Mar. 30 Writing Prompt

Almost the end of yet another month! I don’t know about you, buy March has crawled by and seemingly lasted for at least a full year or two. I am glad to see the back end of it.

With that said, we still have two days left of it and we may as well make them productive. Right?

Today’s writing prompt continues with yesterdays lesson of naming things. We covered your author’s pen name and hopefully came up with a good one for you.

Next we will move to the other side of the cover and give your book a name!

There are a lot of school’s of thought on naming your novel (or screenplay!) and today’s lesson will explain what is important, what isn’t important and how long should a title be?

Everything in your novel works together for the sole purpose of telling your story. It is easy enough to write a story, it is a whole different ball game getting someone to read that story when you aren’t even around.

The title plays a big role in that process. So, we will look at the prompt (it will look familiar) and then I will cover the basic process. After that, I will explain the importance of a title and what you need to make a great one.

March 30

Pick a name for your book, any name. If you have a working title already, use that. Write down the title and then write 25 more titles underneath. Get as crazy as you can with the names.

Ahh, the power of 25. Such a great number to work towards. In the beginning you will struggle to get 25 names, but push through. Each time you do it after that, it will get easier and easier. It will become fun and game-like. You will enjoy coming up with crazy alternatives. I also bet that one of those crazy alternatives sticks around.

So why bother naming our books? Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to just say “Book 1 by JT” and continuing to number them as they get released?

Does your book stand out?
Your book needs to stand out in the crowd. A cover and title will do that, if done correctly.

Easy isn’t always great. When I am naming my books I like to picture that book on a bookshelf in a bookstore. No one is going to pick up a book with “Book 1 by JT” on the spine. And if every book was named that way, book stores would be boring and book sales would be a popularity contest.

The Basic Process of Story Telling

Let me break it down for you (briefly). We write stories because we have a story to tell. After the story is told, though, the point is to get people to read that story. And since we can’t stand by every physical copy (or digital one) and push it into people’s shopping carts, we have to use little tricks.

First, the cover. Regardless of what you are told growing up, covers are important. Look at your bookshelf right now. I’m guessing you have a myriad of colors, the spines have different fonts and effects on the titles. Some draw your eye more than others. That plain grey spine with white lettering isn’t going to get as much attention as the bright yellow one with large red text that looks like blood dripping. That’s just facts.

So the cover is there to catch the eye of the shopper. It says “Hey! look at me! I am interesting!”

If the cover does it’s job, the shopper stops and takes a closer look. The next thing they see is your title.

The title has an important job (covered below) but it should make the shopper pick the book up and open the front cover (or flip it over to read the blurb). The blurb’s job is to reinforce the title and get them to open the front cover.

Once the cover is open, you have chapter 1 there, the first line needs to grab the shopper’s attention, and force them to want to read that first paragraph. That first paragraph should force them to want to read the next and the whole first page, which should make them desire to read the second page… you see the process.

By the end of the first few pages you should have the shopper so hooked they either by your book and drive straight home, or, better yet, lean against the racks and read it right there in the store.

Which brings us back to the title and the important job it has.

The Purpose of a Book Title

The obvious reason for a book title is for identification. You don’t want readers saying “Hey! Have you read Unnamed Book #23?” But there is more to a title than that. So when you are coming up with a title for your novel, keep the following mind:

  • It must explain the genre. Don’t start with confusion. If you are writing a murder mystery a title talking about butterflies probably won’t work.
  • It has to grab attention. The name needs to make your potential reader stop doom scrolling, walking or searching.
  • Shorter is better. Your title needs to be to the point. Less words are better. You want the reader to open the cover as soon as possible to get to your story. Long titles take time to read and comprehend.
  • Give your reader a question. The best titles make the reader curious. Make them wonder why you chose that title.
  • It must fit the book. Like explaining the genre, the title needs to fit your story.
  • Make your title clear and readable. Confusing words, foreign languages and other “crafty” titles tend to tank. If you confuse the reader on the cover, they will only image how confusing the story will get.

If you can nail all of those traits, you have a winning title, my friend.

Use the comment section to post your favorite title. Let the rest of us try to figure out what your book is about and what genre is it based only on the title.

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