Naming Your Novel

by Karen Payton Holt

Choosing a title for your novel is tough. We all know it should grab your reader’s attention and relate the topic, but that is not always easy.

For me, it is a little like naming a child. Once I have a title, I feel a weight is lifted. The word ‘untitled’, ‘working title’, or that elusive feeling that I have given a ‘boy baby’ a girl’s name gnaws away at me until I have that ‘eureka’ moment.

So, what points should we consider when naming a novel? Here are some thoughts that can make this easier, or an awful lot more difficult (oh the pressure of a name).

1/ It must stand out and keep you out of the slush pile. For example, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ by Thomas Harris makes you want to know more, immediately.

2/ Use simple descriptive words. Take ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess, for example, who would not pick that up and read the jacket?

3/ One option is to keep it short and, some say, the shorter the better.

4/ Be specific. J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ are specific and suggest conflict on an epic scale.

5/ Making sure the title is not a spoiler is always a good idea… unless you want it to be! For example, my ‘Fire and Ice’ prequel is called ‘Death of Connor Sanderson’, which could be considered a spoiler.

6/ The title should represent the book. ‘How to Lose friends and Alienate People’ by Toby Young suggests comedy immediately, and it captures your imagination.

One parting note, always look for puns, acronyms, and double meanings. Be aware that words can have different meanings around the world. We all know that British English and US English have some colorful differences, right?

Does this send you running for the hills, tearing your hair out, or are you now thinking ‘I’ve got this’?

I asked the members on Writer’s Carnival to share their thoughts and experiences, and this is what they had to say. :


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