go into the fluffy world of imagery that really doesn’t make sense?

  • Deep Stuff Gets Deep – please stay there, buried deep.
  • The Darkness Becomes a Vortex of Sound – and echoes a lot of bullshit
  • A Familial Cacophony of Consequences – er, what? I’ve confused myself.

Yeah, sounds so bad it hurts. Note to self: do not be a fluffily metaphorical twat waffle.

The Pressure of a Name

Epic Search for a Novel Title - Gifted Children BookI place far too much stress upon myself with this naming business. As I am revising and editing I wonder what it will be. I tell myself to chill the eff out and wait until it’s finished. Surely then, when it’s all done the title will jump out at me? Does it heck.

So I revise and edit. A line is bound to jump out that IS the title. Instead I am stuck with a sea of words swimming in front of me and a potential title sinking to the place where all good title ideas go to die.

I can come up with titles for short stories with little effort. Sometimes I have the title before I begin writing.

I guess it’s easier to summarise a shorter piece. A novel has so much going on in it within many pages. I just don’t know how to sum all those words I have bled out on top the page within a title. I guess it will always be this way.

Until then this novel has the working title of Will You Bloody Well Name Yourself, You Bastard. Bestseller for the win.


About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

8 comments on “The Epic Search For a Novel Title

  1. AH HA I needed that laugh! Your responses to these killed me :

    How to Succeed in Business Without a Penis – oh, the difficulties of being a eunuch.

    The Manly Art of Knitting – picture a Hell’s Angel wearing a knitted helmet cover.

    I’m sorry to say that I love creating titles. In fact, I have written stories simply because I have a title that needs a tale.
    The tale of the lost title? No…now I’m saying title too much and it’s losing all meaning.

    Anyway, have you asked for help? Can we help?

    I’ve often wondered if I could start a title selling gig?

    All titles all the time.
    The title of all time.
    Only time will title.

    Okay I’m sleepy and being weird – time to go!

    1. Sleepy and weird is my default state,Theresa!

      Prepare yourself for a pained request for a title should I be about to publish without one, which is highly likely.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Here are a few that popped in my head just based on your 80’s blog. Of course I haven’t read the story so I could be way off – but any little nibbler may help?

    Growing up and Growing old in Oxfordshire

    Living now, dreaming of then.

    Death of a childhood.

    1980’s, The time of our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.