What’s in a Name?

Photo by Engin Akyurt

I love most aspects of the writing process, including editing. The magical inspiration that strikes when you least expect it. Getting to know the characters. And even more, seeing how the story develops because no matter what, the path I have planned is always changed because the characters want to go in a different direction. Editing helps me take the big blob of words that have been written and shapes and molds them into a finished product I can be proud of.

One aspect of the process is my Achille's heel … titling the book. I feel completely inadequate to the task of taking the 70,000 words I've written and assigning something meaningful and that will appeal to the intended audience for the book. Not that I have ever written a word in a manuscript without a title because I also need something to refer to it by, even if only to myself.

What's the big deal? I know many authors who label their manuscript something they know they are going to change. I've tried to do that, but somehow knowing the name is fake interrupts my ability to concentrate on the writing. Unfortunately, my skills in naming books is on the weak side, so I may hit it lucky occasionally, but otherwise come up with 50 terrible titles to reach one halfway decent one.

I have successfully named two books in my career … where the names stuck and didn't change prior to publication.
7th Grade Revolution and The Journal of Angela Ashby.

WHY am I rattling on about naming books? Titles are important—they need to convey something about the book in short form that is appealing. I'm in the middle of editing a (most likely) 5-book series and four of the books had names

(actually they have had several names because they have changed more than once), but the publisher decided the names were a bit more YA than we needed. The problem is the readers for the Katie McCabe Series are upper, upper Middle Grade and lower Young Adult. So the themes in the series are definitely geared toward a slightly older audience than the standard Middle Grade, but the characters are younger than the standard YA protagonists. Which means, we walk a very careful line in positioning these books so they reach the readers we want. I am happy to say, we (again) have a title for Book 2:

Winds Blowing South of Happy

Changing titles is difficult for me because I can put down roots in a hotel room. So having three titles yanked from the books to be replaced with Book 2, Book 3, and Book 4 has been a bit disturbing. I agree with the assessment of the other titles, by the way. I'm just more comfortable with being able to call them something distinct vs. generic.

The pain of having to change the title has been worth it because I absolutely adore this title and it is perfect for the continuation of the series. If fact the tag line for this book is:

How do you find happiness when you've lost everything you've ever known?

The picture at the top of this post is significant because I feel like in the face of the oncoming wind we have successfully raised the flag. Now to work on the titles for books 3 and 4, and to put down the outline for book 5, so it can be named as well. And I cannot WAIT to see what we come up with as a cover for Winds Blowing South of Happy.

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