Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Right Title

One thing that's always been hard for me when it comes to writing is coming up with the right titles for the stories that I work on. I guess The Greatest Story Ever probably wouldn't be the best title. This is a Work of Genius wouldn't work either. No Applause, Just Buy My Book might not be the title of a best-seller either.

I have to admit that when I'm in a bookstore, sometimes I do judge books by their cover. There have been several books that I picked up just because the cover looked pretty or the title looked interesting. One of my favorite books, The Smart One and the Pretty One, by Claire LaZebnik, caught my eye specifically because of the title.

I think that titles are important because they're typically the first thing that the reader looks at. The best ones are the ones that tell the reader something significant about the book. The Scarlet Letter, for example, is a good title. Dimmesdale Feels Guilty and Spends Several Pages Obsessing Over It until You Want to Take Him By the Shoulders and Say, "Snap Out of It! Just BE A MAN!" would not be a good title.

I've taken several one-night writing classes at StoryStudio, and during one of the classes, I asked the teacher how to figure out what the right title for a story should be. She said that editors and agents often came up with their own ideas for titles. She also said that writers could take a specific object, symbol, or line from their stories and use that as the title. I liked that idea.

I haven't written a memoir, but I'd like to write one someday. I already have a lot of material from my blog and my journals. But maybe I'll wait until I've achieved my goal of world domination. Or maybe I'll wait until I become President and make it a law that people with names like Snooki aren't allowed to get book deals unless they actually WRITE their books.

I have thought about what the title of my memoir will be. I read somewhere that the most successful memoirs are typically the ones that have specific themes, like Bitter is the New Black, by Jen Lancaster, which was about how she lost her six-figure salary corporate job and how she struggled with unemployment, until she was "reborn" as a writer. Candyfreak, by Steve Almond, is about the author's obsession with candy, and how he even interviewed several people who made and sold candy.

My memoir would definitely revolve around work, of course, because my life revolves around work. So maybe Obsessions of a Workaholic would be a good title.

Here are a few other titles I thought of:

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Men

Surviving Grad School, One Footnote at a Time

Why Teaching Made My Hair Turn White

101 Ways To Drive Your Neighbors MAD 

 Give Peace (and Pop Music) a Chance

The Coolest People are the Most Neurotic Ones

Why Take a Vacation When I Can WORK?

Exercise (and All the Cute Guys with Big Muscles at the Gym) Is Good for the Soul

How to (Not) Get A's in College (The first chapter would have this title: Cell Phones are the Devil's Toys)

How Writing Saved My Life

What about you? Have you ever thought of writing a memoir? If you already have, what was it about? If you haven't yet, what would you write if you did? What would your title be?

Happy New Year, everyone!

(Side note: Is anyone else having problems leaving comments on posts that require e-mail addresses? The last three times I left a comment on a post that required the commenters to include their e-mail addresses, the link to my comment ended up linking to my e-mail! Fortunately, I contacted the bloggers and they were able to remove the link. But I was just wondering if anyone else was having this problem, because now I'm afraid to leave comments on posts that require my e-mail address.)


  1. Your blog has a great title, so I don't believe you struggle. Some people do and some don't. I love coming up with titles.

    Happy New Year! Here's hoping you find love and money and success in all the right places.

  2. LOL! Personally, I think your titles are BRILLIANT! And I agree - they are super important. The cover and title are the first thing we see. If they don't draw me to them, then I usually walk on by.

  3. Hi Theresa,
    Thank you for the New Year wishes! I hope I find love in the right guy this year; I'm going to try online dating again sometime this year, so you'll see more posts about that. Hopefully this time the posts I write about online dating will be more optimistic. :)
    I hope you have a great New Year too!

    Hi Leigh,
    Thanks! I didn't even notice Claire LaZebnik's book at first, because it wasn't on one of the display tables; it was tucked away on a shelf at the store. But the title was what caught my interest. There are always so many books to choose from, and I typically pick up the ones that have the most interesting titles and covers first.

  4. Oh I'm totally going to write a memoir of my time in the UAE. My working title is not politically correct... but I might use it anyways: "At Least I'm Not a Jew." By which I mean, that's the one way I could fit in less here, haha.

    Ugh, someone really should get on writing that memoir already.

  5. I have always loved your blog name and think it would be an ace book title.

    I would be keen to write a memoir someday...if I rack up enough stories to tell.

  6. Hi mmarinaa,
    I think your memoir of your time in the UAE would be very interesting to read, especially because not a lot of people have done what you have done; it would be interesting to see what life (and work) is like there.

    Hi eemusings,
    Thanks! You should write a memoir; it'd be fun because you're already writing, so you already have something to base your memoir on.

  7. Hi, happy 2013! Love these memoir titles, maybe you can use them all for chapters. I would probably spend weeks searching for the perfect one (I think titles are very important, as are covers).

    1. Hi Irene,
      Sorry about the late response! I was traveling yesterday afternoon and didn't get back to Chicago until late. Anyway, thanks! Happy 2013 to you too! It's difficult for me to pick out the right title for my stories, because I often come up with really generic ones at first.

  8. HAHA!!! I love your titles and would definitely read "The Coolest People are the Most Neurotic Ones."

    1. Hi Julie,
      Thanks! I like people who are neurotic, because it makes me feel like I'm in the company of people who understand how I think (and how I obsess).

  9. I am one of those hated people that never really has problems with titles. LOL.

    I have not thought of writing a memoir since I was 17. I don't think my life is interesting enough memoir material. I'm pretty boring. But I would probably title mine, "Heart is the Lamest of all Superpowers."

    I agree with Julie, I like "The Coolest People are the Most Neurotic Ones." That's probably my fave.

    1. Hi Hannah,
      I like your title too. I came up with my title about the coolest people being the most neurotic ones partly because some of the most popular fictional characters are the most neurotic ones. For example, on TV the entire cast of Seinfeld is totally neurotic, and their obsessions are the focus of the show, and Harry and Sally from Ephron's movie were both neurotic too, which made them even more likable.

  10. I did a memoir course in Uni and quickly learned memoirs are not for me. But, if I did actually write one it would probably be called 'If you met my mother, you'd understand' or 'Nothing you'd find of interest'.

    I do agree titles are important when I buy fiction.

    1. Hi Charmaine,
      I think if you did write a memoir, it would be very interesting. And actually, several people have written memoirs that focused on their parents as well as themselves. One of my favorite memoirs is by Beverly Cleary (actually, she wrote more than one memoir), and she wrote a lot about her relationship with her mother.