I always require that my students title everything – and not just “Narrative Essay” or “Haiku”. I tell them, if the introductory paragraph or first few lines are like the first impression upon meeting someone, then the title is like catching eyes across the room – it is the thing that will get them to come across the room in the first place. And I’m not walking across the room to read “Narrative Essay.”
I also admit that I understand fully what it is that I am asking them to do because I hate writing titles – I would hire someone to write my titles for me if I could. In my own experience, I either have the title first, and the story or poem stems from that – or I finish what I’m writing and pull all my hair out trying to find something suitable to sit above it.
My nerdiest title is still PS129.I7646 2015. (I even have a version in case I ever published it under my pen name.) It’s the title of a poem that uses a book as a metaphor – the title is the Library of Congress classification for this metaphorical book. It took me four librarians to figure it out. 🙂 Librarians are magic rock stars. Seriously. One of them (Hi Carol!) even took the time to write out why she thought I should use PS129 (memoir) over CT25 (autobiography).
The title of my first book came about because I misread a billboard while driving. I can’t even tell you how I got from “All Feelings are Valid” to “All Falling Things,” but I’m grateful for it. 😛
My third book, the YA, I had the title for before I wrote it. My new work in progress I have title for that fits within the world it comes from – and I even have a backup.
But my second book? It has really been like pulling hair out of my head trying to figure out what to title it. I finished the first draft of this manuscript on Oct 31, 2020. I just called it “Lucy” after the main character knowing it would be a working title. Though there have been moments where I though, nope, it’s just gonna be the title ’cause I got nothin’ else, and I’ve written an entire other manuscript in the meantime…
I tried out a few phrases and words and tossed them around and sat with them. There was Looking for Lucy and Someday We Will and Wherever Would I Be. There was Catching Lucy. There was, for the briefest of minutes, The Girl with the Sun in Her Eyes (a lyric from The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”), but my beta readers thought it was a bit cumbersome for a title, and they were right. My beta readers even offered a few ideas of their own – Firefly’s Journey; Firefly’s Light; Path of the Firefly.
But still, nothing felt right.
I went down another rabbit hole of words yesterday, starting with a word and clicking through synonyms. Playing with sound. Looking up fireflies (I know more about them now than I ever thought I would). And somewhere along the line I stumbled upon Luminous. And I found I kept returning to it throughout the day, so I decided to sit with it overnight.
The next morning, it was still with me, so I passed it along to a couple folks, and they dug it. So that’s it – Lucy’s manuscript is officially named Luminous.
The hardest thing to know is that if this book ever finds its way into a traditional publisher’s catalog, that all this stress and worry could be for naught. Publisher’s have the last say on titles for a number of reasons, so there’s a chance they will come up with something else. BUT – one needs a title to catch their attention in the first place, so here we are.
Though now I’m back to thinking about Wherever Would I Be. [strained smile]