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Naming Your Baby -- by Beth Overmyer

Naming your book can be harder than naming your first born. For a child, you can go to sites like Behind the Name or Baby Names; but besides the occasional random title generator you might stumble upon, there is no easy way to slap a good title to your writing.

          This is the part where I say, “Or is there?” Ahem. There isn’t really, but here are some methods that might help:

  1. Write a short synopsis of your project. Go through and look at all the important nouns, proper or otherwise. Does your main character have to go on a quest? Highlight your character’s name and quest. What is the quest about? Does she have to find an artifact? Highlight what she has to find. Do those line up into something useable? (And don’t forget the antagonist. Think Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It combines the quest—to kill Dorothy—with the antag’s name.)
  2. If you can’t string together anything with the first part, go a step further. Take the nouns and think of related words, not necessarily synonyms. You could slap on the title Indiana Jones and the Search for the Holy Grail, but try out some wordplay first. Indy’s on a quest, yes, but so were some Knights a long time ago. A Crusade. Indiana Jones and the Crusade isn’t immediate or exciting enough as a title. Put pressure on the reader. The LAST in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade gives us a sense of urgency.
  3. If those don’t spark anything in you, look for themes in your book. What happens? Why? Is there a message? In The Lord of the Flies, there’s a moment when one of the characters hallucinates and thinks a pig’s skull is talking to him. However, the reason for the title: another name for the Lord of the Flies is Satan/the Devil, as in “the Devil made me do it” or “the Devil is man’s nature.” Man’s nature is wicked, the theme of the book. Hence The Lord of the Flies.
  4. Play connect-the-dots/stream-of-thought. Write one word that makes you think of your book. Then write another word that makes you think of that word, not censoring yourself until you have a sheet of words to work with. Take the words you like. Write them out in a line. Add other words to them. Cross out some words. Keep tweaking until you get something you like.


Your title should give the reader a small taste of what to expect from the book without giving everything away. Reread some of your favorite books. Think about what made you pick them up in the first place, then study the titles. How do you think the author came up with it? Is it obvious like The Phantom of the Opera? Or a little more imaginative like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

Play around. Don’t commit to anything at first, but don’t throw anything away. Usually your first idea isn’t The One—sometimes it is, though, so don’t discard it. Write at least five things down before settling. Then sleep on it…literally. Think about it before you go to bed, keep a pen and notebook on your nightstand and jot down anything that comes to you throughout the course of the night.

Naming your book may be as tough as naming a child, but at least with books, you have time to change it before publication. And if you go with a traditional publisher, you might have less say in the title than you expect. So no worries. Have fun with it, and good luck naming your baby—I mean book.


If anyone on CC wants to brainstorm titles with me, go ahead and send a private message and I’ll see what I can do. I LOVE brainstorming titles.


Posted by Beth Overmyer 13 Jun 2017 at 01:09
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