Coming Up With a Title for Your Book

· world building,titles

I get a lot of comments on my title. Some people love it and others think it’s too long. (Which, it is kind of long, I totally realize that.) I've been very lucky in that my title hasn't changed from when I first drafted this book back in 2019.

Recently, I was helping a friend brainstorm a title for their story. She couldn't come up with one she liked and was on the verge of giving up. I asked her what her brainstorming process was like and she basically laughed and said something like “what process?” 

😱 (Cue my internal horror.)

So, this is what I told her.

Sometimes, authors are lucky and a title will just fall out of the sky and hit them in the head and it's easy and great and done. But 98% of the time, that doesn't happen, at least not to me. I have to have a process for coming up with my titles.

Now, don't let me scare you with this in-depth approach but this is honestly how I do titles. (And how I approach a LOT of writing challenges in general.)

First, I look at other titles in my genre to identify patterns in the genre. For example, there are a LOT of YA fantasy books with a title that goes "A Thing of This and That." (Examples: A Court of Thorns and Roses. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. This title pattern is even in adult fantasy--looking at you Game of Thrones!)

In cozy mystery books, the titles are usually funnier and often a play on words that have something to do with murder. (Examples: Arsenic and Adobo, or my own Pitch Wars mystery title: Cardio for Corpses.)

Once I find those patterns, I then start to make a list of words that have SOMETHING to do with my book. 

For CTNFTW I wrote down a TON of words: wolves, night, race, storm, stars, snow, chase; the list goes on. 

I included words that seemed more scifi/space opera and words that felt more fantasy. Basically, anything that sounded cool. 😂

For the next step, I started playing with the words and putting them into the patterns to see if anything jumped out at me. 

One of the earlier possible titles was: A Night Raced by Wolves. Another was A Wolf Made by Night. Not bad, though not quite as much punch, right? But it was those failed or “almost” titles that got me closer to my goal. So, I started again with that familiar YA title pattern and then just moved words around, changing nouns to verbs or fiddling with different structures.

And then, I wrote down: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves.

And knew that I'd found the final title. 

Fortunately, my editor completely agreed (and before I'd even accepted the publishing deal, told me to never change it 😆). So, luckily, it stayed the title of the book.

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Are there any titles or patterns that you love? What about ones you dislike? Throw a few my way on Twitter or Instagram and I’ll tell you what I think of them too!

A version of this story appeared in Wolves and Wonder, my monthly newsletter that includes no nonsense writing advice along with book updates and sci-fi inspiration. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.