Title Imps and Envy by Mae Clair

Doesn’t it make sense that someone who plays with words on a daily basis would find it easy to dream up the title for a WIP?

If only!

Manuscript from Author with Red Twine Closeup

I confess to having title envy. For some writers the ability to whip up a name comes easily. Not so for me. Sure, there are those giddy kinetic bursts of creativity when all the powers in the universe align and I’m gifted with a title before I ponder characters or plot. But those instances are about as common as being struck by lightning. (Uh, not that I have been or am eager to experience it. Just saying it’s equally as rare).

Arriving at a title is more like wading through a sea of garbage as I discard one pitiful idea after another. I was fortunate with WEATHERING ROCK and TWELFTH SUN, in that I had both names before I began writing. The all-elusive Title Imps were generous in those days.

Not so with ECLIPSE LAKE. It went through four previous titles before being cemented in its present state. Don’t believe me? Check these out:

Jonah’s Prayer
Courting Stones
The Mystery of Eclipse Lake
The Secret of Eclipse Lake

(BTW, I hope to make an announcement about this book within the next month. I just have to get some ducks in a row before stepping out on a (very scary) limb.)

Then there’s my current novella. The title sucks. Seriously.


Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!

Here’s the problem. It’s already begun to root in my mind. Once I start to identify a WIP by title (rather than the characters which is my normal method), it’s difficult to change. It would be like switching the name of my cat halfway through his life.

I realize there are some writers who don’t give their book a permanent title until completion. If I ever played by that rule it was in the dark ages of manual typewriters, globs of Wite-Out, and 20 lb. bond. I have a mandatory decree that I must settle on a title by the time I reach the halfway point of a WIP. “SOLSTICE ISLAND” has just struck that mark. Sadly, thus far, the Title Imps have refused to cooperate (I’m convinced they’re off snickering as I type this).

Which leaves me wondering if I’m the only one who laments the inability to settle on a title. It’s possible SOLSTICE ISLAND may end up remaining SOLSTICE ISLAND, but for the moment I’m keeping my options open.

How do you feel about coming up with titles? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Want to put a bounty on the Title Imps? Do you most often choose titles before you start something, in the middle or at the end?

Share your imps and your envy!

Woman with lots of discarded paper

20 thoughts on “Title Imps and Envy by Mae Clair

  1. I don’t think Solstice Island is bad! I do agree with you that titles are monsters though! I was still playing around with GOF until the end. SOF was easy and so is my current, but I can’t say I’m ecstatic about any of them. I think I’m a bit like you in that once I start calling them something they stick!


    • I thought GOF and SOF were perfect fits for your content and brilliant! Isn’t it weird how we can be unenthusiastic with a title but others love it? As for Solstice Island, I think it’s kind of blah. Maybe it feels too much like Eclipse Lake and I’m worried readers will get confused and think they’re related.

      Yep, refer to them by something for too long and it’s written in stone, LOL! 🙂


  2. Coming up with a post title for a blog post or a novel can be very pain-staking. Sometimes I write and then come up with a tile and on some days a title seem to be the easiest part of the process. I am writing three books at the moment. My first book will be published in January and I am yet to finalize the title 🙂 Good luck and have a good day!


    • Hello and welcome to my blog! First, congrats on your January release. That’s awesome news. Although I can imagine it’s driving you nuts not to have finalized the title yet! 🙂

      You definitely sound busy (and prolific!) working on three books at one time. And I completely forgot about blog post titles. You are absolutely correct in that they can be as equally troublesome!


  3. The all important title…Yep…there are times I wished I had one of those little devils hogtied in my closet. But then again, if I did that who knows what title they’d give up?


  4. I feel your pain. Titles usually come easy with me but not with the novella I’m currently finishing up. I have the final title, the cover’s done (there’s no going back), but I didn’t feel the same certainty it was right as I felt immediately with other works.

    Re Eclipse Lake – I like The Mystery of Eclipse Lake. 😉
    I love the word ‘solstice’. Maybe if people knew a bit more about your story, we could make some suggestions if you’re still feeling stuck down the line?


    • Emma, I’m going to take you up on that suggestion thing. I didn’t do it when I was stuck on a character name because I finally decided on one, but I think I will do a blog post about “Solstice Island” and see what kind of feedback I get on title.

      For Eclipse Lake I hacked off “the mystery of” because it was suggested readers might think it a mystery novel when it’s 50/50 mystery and romance. Hmmm. Now you have me rethinking that.

      Regarding your new novella, I can’t wait to hear more about it. And of course I would love to do a cover reveal/promo. On my blog. 🙂


      • Cool. I look forward to that post.
        I can see your point about the ‘mystery’ part. It works as both titles.
        I’ll take you up on the promo – thank you.


  5. When I took the screen writing class we received a handout – how to title – or something like that. Maybe I should look at it…I usually title first and then write, but my current WIP which looks like it may actually turn into something, is for all intents and purposes unnamed But never mind the title – cover art – ugh


    • Sue, I love the thought of cover art. In the past all I’ve done is make suggestions to my publisher, but I love the thought of scouting out images on my own. Must be the creative control thing.

      Good for you on usually coming up with titles first. That’s a rare experience for me. Sounds like you’re having a lot of fun with you WIP!


  6. I prefer one, two or three word titles, so “Eclipse Lake” hands-down is a great title. No wonder you find it difficult, you keep choosing great titles. “Solstice Island” is completely intriguing, and I love it.

    So far, I’ve never found naming my books too much of an issue. I tackle it by considering the first word which comes to mind to best describe the book, then if I need a second word, it has to roll with the first, otherwise I don’t use it. Singular word titles can be incredibly strong, as can two word titles. My current WIP is called “Highlander’s Castle.” Two strong words, that’s all I need.


    • Ooh, Highlander Castle! I love it! It conjures such a sense of genre and setting. I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about it.

      I’m glad you like Eclipse Lake and Solstice Island but I’m not completely sold on the latter. I generally favor short titles too. Several of the shorts I wrote years ago have one word titles. I think they’re particularly strong.

      Thanks for dropping by, Joanne!


  7. Oh, Mae, I do feel your pain on this one. Actually, ARMED WITH STEELE was the title given to my upcoming novel after I’d signed my contract with Lyrical, and in all my folders on my computer it’s still got its original name. In my heart, it’ll always be the other, but that title wasn’t so good for the marketing aspect. But it, like most of my titles, come before the plot takes root in my head, too.

    I was warned early on by a great local author, though, not to get too attached to titles because somewhere down the line you may be asked to change them. And darn if that didn’t happen right off with my debut. 😉

    Best of luck corralling those imps. If you catch a few, send one my way. 😉


    • I think ARMED WITH STEELE is a catchy title, but I can imagine it was hard to let go of the original. I haven’t had that happen yet, but know it’s a possibility some day down the road. I was actually surprised I wasn’t asked to change the title of WEATHERING ROCK, but am glad it slid past.

      And those darn imps remain as elusive as ever, LOL! I swear they took lessons from leprechauns!


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  9. TItles are rough. Sometimes I go through 5-6 working titles to get to the final one. One manuscript, the title came first–but that’s a rarity. Sometimes it’s about me figuring out the heart of my story. Sometimes inspiration is meandering my way. 🙂


    • Your system sounds much like mine, Kourtney. I think I also experience a bit of “stage fright” trying to sum up a 80-100K novel in 2 to 3 words!

      Great to see you here. Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  10. If you find a Title Imp, Mae, please send him my way next. My current WIP is half-finished and still untitled. The two books I have with Lyrical had a series title fairly early on, but the books themselves didn’t get titles until I had to think about writing queries. On the plus side, I don’t have time to get attached to the titles. 🙂


    • I guess there’s always a plus side! 🙂 I see I’m not the only one who is halfway finished and still sorting through the title bin, LOL. I don’t believe, however, I’ve ever gone as far as the query stage without one!

      Thanks for visiting and sharing, M.Q.!


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