I Have No Title for the Next Book

Titles are a nightmare.  On the bookshelf they always look like they’ve arrived fully-formed, which neatly masks the blood, sweat and tears that sometimes goes into their creation.  They need to be short, powerful, evocative and unique.  You think that’s easy?

I normally sell my books to my publisher on the basis of a synopsis.  For the last six contracted books, none of the titles in the pitch document have ended up on the spine.  The real titles always come during the writing.  The Devil in Green was originally called Slouching Towards Bethlehem for no other reason than I like the quote (besides, Joan Didion got there first).  DiG was the title of the first novel I ever wrote (which has never been seen by anyone and never well), so I cannibalised myself.  But that book has since felt like it could never have been called anything else.

In the pitch document, Jack of Ravens was called The Land of Always Summer, the next book was called The Waste Lands (and then The Great Dominions) and the third and final was Rex Mundi.  The series itself – Kingdom of the Serpent – was The View Across Existence.

I’ve spent all afternoon writing – and baking – in the garden and the title for the next book still hasn’t surfaced from the mire.  When I finally get a hook in it, I’ll let you know.

0 thoughts on “I Have No Title for the Next Book”

  1. I’m guessing the trick is to avoid the obvious playing card references… Queen of the Summer Lands, King of the World Beyond… that sort of thing? Not that it doesn’t work from a marketing and mnemonic-recall point of view, but it’s been done to death elsewhere, surely..?

  2. Jack is one of the great folkloric names as well; it’s Jack who the devil meets on the road to town, or who kills the giant or who rescues the miller’s daughter and goes on to marry her. Often he’s a sailor too- Jack Tar maybe ties in to Jack of Ravens at least in terms of colour schemes and the need for a sailor to be able to get around so many tasks on board ships gives us the Jack of all trades.

    None of which is new to anyone or relevant to future titles, but at least gets away from the suits of the deck. If not from the deck itself. I’d never noticed that before…

    A corvid theme offers parliaments of rooks and the equally folklore-enshrouded magpies and jackdaws, the former may have to be to be avoided because if there is a greater cliche in fantasy literature titles than cards it is surely chess while the latter perhaps a little less awesome than ravens, which may prove a hard act to follow.

    You’re either going to need a totally new tack or to just ramp everything up one step further- “hydraulic car lift of ospreys” perhaps?

  3. The Turnfalken appear at the start of the second book… However, I’m not going for any obvious link. I’ll let the muse take me…

  4. I hate thinking of titles… and definitely, titles need to be “short, powerful, evocative and unique” :D I like titles that can work on different levels – the obvious one you see when you first pick the book up, and the deeper one after you’ve read the book and know what its refering too. I think if any of my kid’s are boys one will be called Jack – that way he’ll be in all the tales!

  5. Titles are really important to me as a writer too … weird, but I get a title I’m in love with and it really helps in the writing process.

    One of my favourite ‘title’ stories is about Bentley Little when he delivered his short story collection to his publisher. They were referring to it as, of course, ‘the collection’.

    And upon release, it had become ‘The Collection’.


  6. I must say, I absolutely love ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’, but I guess that’s more in hindsight after reading DiG and making links But I do definitely agree with you, can’t imagine the book being called anything else…

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