Thursday, April 21, 2011

What's In a Name? - CJ Omololu

Behind Closed Doors, My Normal Life, Keeping the Secrets, The Other Side of Normal, Finding Normal, Faking Normal, Unmaking the Mess, Hiding My Normal.

These are some of the titles I came up with while I was writing what was ultimately titled DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS. The one I used on all of my notebooks and files was Living Like This, which I never really liked, but couldn't come up with anything better. DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS was sort of a 'hail Mary' title that I threw out there the night before my agent sent the manuscript out to editors and surprise, surprise, that is the title that ended up on the actual cover.

For me, finding the perfect title is the worst part of the process. This may sound crazy, but I always feel that the right title already exists and it's my job to discover it. Until I find the one that fits just right I drive myself nuts trying on different titles and rarely being satisfied. No matter how many books I write, the process seems to be the same.

The new book that is coming out in June of 2012 went by the inspired name of UNTITLED until just before we sent it to my editor. That's what it says on the notebooks and on the word files. I put a call out on the blog, I asked everyone I'd ever met, I searched song titles, Amazon and Googled words that resonated with the themes in the book. For months I came up with nothing. Then one night, I was folding laundry and tried to zero in on what the core of the book was about and decided it was about fate and destiny. I quickly grabbed the computer and searched - actually squealing when I found that nobody in recent years had titled a book DESTINED. Huzzah! It fit, it was intriguing - it was perfect. The deal for DESTINED was announced in PW, the manuscript with the title DESTINED went to my editor and there were even people marking DESTINED as a to-read on Goodreads.

And then came my editorial letter. At the very bottom of the (six-page single-spaced) letter was once sentence telling me that another far more famous and successful author was coming out with a book called DESTINED at about the same time, so we can't use it. Let's just say it was a good thing that the kitchen knives were out of reach.

As of right now, I'm waiting for my second editorial letter, the final manuscript is due in just a few short weeks and we're calling it...UNTITLED. Everyone says that we'll find the right title soon, that there is no way it's going to press without a title, and I'm sure they're right. I hope they're right. For now, I'm open to suggestions- if you have the perfect title, let me know and I promise to put your name on the acknowledgments page.

What were some of the other book titles you considered before finding that perfect fit?



7 comments:

  1. I'm having so much trouble thinking up a great title for my current novel. It's been called, "Novel #4" for months now. I have some possibilities, but they're just "okay", not amazing. Thinking up titles is hard sometimes!!

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  2. I'm still struggling to find a title for my book. I have a working title (Beyond) which I don't like, but will have to stay until I find something more inspired. Usually something comes eventually that fits perfectly. I also write down great title ideas long before I have a book to match, on the off chance that I might ever use them.

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  3. Perfect timing. I had such problems naming my last two books, they're linked but not a series. Eventually my editor/publisher just came up with the names and you know what? I HATE them. They are TERRIBLE!

    And they are SO wrong. While I've always thought this, I didn't have the energy (or imagination) to come up with better titles. Then, just the other day, I read a review of RICH BOYS that said, basically, "WTF is up with the title? It has nothing to do with the book and totally gives the wrong impression." Um, yeah!!!! I was right!!! But that shitty title that totally misleads readers is still out there.

    My latest book was 'Book #5' for so long, I had a bunch of names on the title page that I'd look at every time I wrote. Then I started discarding them and eventually landed on a title. And I actually like it! Which, of course, means it will probably be changed.

    I have such title envy, I see some and just think, "Damn!! I wish I'd thought of that."

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  4. So funny that it's so universal! I have the most title envy for Melissa Marr - WICKED LOVELY, FRAGILE ETERNITY, DARKEST MERCY. So not fair.

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  5. I usually have a great title right off, but for the manuscript that has made it into the "debut novel" place in my life, it has always had a working title that I knew wasn't right. Everyone who sees it says MAGIC CARP isn't right, but no one else can come up with anything either. I've brainstormed with my critique group, my agent, my mother.... When my editor talked to me after signing the novel, she said, very apologetically, "I'm sorry to tell you this, but no one here likes the title, and we are going to change it," and I burst out laughing.

    Even if MAGIC CARP was a good title for the book, CARP is just not a word you want middle schoolers to have at their disposal. :-)

    Jeannie Mobley

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  6. Great post. I absolutely love the COOKING WITH POOH image. Too stinkin' funny.
    Book three in my Stork trilogy is still untitled. I keep thinking I will type a word and have an aha moment. Hasn't happened yet, anyway.

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  7. Apparently I suck at titles because my titles are never the ones that appear on the final product!!!

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