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Strategies For Finding Your Novel’s Title

Bookcase with Text Strategies For Finding Your Novel's Title Finding a fitting title for your novel can be a frustrating, tear-inducing, hair-pulling process. As I understand, editors and publishers might toy with and tweak your title before your book is published, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong working title for your WIP! A unique title will help your query stand out as you seek publication, and having a title that fits your work well can keep you focused on the overall message of your story as you write it.

So, how do you select a fitting title? There’s a billion methods, but here’s a few strategies that could work for you:

  • Examine your novel’s theme or overall message, and see if there’s something to be mined there.
  • Take a word or phrase directly from the novel.
  • Pull from mythology or a fairy tale with some special significance to your story.
    The title of the As Meat Loves Salt comes from a fairy tale about a love so reliant on and encompassing its subject, the lover (meat) is unpalatable without its love (salt). This is a broader, poignant metaphor for the rather toxic love story at the novel’s centerpiece.
  • Find significant lines of dialogue within your novel, and mine those for ideas.
  • Consider a title that has a double meaning once your reader has finished your story.
  • Use a description of your main character or setting.
  • Try a phrase that describes the overall plot.
    In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, for example, details the heinous and senseless murders of the Cutter family and the deadly trial of the murderers.

Bottom line: You want your novel’s title to set the tone for your story and prepare (and entice) your readers for the experience awaiting them. If your novel is comedic in tone, don’t choose a serious-sounding title just because it seems more dramatic or professional. And don’t use a jokey title if you want your novel’s tone to be darker and more solemn.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite novel titles, each of which evoke a certain quality about the story to come:

We Have ALways Lived in the Castle Book Cover

We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson

Tell the Wolves I'm Home Novel Cover

Tell The Wolves I’m Home, Carol Rifka Brunt

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist Book Cover

Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size of a Fist, Sunil Yapa

It's Kind of a Funny Story Book Cover

It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book cover

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

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I hope these strategies and titles inspired you to come up with an amazing title for your own work! If you have a title — either from your own work or someone else’s — that you just LOVE, comment below, tell me all about it! Do you have another method for coming up with titles for your stories?? Share it in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  • Reply Emily Seals

    Titles are haaaaaard. I still don’t have one for my current WIP. But your suggestions are helpful, and I love all of those examples.

    July 24, 2017 at 12:48 pm
    • Reply happywriter

      I HATE having to come with titles. šŸ™ I’m glad these examples helped, though! It’s a tough process. I wish you luck in finding your title soon. I know the struggle, I don’t have a title for my NaNoWriMo WIP. I keep just calling it “Forest Fantasy WIP”, lol.

      July 31, 2017 at 10:44 pm

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