My great great grandmother had six first names. Elena Patricia Catalina Adriana Lucia Lourdes. The names in my family tend to run long, but her name was long even by our standards. The story goes that her parents gave her the names so that when she was old enough, she could pick the one that she wanted for people to call her. She’d chosen to go by Elena. A beautiful name. And coincidentally, the first one in the list of names. She’d been happy with her name(s) and I imagine her parents had been happy with her names because they had given her every name they could think of, honoring a list of relatives on both sides of the family. They left nothing out and offended no one. A win as far as families go.
Unfortunately, with books, however, it doesn’t work that way. A book does not pick its own name, no matter how much I might wish that it did. Sometimes it’s the exact opposite, with the book seemingly actively thwarting the whole naming process. My book is in the no name phase at the moment. That’s alright for now. But, at some point, I, as my book’s creator, will have to get serious. I’m going to have to give this book a name.
When I first started my book, the title came to me as if by magic. It was the perfect title–it was interesting, it fit with the story, it was original. I loved it. I loved it until the day that I out of idle curiosity put it on a book cover mock-up. As soon as I did that, I realized the terrible truth. My title was too long. As in, my great great grandmother’s first name long. I’d tried to rearrange the text, make the letters smaller. I’d tried to leave a letter or two out, maybe change the wording a little. Turned it a little to one side. There that wasn’t so bad, was it? Maybe turn it to the other side? Nothing worked. And yes, it had been bad. Very bad. It looked crammed in, squashed and awkward. It covered the whole cover, leaving no room for any artwork. It had taken me days of arguing with myself to finally face reality. There are some titles that are long and are amazing! But for my book, it just didn’t fit. Sorry kid, that title just isn’t going to work. So with a heavy heart I had scrapped my beloved title.
I’m sad to say that ever since that first title I have yet to find else I like. I’ve tried at least thirty different options, and none have felt just right. Some feel too long, some feel too short, some just feel like something is missing. Either way, the search is ongoing. And at this point my book is starting to seem a lot less like my great great grandmother and a lot more like my friend whose parents had been unable to name him for days after his birth because as they explained it he “just didn’t look like any name.”
Choosing a name is hard. A title is one of the first things people see about a book, and they often base many important decisions off of it. Does it sound interesting? Does it draw them in, pique their curiosity? Does it make them want to pick the book up and know more? As writers we work hard on our books, and we want to give them the perfect name. The title that represents all of the love, passion and effort we pour into them to make them what they are. How do you take the essence of your book, everything that makes it unique, and boil it down to only a few words? Will it be enough, you wonder, to really convey the meaning of what it is that makes your book special?
I’m still struggling with finding the right title, but I know that eventually, just like with most things, the right name will eventually fall into place. I just need to give it a little time and patience. Or I can give it six names and let the reader pick. There’s always that option 🙂