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Writing Right: The Blog

CRAFTING A NEW BOOK'S TITLE

Coming up with a working title for a new book is easy. You just simply throw some words down on paper, and move on. Coming up with a working title that you like for a new book is a little tougher. And it's even more difficult, according to many authors, if you want to work your main character's name into the title without drowning the book's cover in words!

 

But, with that said, I have the perfect solution to your quandry. It's as simple as getting down to the basics of business, and you can do that in two words.

 

The first word is your character's last name.

 

The second word is an appropriate descriptive adjective placed before the first word.

 

Follow that up with a read-out, blurb, or sub-title (they all serve the same purpose—to further describe your book at a glance), and you're home free.

 

As an example, I once wrote a novel about a brilliant if eccentric Jewish writer-turned-detective, Hyman Stiehl, aka Hymie. He's a character; he's offbeat; he's a bulldog. Once he clamps onto something, he never lets go. Here's what I chose for the title and readout:

 

SOLID STIEHL

 

The Death and Life of Hymie Stiehl

 

Simple, no? Simple, yes! And effective. The title isn't enough to explain what the book might be about, so the read-out fills in some of the blanks. It's about the life of someone with a very uncharacteristic name. Hmm. And someone for whom death comes before life? Double hmm. Death and life? Life and death? What's going on here? This just might be a book that makes for an interesting read. Or at least be worth a closer look.

 

Along with that, I realized I needed a really unique cover that captured the tone of the book, which is witty and sardonic enough to grab the viewer's attention even while creating some questions in his mind. So, I designed one, which I executed from scratch. (It helps that I'm both a professional photographer and graphic artist, I know—thanks, Columbia College; I owe you one.)

 

If you'd like to see the finished product, you'll find it at this Amazon link.

 

Sound too, too simple? It is. Ridiculously so. And remarkably effective.

 

Remember, no matter what you're trying to title—a novel, magazine article, newspaper piece, film, musical composition—a read-out is an artist's best friend. You can commit literal murder in writing the title because your read-out is always ready to come to the rescue.

 

You can thank me tomorrow. Until then ...

 

Smoke if you've got 'em.

 

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D. J. Herda is author of the new eBook series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere.

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