Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Valentine Files: Sekrit Title Trivia

Today we're talking titles. Specifically, our titles. And we thought we'd share some scoop about them. Fun scoop. Sekrit scoop. SCOOP NEVER SHARED BEFORE.

Until now.

So . . .

*cue drum roll* . . . *cracks open the Valentine Files*

14 Valentines, 14 facts. The Valentine files are OPEN.:) 

File: Have Title, Will Write*
       *also known as the File that makes JLaw say this:

Kristi: "I had the title before I even started the book. Luckily, my agent and editor loved it too."

(Did you read that? Title before words. Totally crazy.)

Kristen: "The minute I say this, everything will change* BUT ... Tabula Rasa has been my title all along. I think I'm a weirdo who thinks of the title even before I start writing the book. In fact, I sort of assumed it would get changed at some point or at least I was prepared for that possibility, having heard so many stories about titles getting changed. Tabula Rasa is just too odd. Too baffling. Too Latiny. But my agent liked it, and my editor and the marketing people seem to like it, and I'm kind of in shock, but hey, it seems to have stuck!"

(You are not alone, Kristen. See Kristi, above. :D) 

File: Title Perfection From Word One**

    **These titles got THIS from start to finish:

Lindsay: "My titles for both books never changed! :) I can't say WHY they are titled that way....but they're perfect! :)"

Bethany C.: "Like Lindsay, my title stuck. My title, SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS, is perfect because it captures the sarcastic, irreverent, is-this-offensive?, tone of the book while still making you laugh."

Philip: "I've never been good with titles, but thinking of THE BREAK-UP ARTIST was a stroke of luck. I knew I wanted to do something with break-ups. Then I remembered there was a show on Vh1 called THE PICKUP ARTIST. And whalla, THE BREAK-UP ARTIST was born. Usually I hit my head against the wall thinking of titles, but this one came to me right away and it's stuck ever since."

(Like love at first sight.:D)

NOTE: Not all titles were perfect from the get-go. Sometimes when we eyed our WIP titles, we felt more like this:

File: Working Title Not-Quite-Right and even Oh-So-Wrong

JRo: "My working title was THROUGH HIKERS. Through-hikers is the term used for hikers who tackle the entire length of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine or vice versa. Though the AT and an overnight barn that through-hikers shelter in do play a small role in NO PLACE TO FALL, none of my main characters goes for more than a day hike."

Sara R.: "My title went through a bit of a change -- waaaaay back when I wrote the first draft (like 10+ yrs ago), it was called GIVING LIGHT. But since very little between that first draft and what I have now stayed the same, that title didn't fit anymore. I came up with SNOW LIKE ASHES because it was actually a title I stole/adapted from one of my other projects that just fit this book better. And, shockingly enough, my editor didn't change it!"

Lynne: "My working title for NIL was DAYWATCH, because the teens are well, watching the days. But DAYWATCH rhymes with BAYWATCH which is so NOT what I was going for and the more I wrote, the less I like the working title. (NIL is nothing like BAYWATCH, unless BAYWATCH had cheetahs and wormholes and running and death. I'm pretty sure that's a no. :D) Thanks to my CP's, we came up with NIL before I queried. Like Sara R., my editor didn't change it. And I love it!"

(HIKERS GIVING LIGHT THROUGH DAYWATCH. A weird WIP title mash-up that still doesn't work. AT ALL.)

File: Second Time is the Charm

Jen: "DAUGHTER OF CHAOS was originally called THE NEXT RED WITCH. I received a really useful critique from an agent at the SCBWI Carolinas fall conference a few years ago, and he told me to change the title before I started querying. The first title came easily to me, but DAUGHTER OF CHAOS took lots of brainstorming and help from friends and CPs, but I LOVE this title!"

Amy: "My original title was ASHES TO ASHES in reference to the burial prayer because almost every character in the novel is dead. My editor wanted something more dramatic, so my agent and I came up with several suggestions, and my favorite was OF BREAKABLE THINGS. My main character suffers from a syndrome which makes her body drastically breakable, and so in death, she learns to piece together a mind so used to being cautious and limited. Thankfully, my publisher accepted OF BREAKABLE THINGS because so many aspects of the novel are about the fragility of life, optimism, and perspective."

(Dramatic win for both. :D)
File: Freaky Author Premonition

Anne: " PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG started out as NIGHT'S EDGE. One night, I said to my husband, "Hmm, I wonder when my editor will ask about changing my title?" (since I'd heard that many titles get changed during the editorial process). Well, the next day I got an email from my editor suggesting a title change! My publisher thought the title might sound too adult thrillerish, so we agreed to brainstorm separately and send each other lists of our ideas. We independently came up with the same title, so clearly it was meant to be. The phrase "night and fog" refers to a infamous Nazi decree target resistance fighters. I like to think of my main character, Gretchen, as Hitler's first "prisoner of night and fog". But you'll have to wait until April 22, 2014 to find out if she breaks free...

(Anne, we will ALL be consulting you for more predictions. Stay tuned. :D) 

NOTE: For some writers, titles are HARD. So hard that when we open our WIP and try to think of the perfect title, we feel like THIS:

File: Generic to MEGA-AWESOME 

Bethany H.: "I am terrible at titles. TERRIBLE. I usually just called it something really generic (two of my current WIP titles: JOURNALISM CAMP NOVEL and OZARK GOTHIC NOVEL.) So when I was getting ready to query, I asked my CPs to help me with a title. They suggested Landry Park, I didn't hate it, and luckily nobody on the publishing side hated it either!"

(Um, I think they LOVED it.:D) 

File: Potentially the Longest Title Ever 

Paula: "I am not one to obsess about titles so I will generally just slap something up at the top of the doc for file-naming purposes and wait for lightning to strike. The original plot of THE ART OF LAINEY involved a girl starting a local business helping guys win back their ex-girlfriends, often by pretending to date them to make their exes jealous. I called this masterpiece PSEUDO-DATE. When the local business turned into a successful website, the title became LAINEY MITCHELL'S NOT SO SECRET GUIDE TO WINNING BACK YOUR EX. Fun, yes? Then someone informed me my plot was a lot like the plot of the movie Easy A. After watching the movie, I decided they were right, so I altered the plot but may have been somewhat inspired by Easy A's hilarious parents. When Lainey's story became more about her and less about everyone else, the title became THE RULES OF LAINEY. Utilizing The Art of War was actually an idea that hit me during revisions, and when I changed the title to THE ART OF LAINEY, it settled around the story in a way that none of the other titles had done. I knew it was 'the one.'"

(Longest path ever to the awesome but THE ART OF LAINEY is so worth it.:D <3)

File: One Word FTW

Sara L.: "My original title was DAUGHTER OF WAR, but Scholastic decided they wanted to change it to a one-word title that really grabbed attention--a word that embodied the adventure, romance, and excitement of my book. I suggested DEFY, and everyone agreed that it was the perfect fit!"

(Love a killer one world title! hehe And DEFY is killer.)

Regardless of whether it was perfect from the start or went through a change (or two), now when we look at our titles, we all feel EXACTLY like THIS:

So there you have it!

Sekrit scoop on our debut titles! What do you think?

Pick your favorite title that didn't make it (or your favorite one that did!) and we'll shower your with chocolate covered popcorn. FOR REAL. I'm not joking. (I wouldn't joke about chocolate.:D)

Here's the deal: leave a comment, tell us your favorite title that didn't make it, tell us the worst title of the bunch that thankfully never saw the light of day (until now), or tell us your favorite title that did make it (including those crazy titles that were perfect out of the gate). Then, next week, we'll pick a comment using the random number generator and we'll send you some chocolate Valentine swag from a local chocolatier. Because we love chocolate and popcorn and books and ALL THINGS SWEET and generally we're just cool like that.:)


Note: The Valentine Files are now closed.:)


  1. I struggle with titles myself. My books get "fake titles" The Girl Who Could See, for instance, for months and months before my brilliant CP's help me find the right one. So reading everyone's title progression above was really fun. My favorite story of a title evolving above was Paula's THE ART OF LAINEY-it might have something to do with the fact that she mentioned Easy A, on of my fav. LOL movies.

    And the title along that made me want to read it ASAP was PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG

    1. Easy A--great movie for sure.:)

      And <3333 Anne's title! Great pick Robin!

    2. Thanks, Robin! Stay tuned and in a few weeks you might win a chance to read an advance copy of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG. I wish I could say more now but my lips have to stay sealed...

    3. Yeah, no point in freaking out about your title. If you get too attached, marketing will just change it to something that is the same as a Justin Bieber album ;-)

      Easy A was so awesome, like Emma's character (and unlike 95% of YA books), Lainey has two happily married parents who love her and are adorably wacky at times :)

  2. JLaw is cracking me up this morning!!

    Lynne, this is wonderful.

  3. I love this! JLaw is hysterical. The whole post rocks. Thanks Lynne!

    1. JLaw IS awesome. her expressions=priceless.:)

      xoxo Sara! :)

  4. It's so cool to hear everyone's title stories. Great post, Lynne!

  5. Love the JLaw GIFS, but the guy's face in that last one just beats them all... lol!

    1. OMG--I didn't even catch that guy's face but it's hysterical. Thanks for pointing that out, Emily!


  6. I want to participate, but I can't focus...I can't stop staring at the woman sitting behind Jennifer Lawrence in the last picture. Her expression is priceless!