Friday, April 2, 2010

Title Tricks

Would you read a book called Tomorrow is Another Day? How about First Impressions?

Actually, I'm willing to bet you have -- but not under their original titles.

Tomorrow is Another Day (l); First Impressions (r)

I am in the (agonizing) process of coming up with a title for a book due out next spring. It's been "untitled manuscript" for so long, I'd almost forgotten I needed to come up with a title for the darned thing! My poor friends and family are being badgered to death as I try out new ideas on them or beg for their suggestions.

I loved my friend Mary's trick -- she makes a list of all of the exciting words in a manuscript and plays around with them until the title clicks into place.

Maybe I just don't have enough exciting words in this book! Nothing is clicking. I need help.

Quick: what are your titling tricks?

No rush. . . but I've only got till the end of the month.


  1. Kirby, when I was the editor of MSN, I learned all sorts of things about what would make a person click on a headline.

    A book title is different in a lot of ways, but one principle that is the same: you want your title to evoke a mystery that will make someone want to look inside.

    So, what's the most unusual part of your book? Is there a really resonant line?

    Holly C. really worked hard to come up with Tell Me A Secret. That was actually a line spoken by one of the characters, and it's perfect. (So easy to see these things in hindsight.)

    I can't wait to read it, whatever it's called. By Kirby Larson is a good enough title for me.

  2. Kirby, I think there's really only one sure fire trick for coming up with the smashingest title: ply Barbara O'Connor with a case of rot gut Blue Label Cafe Francais and ask her to cough up her secret, because she is hands down the best title writer in the business. I think she once said she comes up with the title first, then first line (followed, I'm guessing, with a list of awards she'll receive). After that, she writes the story.

    Or, you could take the title of my non-existent novel: Award Winning Instant Classic. Think of the possibilities: "Have you read Kirby Larson's Award Winning Instant Classic?" "Due out next spring: Award Winning Instant Classic by Kirby Larson" And so on.

  3. Ah, Martha -- you made me blush.

    I'll keep after it!

  4. Martha, thanks for the reference! I was going to tell Kirby the long, painful story of 200+ brainstorms, the agony, the...what was it, five?...different titles...and finally, at the eleventh hour, providence kicked in.

    Providence, Kirby! Providence! So, not really all that helpful, am I? ;)

    I think Martha hit the nail on the head. Geri's idea isn't bad, either!

  5. I don't know if it will help, but here's a link to an article I wrote about titles years ago. Maybe you'll find a title pattern in the article that will spark an idea: