Monday, February 4, 2013

How Important is a Title? Huge!

Muse Monday
Coming up with titles is a struggle. Sometimes they come to me as if out of ether. Others take a hammer and a crow bar to pry an idea from my head.

I don't believe I've ever known the title of a story or book before well into the manuscript, except once. One of my favorite published short stories, Amanda in the Summer, came to me from a wedding announcement. In fact, the entire story grew from the title. The announcement was printed on an 8 1/2 x 11 page of parchment. The bride's name was Amanda and it was a summer wedding. When I pulled the page out of the envelope, it was folded so that the words Amanda, in and summer aligned. Amanda in the Summer struck my fancy.

My first published novel, Sleeping with the Lights On, had the working title Of Men and Bullshit. I knew that wouldn't stick but because I drew on my sister's dating experiences, well, it fit. It was somewhere around page two hundred that the title came to me. Abby asks Sandra how she can get any sleep if her husband doesn't come home that night. Sandra tells her to sleep with the lights on - which she's been doing since her divorce. And so we hope Sandra finds love again so she can turn the lights off.

The same sort of epiphany gave me the title for Honey On White Bread. I didn't even have a working title. There were scenes that would come to me while riding in the car or falling asleep at night. One of those times, I saw my heroine, Claire, and the hero, Benjamin, in a sweet moment. (This story takes place in 1945.) Ben explains to Claire why she's so special.
“You know what honey does to plain white bread?” He kissed my cheek softly, his lips like the touch of a butterfly wing. “You dribble it on, slow…and…thick. The bread soaks the honey in and changes.” His lips caressed my earlobe. “Well, I’m white bread to your honey.”
My short story about a blind date, which I originally titled Blind Date (brilliant, huh?) became Tattoos, Leather and Studs because the hero is wearing just that. And I wanted a sexy title.

Right now I'm working on a three book series. The titles I've come up with may or may not hold once an editor gets them. Because they're a series, I wanted a common thread. They are mystery/suspense and of course romance. Love and Murder series sounded good to me. The first book concerns art so The Art of Love and Murder is the title. But I didn't come up with either the series name or the book title until the first book was written. I put out a cry for help on Facebook for the second and third book. I needed to submit the series to my agent and couldn't do it without titles - an impossible task for me before I've even written the books. With help from my FB friends I have Southwest of Love and Murder (the book takes place in the southwest) and A Legacy of Love and Murder (the plot deals with an inheritance).

The last book I released, The Morning After, has a funny story about the title. I can't remember what title I suggested to my editor once the book was accepted, but she didn't like it. I submitted five more titles and she vetoed all of them. She's tough! Then she emailed me and told me when I originally submitted the book I entitled my email The Morning After. I guess way back I had that title and forgot! She liked it.

P.S. If you aren't part of my Quarterly Newsletter Group, I hope you'll consider it and be eligible for an Amazon Gift Card in February and April.



  1. Sometimes I thinking coming up with the title is harder than writing the book. Like you, I usually have a working title and then something comes to me while writing.

  2. Titles should be fun - but usually aren't. I frequently want to slit my wrist when I'm trying to come up with them. I'm also working on a series, and I do like playing with the continuity. The first title wrote itself - We'll Never Tell. Three little girls witness a murder and make a promise. The second has a ghost, so - She'll Never Rest. The third is about a woman with a secret tragedy in her past - He'll Never Know. For the record, I love The Morning After. It's an attention grabber.

    1. Those are great series titles, Jannine. Good luck!

  3. I can NEVER think of a good title till I'm well into a book.Or in some cases when I've finished it. I think of great titles and keep a list, but they've never yet matched anything I'm writing. Aaarrrrgggghhhh!
    Yours are great. I've noticed before. I particularly like Sleeping with the Lights on and Honey on White Bread. Maybe I should consult you on my next one!

    1. Oh no, Jenny, don't ask! I labor over them usually. LOL