Writing Wednesdays: How to come up with a title for your novel

December 13, 2017
Titles are either a stroke of instant inspiration, or like pulling teeth. In this post, I share a few tips on how to come up with a title for your novel.

We’re all guilty of judging a book by its cover. Equally, we can also be guilty of judging a book by its title. So in this week's Writing Wednesday post, I want to talk about how to come up with the title for your book.

In my experience, titles either come easily and are almost instinctive to the book, or they’re something you wrestle with time and time again.

Here’s a little backstory as to how I got the titles of my four published works:

The Kissing Booth -

I’d started writing and at that point, all I knew about the story was who my characters were, and that Elle and Noah would kiss at a kissing booth. I had to call it something to save the document, so I went with ‘The Kissing Booth’, so I’d know which story I was talking about when I looked through my files later. And I grew to kind of like it, so I never changed it.

Rolling Dice - 

This was a title based off the main character’s name. Madison’s family had the nickname ‘Dice’ for her, and I wanted to work with that somehow. I ended up picking ‘Rolling Dice’ because I thought it was really clever: there were a lot of sides to Madison she showed different people, she was taking a gamble with her new life and reinventing herself...

Out of Tune - 

My mum actually came up with the title for this one. The original working title was ‘Just Another Billet-Doux’ but after totally overhauling the story in rewrites, that didn’t work any more. I figured since music was a big theme for Todd, one of my main characters, and how he connects with protagonist Ashley, it should be something to do with music. 

Cwtch Me If You Can - 

This is my favourite title story, because it was a joke. My working title for this novella project was ‘Catch Me If You Can’, because the characters kept bumping into each other (mostly by coincidence). At a meeting with my agent where we talked about this, it was mentioned that maybe it’d be nice to have some sort of Welsh tie-in to the title, as it was for a Welsh publishing company and Welsh project. I joked, ‘what, like Cwtch Me If You Can?’ and it stuck! 

Now in the rest of this post, I want to give you a couple of ideas that will hopefully prompt you in the right direction if you're struggling to come up with a title for your story.

When you're thinking of a title sometimes it's good to brainstorm - which you might find useful to do for each of the below ideas. For my current WIP, I keep changing my mind on the title, so I've got a page in my notebook for it covered in post-it notes with different ideas for titles.

Whatever you come up with: write it down before you forget it.

Think of a meaningful quote/line/phrase in the novel

Is there something poignant that a character says? Maybe it's just an important conversation - when the character realises they can achieve what they set out to do, when they confess their love for someone. Or maybe it's a random line in a scene that's not plot-critical, and you just really like what you wrote. Maybe there's a running joke, a word that means something to the character. 

What inspired the novel

Something inspired you to write this book. What was it? Try working with that and spinning a few ideas around to see if something fits.

Consider the main themes of the novel

What are the main themes of your story? Romance? A journey of self-discovery? Friendship? Overthrowing a corrupt government? Maybe your title could reflect your main theme.

Something that reflects the protagonist or their struggle during the novel

Think about what your protagonist's journey is like throughout the novel, what milestones or hurdles they face, what kind of achievements they've made, what they've discovered about themselves. 

Something that reflects the main plot line of the novel

Your story might have some key focus that you can use as your title. Think The Hunger Games, The Selection, Fallen, Paper Towns. It can be as direct as these examples - like I did with The Kissing Booth. Sometimes the most obvious title is a good choice.

Is coming up with a title for your story something you struggle with? Do you have any tips for coming up with a title? Share in the comments below!

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