Monday, December 9, 2013

Title Time

It's that most accursed of times, when a title must be agreed upon for the upcoming book, and days are spent trolling for suitable words like a rhode island crabber looking for bubbles in the sand. (i totally just made that up, as i don't really know how crabbing works, but that's evidence of the flawed imagination that really isn't serving me well right now.)

My technique, honed over more than a dozen books so far, has evolved to this:

1. come up with what seems like a clever title and pretend that *this* time, the marketing people will recognize my subtly erudite word-mastery. Pull the wool over agent's, and occasionally editor's, eyes until we're all convinced we've got a gem.

2. editor returns from marketing meeting, soundly thrashed, with the title shredded and stuffed into a wadded brown paper lunch sack, told to try again.

3. write about 30 titles in frenzy of i'll-show-them-ism. each quirkier than the last, they all hint at magical realism. That is not good for selling commercial women's fiction, it turns out.

4. stern talking-to ensues.

5. at this point i remember the sage advice from my mentor Craig McDonald when i was trying to retitle my very first published novel, the one that eventually became A BAD DAY FOR SORRY: head for the bible and country music lyrics.

6. in this round, i am more methodical, and construct tables of possible word choices and constructions. sometimes i try things that are trending in the market. You know, like "The Art of BLAH" or "BLAH in the Time of BLAH" and so forth.  Usually I can get another thirty or so out this way.

7. Rejected.

8. That brings us to the stage I'm in now, where things fall apart a bit. I beseech friends to help (it's always, for some reason, easier to write friends' titles than one's own) and I spend a lot of time looking up synonyms for promising words and then getting distracted by the search results and wandering down google rabbit holes.

So i don't have a title yet (though another thirty new efforts will be rattling around my editor's in-box tomorrow morning), but I did stumble across this gorgeous Bukowski, using the unlikeliest of search strings:

Carson McCullers

she died of alcoholism
wrapped in a blanket
on a deck chair
on an ocean
all her books of
terrified loneliness 
all her books about
the cruelty
of loveless love 
were all that was left
of her 
as the strolling vacationer
discovered her body 
notified the captain 
and she was quickly dispatched
to somewhere else
on the ship 
as everything
continued just
she had written it

- Charles Bukowski


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