Searching For a New Title

If you’re anything like me, you spend a long time coming up with the perfect title for your novels and short stories. Some writers give their manuscripts numbers or nicknames until they’ve found something ideal. PublishersMarketplace often lists sales of projects as “Working Title” because agents and editors know the title pitched isn’t perfect/already recently exists/hasn’t been approved by the editing committee.

The title is one of the elements I always know when I begin a novel. Every title I’ve attached to my works has at least 4-5 different meanings to the piece.

I write thrillers, and one word titles seem to work best for this genre. Lisa Gardner’s titles Gone, Hide and Alone come to mind. And of course the Twilight blockbuster trilogy which has made one-word titles such a hit.

The title for my debut thriller novel is perfect: Staccato. This definer, along with the cover photo of hands clasped in handcuffs, hovering over a piano keyboard, give the perfect set-up. I had the Staccato title from day one of story conception and was thrilled when Second Wind Publishing agreed to keep my original title and the cover concept.

Now I’m polishing the second book in the Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series and I’m rethinking the original title: Ice on Fire. Yes, there are problems . . . people are constantly calling the project Fire on Ice, which has been used as a title before. To me, these titles have completely different meanings and implications, but not to others. And the visual of a jagged edge chunk of ice with fire licking upward would make a really cool cover photo.

But after spending time with my writer friend, Jeffrey Siger, who’s second novel Assassins of Athens just came out from Poisoned Pen Press, I’m thinking I should not only go with a compelling one-word title, but completely redo my existing title’s concept. Jeffrey suggested I stick with the music theme since the plot also involves the music world (this time a rock star is in peril). I think that’s a great idea, so I’ve been kicking around options and looking through music term glossaries.

And so, for the first time ever I’m considering a different title that the one I originally came up with. Nothing has rung my bell yet, but I like: Resonance, Vibrato, Cadence, Velocity (my favorite so far, but not really a musical term unless I add another term to it) Frequency, Counterpoint. Any one-word suggestions for the title of the next book would be greatly appreciated!

What about you? Have you ever needed to change the “perfect” title of one of your novels?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.


Filed under fiction, marketing, music, writing

14 responses to “Searching For a New Title

  1. I tend not to get hung up titles, Deb. Sometimes they come early, before I sit down to write the first word, but most of the time they come during the process. My WIP is Cobb’s Conscience, which has been a working title since day one. As I near the 60,000 word mark it looks as if I may change the title to simply Amanda. Although Amanda has been dead for more than 60 years, she plays a big part in the story. I also like the single word title, and a woman’s name to boot.

    As for your title, how about something like Cacophony or Dissonance? Both are musical terms for disharmony, which is suggestive of murder.

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, J. Conrad. I will put your titles on my list of possibilities.

  3. Keeping to the music theme for titles is a good idea since the books are part of a series, but unfortunately none of those suggested have quite the zip that you need. This isn’t helpful since I don’t have an alternative suggestion, but I’ll keep my eyes open for a possibility.

    As for changing the titles of my novels, yes. I started out with Law of the Jungle, changed it to Nature of the Beast, and ended up with More Deaths Than One.

    Light Bringer for my upcoming novel is not a good choice, since it’s a fairly common name, but unfortunately, it is the only choice. Everything in the book revolves around light and light bringers.

    I think my title Daughter Am I is a good one, and I’m still satisfied with it, but I am flooded with google alerts for “daughter. Am I” Such as, “What does she expect from me as her daughter. Am I such as terrible person as to want a life of my own?”

  4. Yeah, I’m still looking for that single compelling one-word title, Pat. I like your choice of “Light Bringer” and it certainly fits the theme of your novel. Amusing about the searches related to your “Daughter Am I” title!

  5. The title is the first thing I write – it’s the foundation of the novel to me.

    Velocity by Dean Koontz – already taken.

    Dissonance, Tremolo, Intonation, Discord. I like Vibrato and Resonance, too.

    Outside of one-word titles, Conundrum in C Minor, Death in D Minor, Evil in E Minor, and so on.

  6. Portato (another articulation), Vivace, Vivo, Agitato, Furioso, Animato, Brillante…

    Those are all I can think of that seem obvious to a non-musician. 🙂

  7. Not really interested in getting caught in the Sue Grafton trap of letters associated with titles–also I do want to keep it at one word if at all possible. I like Resonance, but don’t want it sound too “romance.” Tremolo is fun and Discord is nice and disturbing. Thanks for the suggestions, JJ.

  8. I like Discord. Crescendo is good too. It is trcky to get something musical but also fits a mystery/murder story.
    Allegro could work too. It implies action so it may work.
    Good luck.

  9. Thanks for your suggestions, Eric. I like Crescendo!

  10. christinehusom

    Crescendo is good! I often struggle with titles, but I had both “Buried in Wolf Lake” and “An Altar by the River” before, or soon after I started writing. One word titles are great, especially when they convey a message so well.

  11. For a rock star, perhaps you’d like to use something that relates?
    Percussion, Beat, Cymbal, Snare (as in snare drum), Album, Riff, Tambourine, Rhythm, Grace note, Half note, Quarter time, quarter note…
    you get the drift here…Help stop me before I go insane!

  12. Percussion is very interesting, Mickey! That one goes to the top of the list. Thanks so much.

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