Nail Your Novel
- Books for writers
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- FREE Nail Your Novel Instant Fix: 100 Tips For Fascinating Characters
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: A Companion Workbook
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Email me
Posts Tagged John Lennon
I name this book… tips for choosing a good title
Posted by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris in How to write a book on November 16, 2014
For every manuscript I see with a head-turning title, there’s another with a title that’s limp, unassertive and would never tempt a reader to look closer. Or a title that’s too tricky to remember.
I had a great discussion about this recently with Peter Snell (you know, from Barton’s Bookshop) in our show for Surrey Hills Radio (find it here, on show number 10) and I thought it might be fun to elaborate on it further.
Numbers are powerful
For non-fiction, you might add a sense of value by putting a number in your title. 50 Tips To Help You Build A House sounds like it offers far more than just Tips To Help You Build A House. Numbers also create a sense of insider knowledge, that an expert has chosen just the tips you need and discarded the others. When Peter and I recorded the show in the bookshop, we’d set up the microphone in the countryside section, where there were plenty of titles like 100 Finest Country Houses. One book might have country houses, but the 100 Finest sounds more persuasive. Suppose another book of country houses misses out the best ones?
Tip: a non-fiction title should sound authoritative, assertive.
For fiction, numbers can add a sense of frisson, a specific tipping point – Catch-22, Station Eleven, Fahrenheit 451. They seem to say ‘at this moment or place, or with this concept, something significant happens’. (And look at the startling oddness of Fahrenheit 451. The unconventional word order stirs up a sense of disturbance. Ray Bradbury’s titles all have this quality.) 1984 is a clever shuffling of the date of the novel’s publication. We can imagine how sinister it must have seemed in 1948. This will be us, it seems to say. Come and see. (Is anybody currently writing 2041?) Anthony Burgess wrote a tribute to Orwell’s novel and, naturally, called it 1985.
Tip: numbers are good for attracting attention.
‘One’ is special
In our discussion, Peter mentioned One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and took us in a new direction. This title suggests a person on their own, the one who dared to go against the crowd. It conjures up a character. It also seems to speak for all of us while also being about one individual.
Continuing the power of One, David Nicholls’s One Day sounds momentous; simple yet significant. It’s also a common phrase, with overtones of hope and dreams.
And how about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? (Bafflingly, its original Swedish title translates as Men Who Hate Women. Perhaps a Swedish-speaker could explain if the original has a special quality that makes up for the apparent blandness.)
Tip: consider the bold and emblematic individual, time or event.
What’s in a name?
We like a sense of a character in a title. Names can conjure this up, but they might be hard to remember, especially if the name is used in isolation. If you read a post or a feature about a novel called Mary would it stick in your mind so you could find it later? Memorable titles will set up a little more. A Prayer for Owen Meany: why does Owen need to be prayed for? Or they might set a tone of irony – The Book of Dave. Or grab attention with a clever phrase – Memento Nora. The Rosie Project. Each Harry Potter book had a promise of adventure – The Philosopher’s Stone, The Deathly Hallows. (Also she was writing a series. Harry 2, Pottered About Some More, might not have done the trick.)
Tip: if using a name, add something to create a sense of curiosity.
Made-up words, or words that are difficult to pronounce
Years ago, I made this mistake with my first novel. I set my heart on calling it Xeching, after the meditative treatment performed by characters in the future part of the book. It seemed to carry resonance, but only if you knew what it was, of course. Agents pointed out that it was too hard to remember, not to mention incomprehensible. It’s perhaps the absolute showcase of a disastrous title – it means very little and is hard to spell. (I was thinking with my designer head, imagining it in a big, intriguing font on the cover.)
Your unwise title may seem to have many points in its favour. But will this meaning be apparent to somebody happening on your book for the first time?
You might create a striking effect, though, by mis-spelling a word, if the mis-spelling is easy to remember. A novel about murders in the cyber-age might be called Killr.
Tip: tricky spellings and made-up words are hard to ask for in bookshops and difficult to find in online searches. And that’s assuming they’re remembered at all.
Personality of the book
Some titles snare us with a sense of personality. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making. Kill The Poor by Lemony Snicket (itself an eye-catching nom de plume). Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Instability is good
Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall carries a promise – something must be done before time runs out. Look at the tension in Philip Pullman’s The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden is potent with downfall. New twists on famous quotes or concepts are easy for readers to remember.
Words that suit the genre
In our radio discussion, Peter remarked that certain words seem to embody the appeal of a genre – and mentioned angels, demons. (Though I threw a spanner in the works by mentioning Marian Keyes’s Angels, which is chick-lit. Or did I throw A Spaniard In The Works like John Lennon?)
The treatment of the title also tells the reader a lot. My friend David Penny is preparing to publish his historical crime novel, Breaker of Bones. I saw a conversation about it on Facebook where another friend (who didn’t know Penny’s work) asked why it wasn’t Bone Breaker. That would be an entirely different kind of novel.
Tip: look up genres on Amazon and on Goodreads lists to see if there are words and title styles you should consider.
Sum up a feeling – how memorable is it?
The least successful titles I see are when the author is trying to sum up a feeling in the book. These often become generalised and vague. Finding The Answer. The Past Returns. All My Tomorrows. Husband Dave came up with clever suggestion here. If you think of a possible title, tell it to your friends. Then, a week later, ask them if they can remember it. (Try to pick the friends who don’t have superhuman powers of recall.)
The Mountains Novel (now Ever Rest) might have been christened Comeback. This certainly fitted in some ways with the story. It was pithy. However, when I googled, I found reams of novels called Comeback, many of them in the crime genre – a rather misleading flavour.
Not only that, I couldn’t remember Comeback. I simply couldn’t. In my mind, it became Countdown, though lord knows why. If it couldn’t stick for me, it certainly wouldn’t for a reader. Anyway, Ever Rest suits its mood far better.
On the show, Peter Snell added the bookseller’s perspective on commonly used titles. It’s a right royal pain to find the book the customer actually wants.
Tip: Once you’ve identified a feeling or theme you might highlight in a title, you can brainstorm strong, striking and emotive words for it.
Again, how memorable?
If your name is well known, you don’t have to try that hard with the title. Readers know to look for the next book by you. They’re more likely to find you by searching for your name, not your book title. On the show we discussed how the fantasy author Jack Vance (whose work I love) has many titles that are little more than labels (The Planet of Adventure, Trullion).
Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte all got away with name-titles (Rebecca, Emma, Jane Eyre). But they were writing in less competitive times. Would Lewis Carroll have got very far if he’d published Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland today?
Oh, and speaking of titles with a number…
Have you any tips to share on coming up with titles? Do you find it difficult? If you have decided on a title, what others did you consider? How did you make the choice and why?
1984, 1985, A Prayer for Owen Meany, A Spaniard in the Works, Adventures In Wonderland, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Angels, Anthony Burgess, authors, Barton's Bookshop, Before I Fall, Breaker of Bones, Catch-22, Catherynne M Valente, charlotte bronte, country houses, Daphne du Maurier, David Nicholls, David Penny, East of Eden, Emily St John Mandel, Emma, Everything is Illuminated, Fahrenheit 451, fiction, George Orwell, Graeme Simsion, harry potter, Harry Potter book, how to choose a book title, how to find a title for your novel, how to write a novel, Jack Vance, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, JK Rowling, John Irving, John Lennon, John Steinbeck, Jonathan Safran Foer, Joseph Heller, Ken Kesey, Kill the Poor, Lauren Oliver, Lemony Snicket, Lewis Carroll, Marian Keyes, Memento Nora, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, One Day, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Owen Meany, Peter Snell, Philip Pullman, publishing, Ray Bradbury, Rebecca, Roz Morris, Station Eleven, Stieg Larsson, Surrey Hills Radio, The Book of Dave, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, The Philosopher’s Stone, The Planet of Adventure, The Rosie Project, titles, Trullion, Will Self, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
‘The power of music and friendship’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Paul Connolly
Posted by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris in Undercover Soundtrack on August 27, 2014
My guest this week is another writer with music in his very bones. His novel features four friends who keep their troubled lives on an even keel by singing in a quartet, and is inspired by his own experiences singing bass with an an award-winning capella group. In the novel, his characters are in search of a state of harmony called The Fifth Voice, where all the hearts and minds are playing as one entity. He is Paul Connolly and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
a capella, authors, contemporary fiction, Desert Island Discs, Fifth Voice, friendship, John Barry, John Lennon, Kenneth Tynan, male friendship, male friendships, male writers, music, music for writers, music for writing, musicians, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, Paul Connolly, playlist for writers, quartets, Roz Morris, singers, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, The Fifth Voice, The Royal Harmonics, the Sergeant Pepper album, The Undercover Soundtrack, Thomas Tallis, troubled lives, undercover soundtrack, Van Morrison, vocalists, voice, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, writing to music
‘The perfect song for my characters to flourish’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, Candace Austin
Posted by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris in Undercover Soundtrack on December 18, 2013
My guest this week says she can ignore just about any distraction and write – except if she can hear music. But she also can’t write a character until she has found the perfect song as a vehicle for their personality, back story and secrets. Her debut novel fits rather well with this blog for another reason too – it’s the story of the world’s most reincarnated man, with all the troubles – past and present – that that implies. She is Candace Austin and she’s on the Red Blog with her Undercover Soundtrack.
ancestry, authors, Brandi Carlile, Candace Austin, Chicago, Desert Island Discs, facebook, fantasy, ghostwriter, Jamie Cullum, John Lennon, magical realism, Michael Johns and Brooke White, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, Nail Your Novel, past lives, playlist for writers, publishing, reincarnation, romance, Roz Morris, self-publishing, social media, social networks, speculative fiction, suspense, suspense author, the Beatles, The Layers, The Undercover Soundtrack, Twilight Zone, undercover soundtrack, who were you, Women Writers, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
‘Sex, drugs, metaphysics and rock’n’roll’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, David Biddle
Posted by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris in Undercover Soundtrack on November 27, 2013
Music, dead rock gods, psychedelia consciousnesses and the CIA – this novel definitely had to feature on the Undercover Soundtrack. Its title came from a Jimi Hendrix song, and germinated when the writer was just 17 years old. It took him another 15 years to write, though, when an Elvis track kicked his imagination and gave him a vivid scene set in a bar in rural Missouri. The novel is Beyond the Will of God, the writer is Talking Writing columnist David Biddle, and he’s on the Red Blog with his Undercover Soundtrack.
Beyond the Will of God, Biocycle, David Biddle, dead rock gods, Desert Island Discs, Elvis, Elvis Presley, Global Illage, Harvard Business Review, having ideas, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Huffington Post, In Business, Jeff Buckley, Jerry Garcia, Jim Croce, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Kotori Magazine, Last Goodbye, male writers, middle, Missouri, murder mystery, music, music for writers, music for writing, My Memories of a Future Life, mystery, Nail Your Novel, playlist for writers, psychedelia consciousnesses, publishing, Robert Johnson, rock ’n’ roll music, rock n roll, Roz Morris, the Beatles, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Undercover Soundtrack, undercover soundtrack, writers, writing, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart, writing to music
- Join 26,189 other subscribers
- In search of enhanced weirdness – novelist Kate Brandt @kbrandtwriter March 20, 2023
- Once more with feeling – some notes about description March 12, 2023
- Your first pages – 5 manuscripts critiqued at @Litopia by literary agent @AgentPete @AJ_Dickenson and me! March 10, 2023
- ‘Let the narrative bend where it wants to’ – memoirist Joseph Lezza @lezzdoothis February 21, 2023
- When machines write books: will AI writing threaten authors’ livelihoods? February 12, 2023
- How do you market literary fiction, especially as an indie author? Guest spot at @IndieAuthorALLI February 9, 2023
- ‘The sound of a typewriter brings me happiness’ – historical fiction and non-fiction author Cordelia Biddle @AuthorBiddle January 17, 2023
Seen regularly at ...
Authorised personnel only
Don\’t miss a post: subscribe to Nail Your Novel
- Join 26,189 other subscribers