Thursday, February 25, 2016

Perils of the Writer: The Agony of Titles

Coming up with titles for books is one of my most loathed things.   Almost everything has had a working title for some portion of its existence.  And those working titles were often atrocious.
Case in point: when I first started drafting what would become The Thorn of Dentonhill, my working title was "Tools of the Trade".  In fact, in the original drafting, while I had an outline, the idea that Veranix would become "The Thorn" wasn't part of the plan.  That initially evolved out a need to have his enemies refer to him as something other than "the guy".  But my initial critique readers thought "Tools of the Trade" was incredibly bland, and I needed something that felt unique, gave the story its own identity in a way that "Tools of the Trade" never would.
A Murder of Mages was originally just "Maradaine Constabulary", though I occasionally considered "The Mage Murders", up until the point where it was being sold. Finalizing the title was part of getting the contract squared.  Funny thing is, A Murder of Mages was a title I had considered but initially dismissed as if it was not available or taken already or something.  Which is absurd.
When writing The Alchemy of Chaos, my working title was just "The Alchemist", and then "The Alchemist of Aventil", which I didn't think was a workable title by the time I had finished the manuscript.  There were so many things going on that having a title that focused on just one bit seemed wrong.  I sent it to my editor with the title "The Elements of Aventil", which she didn't like at all.  We had a few email exchanges bandying potential titles back and forth before we came up with The Alchemy of Chaos.  I'm quite glad we did, because it meant that the third Thorn book could then have the title The Imposters of Aventil, which she liked right away.
Had a similar problem with An Import of Intrigue.  My working title had always been "The Little East". because I wanted to conjure up the mystery of this neighborhood of foreign enclaves.  My editor thought it was too vague, though, making it sound explicitly Asian when that isn't the case.  I played around with some other titles that played off of collective nouns like A Murder of Mages does, and one of them was "An Intrigue of Imports", and my editor said, "Let's flip that around."  And we're keeping the collective nouns, if not the alliteration, with A Parliament of Bodies.
The Holver Alley Crew, coming out next year, has kind of always been Holver Alley Crew, though since I initially considered that an entire-series title, I played around with it being called "The Fire Gig".  But that never really took.  And my editor was all in for the title of that second book, which is one I've had in my back pocket for yearsLady Henterman's Wardrobe.  
All right, that's enough name-checking all my current and future books.  Time to get to work.
The UC Review has nice things to say about The Alchemy of Chaos, as well as new DAW author Gerald Brandt's The Courier, which is probably going to find its way near the top of my to-read in the near future.  

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