How Important Is the Name Of Your Novel?

How much should you worry about this?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about what I might call my next book.

It’s officially NaNoWriMo season — God help me — and I’ve had the same idea for a novel bouncing around in my head since the beginning of the year.

But unlike most of my previous NaNo projects (they make you add a title when you register for the year, at least from what I remember), I don’t know what I’m going to name this one.

For reasons I really don’t think even I know how to explain, this story resonates deeply with me. (Two of the story’s focus characters are married — I know next to nothing about that madness). I know it’s going to be one of those projects where the name ties everything together by the time it’s all over.

The more I’ve struggled to think of a name that works, the more I’ve realized it really doesn’t matter what the book is called. Not yet, anyway.

Because sometimes, even in the early planning stages, the name just comes to you. And it sticks.

But there are also times when you can’t give your story a name until you finish writing the story.

There are writers out there who need to have as much planned out in advance as possible before they start writing. I personally think that can waste a lot of time, depending on how you go about it and how willing you are to stray from your outline. But that’s just my opinion.

There are others — like myself — who let the story unfold inside their heads. Other than that, there’s little to no hands-on planning involved. At least not until you start writing.

As much or as little as you plan out your story — whether you write things down or keep it all inside — I think your novel’s name is the least of your worries.

Agonizing over what you’re going to call your story feels a lot like worrying about how you’re going to sell your book before you actually start writing it.

You might be able to come up with an amazing, catchy, maybe even CLEVER book title. But that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t also create an amazing, catchy, maybe even CLEVER story to match it.

Maybe having a name motivates you.

Maybe stressing over the little things is how you cope with your anxiety over starting to write this new thing you’re not sure anyone will even like anyway.

I don’t know — maybe you just think it’s fun.

And all these reasons are completely legitimate. As long as you aren’t letting the lack of a book title stop you from actually writing.

It’s when you start letting the small details take away from your deep writing time that these things become problematic. Writing a story should always be the first and most important (and time-consuming) task on your to-do list. That doesn’t mean everything else isn’t important. It just means there comes a point when you have to stop distracting yourself with low priorities and get your work done.

What’s the best book title you’ve ever come across? It could be your own. It could be something you saw in passing while browsing a bookstore. Maybe it’s the title of your favorite book. For some reason, The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time will remain at the top of my list of favorites for awhile. I just love it so much.

Wow, distractions. My apologies. What were we talking about?


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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