Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Having just finished the final edits for the first novel, there’s a real sense of satisfaction, of the last few exhausted steps taken, the starting post a forgotten blur. Hewn from that first flicker of an idea several years ago into an eddying mass of ideas and voices, I can scarcely believe it all came together. I have the enthusiasm of agent and editor to thank for safe passage over the final hurdles and now, in between writing the next one, all I have to do is find a name for it. Simple. 

But of course it isn’t. At least not this time. 

Over the years I became attached to (even fond of) the book’s working title (All That Binds Us), but there was a sense, during the final brushstrokes, that it wasn’t quite right. It didn’t entirely capture the novel’s essence, its heart. And so the hunt began.

I think titles either turn up promptly, keenly in the early days of a book’s life or they can prove rather elusive. They have to work incredibly hard, yet without seeming to. They must resonate, achieving perfect and harmonious evocation of all those words and themes and motifs inside. They must be compelling yet not hackneyed, intriguing but not pretentious. You hope they will be well received, loved even, that they’ll roll off people’s tongues with a flourish and lyricism that somehow takes on a meaning of its own. You hope to fuck you don’t choose a howler. As I said, not always so simple.

Think of your favourite books. Now give them a stinker of a name and watch their lustre fade. 

Perhaps I’m overstating the case.  

I at least now have a shortlist, which I’m tempted to post, but must resist for now. I will, however, announce soonly which I go for. Then there’s just the small matter of the cover.


Sue Guiney said...

I'm struggling with this right now. For my other books, the name just popped into my head. For my wip, it's been a real struggle. I've tried out dozens, even deciding that there was one to call "the one." But I was wrong and now after weeks, I have finally settled onto a new title -- but interestingly, it was one of the very first I thought of. We'll see if this one sticks. You are so right...titles are crucial, but very difficult.

Paul said...

I suspect the worth of most titles is over-hyped. They may be exactly right, but that doesn't mean they provide allure to a potential reader. Bel Canto has no appeal to me as a title, but I loved the novel. Moby Dick?


I would love to see that shortlist! Good luck with the choosing. It's v important as you say - it's the advertising for your work.