When it comes to titles, I am completely tone deaf.
My usual writing process is similar to watching a film. A picture plays out it my mind and I write down what happens. When I’m done, I spend many desperate hours brainstorming a title. Eventually, I give up, label the file with some random word from the text, and send it out to my critique partners.
Typically the responses range from “That’s a working title, right?” to “You aren’t really going to call it that, are you?” Without a decent title, my manuscript is doomed to be mangled, misunderstood, and abandoned.
Forgotten before the first page is turned.
I have known writers whose titles always shine, even when the texts are lackluster. They’ve got that hook, that title that makes you want to grab the book off the shelf. I’ve asked them for help, studied their methods, and done all I can to imitate them. I know how important a good title is.
And still, I fail to come up with anything memorable.
So imagine my surprise the other day when I was driving the carpool, listening to the kids chattering, and overheard a phrase that would make a perfect title for a YA novel. It was the type of thing that no one over twenty would think of saying, yet it captured the essence of these kids exactly.
Now I’ve got the title, I’ve got the characters, but I haven’t got a story. Instead, I’ve got questions: What kind of trouble could a kid like that get into? And how am I going to get him out?
I’m turning my process upside down, starting at the end and writing backwards. I’ve heard authors say they start with just a title, but is this really enough spark for a book? Writing this way feels like trying to walk in someone else’s skin.
I would love to hear your suggestions. Have you ever tried to change your process? How did you move forward from that first spark to a full-bodied story?