Friday, May 16, 2014

It's Not Like Picking Flowers

A writer friend frequently  poses a question on her facebook page. Today, she asked What's the title of your memoir? How many have actually written a full memoir book and can answer this question? Even so, let's suppose you had written pages and pages of your life story. What would you use for a title? 

It's not an easy question. I know because I sat at my computer staring at that question for longer than I should have. How in the world, I wondered, do you cover a lifetime in a smattering of words on the front cover of a book? I couldn't come up with a title I'd use on my (as yet unwritten) book. I bet it will be in the back of my mind all day long, however.

A few years ago, I wrote a short article for Absolutewrite newsletter about titles and quotes. You can read it here for a few ideas on selecting titles.

Titles serve to promote interest and to draw a reader to look more closely at the book. Selecting a title for your book article, essay, or short story--even a poem--is not to be taken lightly. It's serious business. You either hook or lose potential readers with your title. 

Only this morning, I had an editor send a final version of a story to be published in an anthology for my OK. She'd made some minor changes which worked fine for me. One of the changes she made was my title. She did it because of a category area in the book in which she wanted to place the story. She lifted a phrase from the story to use as the title--a good practice in selecting titles. It fit the story so well and I loved it. Made me mad that I hadn't thought of it myself. 

Many of the women in my online critique group ask critiquers to look at the title and give suggestions for a better one. I think many writers struggle with titles while a few have the perfect title at their fingertips for most of their work. I play around with titles for awhile before settling on the one that appears to fit best. Even with my blog posts, I sift and sort until I get a title that seems to work. Not for hours but I do give it some serious thought. 

The next time you go to your local library or bookstore, take a few minutes to peruse the titles on a shelf. Pay attention to the ones that reach out to you and make you want to look further at the book itself. Then try to analyze it a bit. Why did the title appeal to you? 

Choosing a title for your writing is not nearly as easy or as pleasurable as picking flowers!

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