Does anyone have a cure for that feeling of panic when your manuscript is released into the world as a book? The moment when it no longer belongs to you but is presented for scrutiny to all who make the decision to read it.
I feel like a mother who has just sent her child off to school for the first time. I stand at the school gates watching as the child disappears from view and I want to run after it, to draw it close to me again, to be there when it’s teased by the older kids, to help when it struggles with its work, when it falls in the playground and scrapes its knee.
But I can’t. It’s time to let go. It’s on its own now.
This is my fourth release. You would think I’d be used to this by now but this book is different. This one I did solo. It’s a book that’s close to my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time on it and had it assessed and professionally copy edited. I paid for the cover design. I did all the right things but is it enough – could I have done more? Should I snatch it back – I’m not ready for this! Let me take it back and work on it some more…I’m sure there’s something I can find to do.
Part of me knows that it’s time to let it stand on its own two feet; time to turn my attention to the other children who demand that I spend some time with them. But still I linger at the school gates, longing after the child that’s gone. It’s time to move on.
You can be sure I’ll be watching its progress with interest, cheering at its achievements and supportive when its results are disappointing. No matter how well, or badly, it does out there in the big wide world, it will always be my child.
(Thanks to Melinda Szymanik for the inspiration for the opening line.)
Book titles are always a struggle for me. Sometimes books assign their titles themselves – from the moment I start writing the title is obvious. Most times however, a book title goes through several changes before the final title is finalized – one that sticks, one that says everything about the book in just a few words. That succinct title that will pull in the readers and get them to read the blurb then be interested enough to read the whole book.
I usually start with a working title. Even films start with working titles. There is even a film company called Working Title Films. These guys obviously understand the dilemma of titles.
I began a Young Adult story with the working title of Maybe Maori. I knew this title wouldn’t stick but an idea begets legs when you give it a title, any title. It becomes an identity even if that identity is slightly off. The inadequateness of the title was emphasized when the manuscript assessor said change the title.
I wanted to call it Losing my Religion but was concerned about the obvious connection to the REM track of the same name, from which I admittedly got the inspiration in the first place. This seemed to fit especially when I discovered that Losing my religion is a term from the southern states of America and means to be pushed into the corner, to lose one’s patience, and temper. And my character does exactly that, in a spectacular way.
However, there was a niggle in the back of my mind that this wasn’t exactly right either and, when I started thinking about the sort of cover I wanted for this book, I realized that the imagined cover didn’t go with my current title.
Thinking cap on again and the title that came up was “A Crack in the Door” which went well with the concept of the book and yet didn’t have quite the impact that I wanted. This is a YA book after all and I wanted a snappy instantly attention-grabbing title.
Sometimes with titles the idea is not to think about them too much. The final title popped into my head one day when I was getting ready for work. I wasn’t even on the computer, never mind working on the manuscript or the title. The previous evening I’d been working on the prologue extensively – going over it again and again in order to create exactly the right amount of impact for the first introduction to the book. It opens with the line “The first time I died…” My character experiences death not once, not twice but three times. Hence the obvious title:
Three Times Dead.
Now why didn’t I think of that in the first place?