Friday, May 21, 2010

Choosing a Title for Your Novel

The title of your novel is almost as important as the story itself. It needs to be compelling enough to jump off the shelf into your reader's arms. In essence, the title of your book is the distillation of your entire story. While some writers find it incredibly easy to come up with a title, others may take months or even years before finding a title that works for them. Here are some tips to make the process easier.

1. Find your inspiration within the pages. Is there a bit of dialogue that was particularly compelling? Often, the best titles are inspired by something a character says. Instead of trying to force a title before you even begin a book, find your inspiration within its pages. 

  2. Avoid the temptation to be trite. Many writers fall into the trap of creating a title that is overly cute or trite. Your title needs to be compelling enough to get an editor to take a second look before throwing your manuscript in the slush pile. They are inured to trite titles and will often judge an entire book just by the title alone.

3. Make a list of important plot points. Some of the world's greatest titles are drawn from a plot point. The outstanding illustration of this is Agatha Christie. She would often make the title of her books a clue as to what was happening within the pages or use a scrap of dialogue. For example, "And Then There Were None," this book follows a group of people who are gradually killed off as the plot moves. The title lets the reader know that these characters are going to be picked off, one by one, until there are none left.

No matter what your story is about, the words in your title are often the most important words you will write.


  1. A game I play: Go to a bookstore or library and look only at titles. Don't allow yourself to pick up the books. Write down the titles of the books you want to physically pick up. When you have ten or more, go home and analyze what works for you.
    That's bound to be a good title.

  2. I love this post. As writers we also have to be marketers - we market our words to agents, editors, the money guys at the publisher, and to our readers. We also have to market our work in progress to ourselves, so we will stick with it until it is finished - honed to the shiny best it can be.
    A good title can do all of that.


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