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?