Aw, Man! Can’t I Just Call It “Work In Progress” Forever?


Sometimes they are tricky and you’re still hashing it out long after you’ve written The End.

Other times they come to you before you’ve even constructed a single line of prose.

Don’t you always want yours to be brilliant, catchy, and meaningful?

Maybe you’re a long title person. (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day)

Maybe you’re a one-worder. (Twilight)

I’m currently reading Crafting Novels & Short Stories: Everything You Need to Know to Write Great Fiction.

One of the first things suggested by the authors (a collection of Writer’s Digest authors), even before you’ve written anything, is that you give your WIP a title.

A working title. A title that distinguishes your work from everything else saved on your computer and, at best, gives you some idea of what you’re writing about.

Check. I do that. I think most probably do.

But it’s kind of like naming a kid. Once I’ve called it something, it’s really difficult for me to change it. At least in my mind.

I’m sure some of you out there are more relaxed. One day you’re calling your story “The Zombie Apocalypse” and they next day it’s re-titled “Everything’s Coming Up Worms.”

I know authors who’ve had their titles changed at the prompting of their editors. I think that’s probably a weird feeling– wanting to do what’s best for the story and letting go of the name you gave it.

I wish we could do this for humans–suggest they change the names of their children. After all, it’s in the best interest and for the future success of the child. (No child should ever be called Earl. Or Floyd. Or Lurlene. Just sayin’.)

Nine times out of ten, during the writing stage, my title is just that–working. It changes several times before I finally pin down the perfect one.

Most of the time the title comes to me during the writing process, most likely when I’m at least 1/2 through my manuscript.

Once–just once–the title came to me first.

Share with me: How do titles work for you? Do they come to you before, during, or after your story? Are they tricky, or does the perfect title arrive wrapped in a shiny bow?


Filed under Uncategorized, Writing

17 responses to “Aw, Man! Can’t I Just Call It “Work In Progress” Forever?

  1. I have had the same title for 5, FIVE, cinq, cinqo, V months. I thought it was totally unique.And what did I see in a bookstore flyer last month?
    MY TITLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I had the title even before I opened the Word file.
    The Lord knows my selfishness. Hopefully He can drop another title from His hands

    And I know that author loves her title.
    Crosses arms.
    But it was MINE!

    • Ooooooooh, Jennifer. Bu-uh-mer. Whenever I come up with a title, I google it just to make sure there’s nothing out there like it. However, that doesn’t cover the books that haven’t been released yet, does it?

      Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll come up with something even more brilliant! 🙂

      • Okay….I know you haven’t read my WIP, but a title came this morning that just might do…
        After years of living on the knife blade of survival, our heroine is saved, wice, while alone in the dark. He’s a charming swoon-fest…so…

        “A Night in the Darkness.”

  2. I’m awful at titles. I usually call it novel # (insert). Lame, I know. Hey – do you like the book? I’m always looking for new craft books to read.

  3. wendypainemiller

    Love love love choosing titles. Mine have come at me in all different stages. I’m okay with changing them b/c if I am, it likely means I’m making the change into something better. I have such a blast selecting titles for my babies (eh hem books).
    ~ Wendy

  4. I changed the title of my book three times. I really like what I finally came up with. I think I couldn’t pick it until the end because I needed the full picture in my head about what the heart of the book really was. Once I knew that, the title was fairly easy to come up with.

  5. I had my critique partners help me with my title because I’m lousy at them. Some times it helps to get outside input.

  6. joannebischof

    I’ve experienced it all. So far my publisher has gone with all the titles I’ve chosen which was really surprising. But my current WIP, I’m drawing a blank. I just call it “the book”. I usually have to sit down and really give it some thought and fiddle around with key words etc. But I’m with you, Jennifer, I love choosing titles! 🙂

  7. Heather Sunseri

    I always name my books something. My hubs and I brainstorm on walks. Then we brainstorm again after I’ve written and gotten to know my characters, so I end up changing the title again and again. Then when I’m working on pitches and backing away from the manuscript, I take a hard look at the title and ask, “Does this title really say something about the identity of the book?”

  8. Gabrielle Meyer

    I’m terrible at naming my own books, so what I do is have my hubby read them and then he gives me a name! Sometimes I think I’m too close to the work to come up with a name. His suggestions are always stellar and so creative!

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