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How to title a novel

At first it was fun. This novel is going so well, the author exudes on page 124. Let’s stop writing and play with titles! Some time later: Book titles are so much harder than I thought. Followed swiftly by: I found it at last! Then, doing a bit of digging, you realize hundreds of authors have thought of the same title. And used it.

When you have to come up with a novel title. In a hurry.

A few months later when it’s absolutely time to decide, the attitude is more likely to be, I don’t want to Talk about it anymore! And if you’re writing a series, it’s like sticking pins in your cheeks.

Since I’ve just titled four books in an upcoming fantasy series, here’s a brief recap of my journey into the bog of titles.

How to Title a Fantasy Novel


Book one was so much fun to write! Giddy with my own brilliance, I would jot down bunches of titles in my notebook just for fun. During that period I wanted something original. I was smitten by unusual titles. Because this was not going to be  your average fantasy. This was my fantasy.

In the book they call magic the Deep. So “Her Altered Deep.” I loved that title, but when I asked for feedback I got these teensy frowns and “Wha?” I realized it wasn’t going to work, and I was Deeply resentful. Back to the drawing board. Let’s brainstorm!

Blood Indigo, (lots of “indigo” titles) The Silver Torc (Wha?), The Hand of Power, East of the World, Her Strange Align (What’s an align?), Her Primal Scar (I was on a “her” kick for months), Daughter of Myth. Meh.

Copy others.

Then there were the other books in the series. For one of the titles I thought it would be great to do a riff on a famous title. (I know, but I was so far into the bog, I couldn’t see the alligators for what they were.) So: When Worlds Arise (When Worlds Collide); The Left Hand of Power (Outraged reactions to this one. Leave Ursula le Guin the heck alone); The Wall at the End of the World (Walk to the End of the World). No one thought my riffs were clever, and even worse, they were called “derivative.” But that’s the point, I argued. Blank stares.

Be catchy or at least be parallel.

Some people said one-word titles are hard hitting: (Uprooted). Or four word titles are always  catchy: (A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords.)  Note the parallelism! Article + Noun + Preposition + Noun.

I was advised by some to use Keywords in the titles. (Searchability on Amazon.) OK, start thinking strategically, I told myself. Searchability is good . . . isn’t it? Use the big power words of fantasy, like Prince, Blood, Crown, Shadow, Empire . . . Except now they’re all starting to sound alike.

Focus on Who or Where.

And though I didn’t do it perfectly, that piece of advice settled me down, and with only days until my deadline, I emerged from the bog with the the cool fantasy titles below. I’m particularly proud of the fact that the four titles are very similar in length. I know, it’s a small victory, and I didn’t hit it out of the ballpark. However, I do love Some of these titles. But like a proud mother who never displays favoritism, I’m not going to say which ones.

(No publication date yet. But I can say, coming soon!)

Bk 1: The Girl Who Fell into Myth.

Bk 2: Stranger in the Twisted Realm

Bk 3: Servant of the Lost Power

Bk 4: Warrior with the Brilliant Scar.


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