Book Titles

How do you decide what to call your book? For some of us, this can be almost as difficult as actually writing the story. This matters to me, because I frequently tweet about the status of my WIP, and it helps me tie those together if I know what the title is going to be.

I suppose one thing that might help is to walk through a bookstore and see what kinds of titles are being used. You can also search online, of course. Certain trends will jump out right away.

Currently, there are a lot of book titles that are some form of “the Thing of This and That.” For example, the popular series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. These kinds of titles have an interesting flow, but there are so many using that format already that I wouldn’t want to go that route.

There also are a lot of titles that are just one word. Jaws and the YA novel Crank are both strong one-word titles. There might be two words, as in The Firm, or three (including ‘the’ as a word) as in The Dragonbone Chair and The Dark Tower.

Some are like, “The Thing’s Thing.” The Ranger’s Apprentice is a well known juvenile series. There’s also my own The Magister’s Mask. Then you have “The Thing of the Thing,” made famous by The Lord of the Rings.

For me, I really want to have a strong rhythm, while at the same time saying something accurate and engaging about the book. The Seven Exalted Orders is one of my favorite titles. For my current WIP, I really only know the location of the story, a place called Fang Marsh. So I’m tweeting about Fang Marsh, but ultimately I think I’ll need a little more than that for a title.

Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think makes a great book title, and how you create good titles for your own work.

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Snippet 4

I’m buried with work for SpoCon, including final schedule tweaks, badge lists, and door schedules. So here’s a snippet from The Tower in the Mist.

The viewpoint character is a rebel who’s been arrested and finds that his strength of purpose may not be as great as he had thought.

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Today I’m sharing a snippet from one of my blogging friends, Jason H. Abbott.

Although it may seem related only to current events around climate denial, in fact, I think it applies equally to our publishing industry. In 500 years, will we think of Traditional Publishing as a “lost civilization” that failed to adapt?

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Speaking Up

At the start of my thread on journeys, I mentioned my publisher has had a manuscript for several years without letting me know a publication date. Actually, she hasn’t even let me know she’s accepted the manuscript. I’m sure you all know the feeling. Waiting for news, wondering if the story is so bad they don’t even want it.

It could be a woman thing. We’re told so often to just sit and be quiet and wait. Even though I tell myself I’m bold, still, I’ve been waiting two years for a publisher to notice me. Really, I think it’s an author thing. The publishers have all the power, and if we get push, they’ll just cancel the deal.

But recently, the same publisher, who is also an author, announced publication of a new series with a different imprint. This finally spurred me to ask her if the original imprint is now defunct, and if I needed to get my manuscript back.

For once, she answered immediately. No, the publisher is not defunct. And the day after that, the last editor I worked with let me know the publisher had contacted him about editing the new book, since he edited The Seven Exalted Orders.

So maybe, finally, I might be able to tell you that Trials of the Eighth Order is coming out soon. I am definitely glad that I spoke up.

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Quests are widely recognized as part of the fantasy genre. In fact, they’re SO widely recognized that I find it difficult to base a story on them. It’s like flogging a dead horse.

For some genres, having your characters stay put can benefit the story. In a dark fantasy, your story gains suspense if the characters are trapped and cannot escape a horrific menace. Military SF isn’t my thing, but I could see a lot of tension if a group of soldiers were pinned down in a location where they could neither advance nor retreat.

Travel across lands and cultures involves a certain amount of work as far as world-building goes. Some of that creative energy might be better spent on deeper characterization or tighter plotting.

For me, personally, having my characters travel has become redundant. Of my 11 books and novellas, 8 of them involve a journey for at least part of the story. That includes my current WIP. I really feel that I’m repeating myself, and that doesn’t make for an exciting tale.

The irony is, my current series, The Minstrels of Skaythe, involves a group of mages who scattered for their own safety. Each one of them has to travel away from where they were. This means I’m going to have to be creative in how I show them dispersing. Which is fine — if nothing else, authors should be creative.

What do you think? Are quests still cool, or are they more meh?

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Ever since Lord of the Rings, it seems like every fantasy novel has to include a journey or quest. Why do we do this?

One advantage of having your characters go on a journey is that it takes them out of their comfort zone. They’re in unfamiliar territory, surrounded by strangers. They can’t anticipate what people will do. No more comfy house to return to, either.

They might have gear if the trip was planned, but if they left suddenly, they have to spend time on survival tasks such as searching for water and shelter. If your story is more humorous in tone, there’s lots of opportunity for fish-out-of-water episodes. For darker stories, you can emphasize heat or cold, adverse weather, thirst or hunger, wild animals, and other hazards of hitting the road unprepared.

Journeys allow the writer to vary the setting and introduce new wonders or dangers. Travel can imply a wider world around the story events. Reactions to these new vistas may deepen the characterization of people in the story. You can add more conflict if the characters get lost or argue about where to go next.

It’s also very folkloric. Many of the great epics and story cycles involve heroes who go somewhere and fight a monster or achieve some other great feat. If the characters need to learn a lesson of some sort, inspiration can come with the travel.

What about drawbacks? I’ll look at those on Saturday.

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Something I’ve noticed recently is how often the stories I write involve someone going on a journey. In Too Many Princes, the title characters went on a quest. In The Seven Exalted Orders, two of the characters were running away from the others. In the sequel, The Eighth Order, which the publisher has been sitting on forever, they also chase someone across the countryside. In The Grimhold Wolf, a character was abducted and the other ones went to rescue him. In Masters of Air & Fire, the characters’ home was destroyed and they had to search for another one. In The Weight of Their Souls, the characters were traveling home after a war. In The Tower in the Mist, soldiers are taking their prisoner to a special prison — on the other side of a haunted forest. In The Grove of Ghosts, the MC is traveling to break a curse.

Only in The Magister’s Mask, The Necromancer’s Bones, and The Gellboar did everyone basically stay at home and do stuff there. That’s three out of eleven tales involving some sort of travel.

I must confess, I feel like I’m starting to repeat myself with the journeys. My current WIP, Fang Marsh, starts with the main character on a journey. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m going to have her arrive at a destination and stay there. This will make some other parts of the plot easier. For one thing, the villain and her henchmen will be able to find her!

What do you guys think — am I worrying too much about this?

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