Editing Tip of the Day: Title Woes
Who's ready for a few quick tips on how to pick out a title for your novel?
1. Remember that your title is probably going to change. So if you can't come up with The Absolute Perfect title, that's okay. Many publishers will want to have input on your title, and they know a lot about what sells across categories and genres. Come up with as good a title as you can, but be open to changing it.
2. Check out comp titles. Do you see any patterns? Some genres have different expectations for word length for titles. Fantasy is more willing to accept longer titles, for example. Romance titles often reference one of the characters somehow. Action-packed stories tend to have shorter, punchier titles. Mystery series' often have something in common across all their titles.
3. Shoot for a word count title in the right range. For most genres and age categories, titles fall within one to six words.
4. Avoid subtitles. Especially if they're redundant or overly-explanatory. An info dump in the title is not a good sign. For example, if I wrote a serious novel and titled it The Sleeping Cat: A Novel About Naptime, Purring, and Forgiveness, you probably would back away slowly. Some kinds of non-fiction books can get away with this sort of title, but it's much rarer in fiction.
5. Don't chase trends. Remember a couple years ago when so many hit books had "girl" in the title? It became a joke. And if someone tried to capitalize on that trend and titled their book accordingly, by the time the book was actually published, the trend would be long over.
6. Look at your manuscript for repeated themes and imagery, important lines, or significant places or characters. Most books draw on these elements for their titles. It's often rewarding for a reader to discover the passage a title is taken from.
7. When in doubt, keep it simple.
That's it for today. Have fun editing, and as always, let us know if you have any thoughts or suggestions in the comments!
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Every Wednesday and Saturday we bring you an edit tip of the day. Be sure to check out the archives for our popular summer series of SHOW DON'T TELL workshops!