For me, one of the easiest parts of writing is coming up with titles for my work. More often than not, I just go with my gut and the phrase sticks. But sometimes, picking a title is really hard. For instance, my Elves series is simply called “Elves” because I haven’t come up with something else I really like yet.
But no more! Today I’m going to walk you through a process to pick a title you love for your current work. One part training, one part fun adult homework, and one part brainstorming exercise, we’ll break down the places you can draw inspiration from to name your works, and gather it all together to come up with a few different options so you can pick the perfect title.
And hopefully, at the end of this exercise, I’ll have a title for my fantasy series concerning elves and you’ll have a better idea of what to call your own stories or books.
And yes, there is even a worksheet! Because what writing exercise is complete without a worksheet?? (Why is adult homework so much better than kid homework?) Click here to download the worksheet and print it out! There is a lot of goodness in this post and I made the worksheet as the perfect complement to all this information.
First things first…
Don’t Worry About When
I want to make a note about the ever-hovering when. As in…when you should name your book or story. I know some authors are very opinionated on this…naming at the beginning keeps the themes and feel of the story authentic all the way through or naming at the end helps tie everything together once the details are sorted.
To be honest, I don’t think it matters to anyone but you, so name your book where it feels right to you. If you want that guidance from the get-go, name your story before you write it and when you’re in the conceptual phase. If you’d rather have the title be all-representing, wait until you’ve finished and know your fully fleshed out novel.
Or you can be like me and fall in love with a phrase in the middle of writing your book and make that your title. It’s really all ok.
And now you can break out your worksheets cause it’s about to crazy in here!
Four Quick Tips for Stand Out Titles
Before we get to the meaty title-making, there are a few things to remember when you’re giving your work a title. These are my top four quick tips to naming your creations:
Convince, Don’t Confuse
Be Clever, but Don’t be Crude
KISS: Keep It Simple Stupid!
The first thing someone will notice about your book on a shelf if the cover. The second thing someone will notice is the title. Aside from the cover artwork, your title is the number one way to not only set the stage for your entire book or series but also to draw in new readers and appeal to new audiences.
You want your title to get people curious…to engage some emotion in them that intrigues them and induces them to pick up your novel. You don’t want a title that is misleading. Instead, you want something that gives your reader a small piece of your book. Don’t name your book an irrelevant name or go for shock value. You want to build trust with your readers, not turn them away.
When in doubt, keep it simple. As silly as it was, Twilight was a catchy title.
Now, let’s get started!
Let’s start with the big picture: genre. What genre does your story fall in? I’m sure you’ve noticed that different genres have their own “feel”. Romance titles tend to be a bit more dramatic and emotional, Sci-fi titles tend to be a bit more logical, straightforward. Historical fiction as a genre carries names of notable people or places or roles in history, and contemporary general fiction tends toward more poetic titles. Do a bit of research and find some titles within your genre that you like or feel drawn to. These can be a great starting point for structure or phrasing a title, so write down your favorites and look for comparisons between them.
Where does your story take place? A fantastical world? Tudor England? Modern day Sydney? Mars? Great stories have vivid settings, and the adjectives and phrasing you use to create this world for your readers can be a good place to start to finding your perfect title. Use your worksheet and write down a few key descriptors of your story’s setting.
There are few better places to start when you’re really at a loss for a title. Common themes in your book can give you keywords, emotions, phrases, a variety of things really.
Say you’re writing a short story about a young graduate’s first interview…what are the main themes someone could pull out of it? New experiences? Stepping out of the familiar and into the unknown? Taking risks? Really dig into what your characters motivations are. Why they do what they do can lend you a stand-out title. Write down the top three themes of your story on your worksheet.
Character motivations can lend good themes while character events can lead to active, powerful titles. Going off an event like your character’s trigger, or the choice that sets the story in motion can create a title that draws readers in and already gets them curious about the ending. Write down some notable events in your story,
Phrases From Your Story
This is where I get quite a bit of my inspiration. Common phrases characters speak. Encapsulating phrases about events or character experiences or emotion. It is in this work of description in my stories where I most often surprise myself with what I’m capable of writing and those quite often end up being the perfect title.
Something to Consider…
Knowing your target audience is another component in naming your work. Whether you’re writing for teenagers, adults in a midlife crisis, or a young child, your title will be different. Knowing your audience can be a good guideline to titling your work.
Now, I’ve left you quite a bit of room to pull words and themes and emotion from these past breakdowns of your book or story and piece them together into a title. Spend several minutes here. Be intentional and think critically of how you want your story to be perceived.
Don’t stress about this. Take your time, and let yourself roll different ideas around in your head.
Once you’ve decided, it’s time to celebrate! Whether you do a happy dance in your chair or break out the champagne, give yourself a pat on the back for creating a stand-out title.
And write it big in the nice box I made for you on the worksheet. 🙂
I would LOVE to hear how this worksheet worked for you. Did it help you come up with a title? I’d love to hear your titles too!
In case you missed the link, click here to download the worksheet!