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The Debuts: What are you going to call it?

Choosing the title of your novel is almost as big a decision as deciding to write it in the first place. Do you go for something quirky and run the risk of people not understanding it – or choose a more obvious title which then doesn’t sound interesting enough to capture people’s attention?

A novel might never get read by an editor or agent without a compelling title. Did you know that the original title for The Great Gatsby was “Trimalchio in West Egg?” Lucky for F. Scott Fitzgerald, his agent made him change it to something a bit catchier, otherwise the literary classic we know may never have been published.

The question is, how do you do you choose a book title that does all of your hard work justice?

What’s your story?

The first thing you should ask yourself is; “What is my book actually about?”

You might still find yourself a bit stuck, or have too many ideas to choose from, but what you’re really looking for is the core, the essence of the story. Don’t rush the decision – you can think about it for a few days or even longer.

If nailing the essence of the book hasn’t given you an automatic idea for a title, stretch it further by adding a twist.

A few novel ideas…

  • Take the theme of the novel and make it sound a bit more unique. You could try basing the name of the book on your character – and what they think of themselves. So for example, if your main character is flawed, use that.
  • Use the character’s emotions – think of what your character is going through in the story and use their feelings to craft a title.
  • Look at when or where the action takes place and use the answer to come up with an indirect reference. Play with ideas until something jumps out at you; think about George Orwell for example – Nineteen Eighty Four sounds more intriguing than Oceania, which is the dystopian setting of the novel.
  • Try lifting ideas from dialogue in the story – like Harper Lee does with To Kill a Mockingbird. The title of this classic tale is taken from a snippet of dialogue, where the central character declares that to kill a mockingbird is a sin.

Hopefully you now have more than one good idea for a novel title. Just sit with them for a few days and see if anything else comes up after you’ve had your brainstorming session. If it doesn’t, it’s now time to test drive a few of your favourite ideas.

Once you’ve come up with a shortlist of a few possible titles and maybe even decided on your one favourite – test all of your ideas on friends, family.  If you have an author page on Facebook and a Twitter account, you could throw it open to your followers too.  Ask people which book would be more likely to make people want to read the book – or just ask for opinions on your absolute favourite.