I think it’s safe to say that one of my least favorite parts of writing is coming up with a title. Sometimes, they come immediately, and they are perfect, and they say exactly what they need to about the story, and they pack just the right amount of punch.
That’s about 0.000000001% of the time.
The rest of the time, it’s me wrestling with words as I slog through my brain, trying to pull that perfect title out and wrestle it into submission. It’s never an easy battle.
I recently went through this with book 2, and I’m still going through it with that manuscript. I was originally going to call it “Shaded Sun” as a way of linking the first book Chasing Shadows with what was eventually going to be “Light Runner”, aka book 3, but no one really understood the title, and every time it was spoken aloud, it sounded awkward, like people were struggling to get it past their teeth. And in the end, the same thing started to happen to me. The sound was fuzzy, I stopped liking it, and the weird, lofty idea behind it finally unraveled at the seams. Light vs. dark is still a prominent theme in the Star Hunters trilogy, and will continue to be, but I’m at the point where I really don’t think it’s necessary to shove that in my reader’s face with the title. I’m not even sure that “Light Runner” will be what I call book 3. There’s something that I still like about it, but if it ends up not fitting, then it simply will not be.
Coming up with titles for novels, however, is particularly frustrating because you need something that not only makes sense for the work, but also resonates with readers and stands out. You want something that will come right up when people search for it. Which is something that doesn’t really happen with Chasing Shadows, since there were already several books with that title by the time I published it. While titles themselves aren’t copyrighted, you still don’t really want your readers to have to pick your book out from a crowd of identical titles. That was something I learned the hard way, and is probably what led to “Shaded Sun” in the first place. There are no books with that title. At least, not that I’ve been able to find. But still, a one-of-a-kind title isn’t enough if no one likes to say it, or if it looks better written down than it sounds spoken aloud. If people are going to talk about your book, they’re going to have to say the title, and it would be best if they enjoyed doing so.
A friend of mine suggested naming book 2 after one of the planets that shows up in the story. While an interesting thought, I don’t think I have a large enough audience to justify that. Which isn’t to say I don’t have any appreciation for the readers that I do have (sooooo far from it!!), but that a made up word just probably would not work. It would be unique, but I have the feeling that it would be too unique, to the point where potential readers would have trouble remembering it if they weren’t familiar with the series already. Even my current readers probably wouldn’t understand it unless they had already read book 2. Maybe some people might remember a title like that, but when the time came to sit down and type it into a search bar, it would need to be spelled correctly in order to come up, and that’s not likely to happen if they didn’t make a point of memorizing the spelling whenever they first saw / heard the title. That strikes me as a bit unfair to demand of potential readers. If you already have a large readership and lots of fans that can enthusiastically spread your work around and hammer the title home, you might be able to pull that off, but at this point, I don’t think that I personally could.
So with all of that in mind, I’ve been fiddling with potential titles for book 2. One that some of my first readers really like is “Awakened”, though there are already a number of vampire novels with that title. While I have nothing against vampire novels, that would lead right back to that crowded title problem. Frustratingly enough, “Awakened” is probably the best title for the book. It ties in with the content in more ways than one, has a good solid sound and meaning, and is something that most people would probably remember pretty easily. But I’m far from the first author to have realized that.
I was toying with “Awakened Sun” for a while, but I agreed with the people who said that “Awakened” was just a better title. I was playing with “burning” and “sun” for a bit, but I think I’m ditching those words altogether. “Light” keeps wanting to make its way into the title, and while “Awakened Light” sounds nice, there’s something about it that makes me shy away from it. So, ultimately, I’m probably just going to try to reduce the manuscript down to the simplest and most prominent element that I can, and stick with that. Right now, that is “Awakened”, thought it probably will not stay. And if it does, I’ll have to eat my words, I suppose.
Fellow writers, have you ever struggled with a title? Writers and readers, have you ever come across a perfect title? Or maybe a not so perfect title?