This is something that I absolutely hate about writing. I can’t even describe how much I hate trying to come up with names for stories and books. I feel like the ones that stand out the most are too cheesy or just don’t work. It’s an ongoing problem I have even just trying to come up with suitable names for my novels.
So how do I recommend coming up with a name for your project? Lots of brainstorming.
There are plenty of ways to do it, and none of them are wrong. None are more right than others. It really just depends on what works for you. I’ve gathered some examples of how to come up with the perfect title for your own work.
Words, Words, and More Words
Grab a piece of paper and a pen. A notebook works as well. Got those? Okay good. Now start writing down random words that associate with your book. Character names, major themes, important objects, whatever you think has some importance to the book in some way. Write down as many words as you can think of that are relevant to what you want to portray.
Once you have those words, highlight the ones that stand out to you. Cross off anything you have second thoughts about. Just scribble those useless words out. You’ll know what will work and what won’t just by looking at them. If you can’t tell with certain words, keep them for now.
You can spread this process over as much or as little time as you’d like. I like to write down my title ideas at the beginning of a project and just let them ruminate while I write, then look back at them every so often to see if anything sparks. Or if there are things that need to go, I’ll scratch them out.
When you’ve finally got those words narrowed down to just a handful, you’re closer to getting your title. At this point you should have some key words to help create your book title. Keep in mind you should also have some idea how long you want your title to be. I like short titles for books. They catch my eyes more, and I’m more likely to pick up a book with between 1 and 4 words in the title, but that’s my preference. If you want a full sentence as your title, that’s your choice. Although I’m not sure how well books with titles that long perform against something as simple as only 2 or 3 words.
Pick up your list and stare at it some more. What stands out? Is there only one word that really stands out as being perfect for you? If so, does it work as a stand alone name, or will you have to include it in something?
A personal example I have of this is the first book in my Love and Death series, Between Love and Death. I wanted both love and death to be in the title, but Love and Death as it is was better for the series name than for a single book. Why that is will be more evident later in the series, but that’s not important. By adding one extra word to the title of the first book, it can now be differentiated from the series. It works better for the plot of the first book.
Can you add a single word, or maybe a pair of words, to your one obvious one on the brainstorming paper and have a title? If so, do you know what words will work? Finding the right words is as easy as taking that word and writing down title ideas with all of them together. The same can be done if you have two words on your list that stand out. Merely take them both and see how you can combine them in the most appealing way for your story.
The second way to brainstorm a title for your book is by writing down all of your title ideas right from the start. It can cut out some of the work involved in the method above, but it means just going from scratch. Is there a title you have in mind already? Write that down. Then write down some other options that may work. The first name that comes to mind is not always the best one for your book, so it’s always good to have several options should the original idea turn stale in some way.
At this stage, a lot of people go online and search for their title to see how many others are using it. It’s not a bad idea, and it will help you narrow down your choices based on which titles are already in use and what genre is using them.
This method is fairly easy in some ways, but if it’s not for you, then the above option might be better for you. Again, I prefer the first method I’ve listed, but that’s just my preference. I hear there are some people out there who have no problem coming up with the perfect title, like it’s as easy as breathing. I’m not one of those people.
I have used this method before, and it does work for me. I just means writing down all of the random ideas you have for a title rather than just brainstorming words and then coming up with the title.
Picking from the random ideas in this method is the same as the method above. Start scratching out the ones that don’t catch you in some way until you have it narrowed down to only one or two titles, then pick. You can even ask for opinions at this stage if you really can’t decide between two or three titles that will work.
It’s Like Stealing – But Not
Another way of coming up with your perfect title is by doing a search on your favourite search engine. I’m not talking about just looking up your ideas and seeing who else has used them. I’m talking about doing a more extensive search for the genre you are writing in.
If you are writing a thriller, do a broad search for thriller novels. Even if it’s just images of their covers. As long as you can see what the titles are, it will work. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and notebook. Yes, I do enjoy working traditionally for my brainstorming. You can open a file instead if you like, but I prefer doing it old school.
Got your notebook or file open? Start writing down the words you keep seeing that will pertain to your novel as well. This is a lot like the first method I explained, except that you are looking for popular words in your genre as opposed to just coming up with your own words. It can be equally as effective in helping you name your book, but it requires more research.
A perk with doing it this way is that you can get an idea of what sells and what doesn’t, along with what will be overused in your genre and what will set you apart from other authors. I do recommend doing research no matter which method you choose to use, but this one has it built right in.
Another way to do this is to just pull books off of your own bookshelf at home. Assuming you have a decent collection of the right genre of books. I would still highly recommend looking online and doing research that way, though, as it will give you a wider variety to look through, and will therefore give you more ideas.
Things to keep in mind while picking your title:
Make sure the title you choose works for your genre. If you are writing a romance, make sure it gives off the impression of that in the title, and not of a horror. You don’t want readers picking up your book thinking that it’s one thing when it’s something else entirely.
You might not get it right the first time. That’s okay. Just keep thinking on it, maybe step back and take some time away from it entirely before you come back. Time away can help you clear your head so that things are more obvious when you come back to them later on.
Just because someone else is using a title that you want desperately to use, or something almost identical, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it. Mind you, if it’s something extremely unique it may be under copyright, so make sure you look into it. Just remember that you will have more competition for people searching for you if you are using the same name for your book as someone else is using for theirs, especially if the other author is a well-known and published one.
PS, I’m currently running a campaign to help raise money to publish the first book of my series! Please take a look at the campaign page here ==> Between Love and Death <== and help out if you can, even if it’s just sharing the link on your own space. Thanks!