Thursday, February 23, 2012

Title Search

Forget blurbs. Forget synopses. Forget even writing a novel or composing the jacket cover biography. The hardest job is finding a title. You've written a book to be proud of. You've put years of experience, months of work, weeks of revision, days of anticipation into the masterpiece. What keeps you awake night after night? The title. 

What comes to mind? Nothing as arresting, compelling, delightful, thrilling as the story. No. What do you do?

Sometimes I search the manuscript for phrases that catch the eye or the imagination. Funny thing. There never seems to be one that meets expectations. Does that mean...? Could that mean the book isn't as great as I thought? I don't entertain that thought for very long. That's just "Title Search Paranoia" whittling down writer confidence.

What's in a title, anyway? Just about everything, at least according to one of my college professors. Get that right and you've put a book in someone's hands. Get it wrong and you're overlooked for the catwalk creation sitting next to your wallflower. You need resonance. You need speaks to the heart/soul. What you get in the middle of the night is, well,... not much.

Sometimes, the best one comes to you as a flash of serendipity. Sometimes you agonize. Sometimes, you find a title before you know your characters' names or written a word.I carry a notebook in my bag. When a title presents itself, I make a note. Too often, the moment of inspiration passes without recognition. Just as often, the recorded title has no meaning when I next open that notebook.

Once in a while, I find myself locked into a title that is exactly perfect. Much more often, the novel is written, the characters ready for their moment to be read but the book is "untitled" or has the first name of one of the characters to distinguish it from all the other works in progress in my computer filing system.

In the case of my first novel for Avalon Books (to be released in April) the title came to me as I was walking to meet my lift to work. I was singing in my head and there it was. Wait a Lonely Lifetime has two significant events or connections to recommend it to me.

You may know it from the Beatles' song, "I Will":

Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.

This was the song in my head and is actually a musical reference to a song that always breaks my heart when I hear it and one that both my husband and I shared as a favorite when we first met - playing on the jukebox in a bar in Noe Valley - we were on our second date. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Bishop and the song's title is "Looking for the Right One":

Will I wait another lifetime,
Keep on looking for the right one?

Art Garfunkel also recorded this song but I prefer Bishop's original. You decide:


This line, these four words, were and are perfect for the story I tell in Wait a Lonely Lifetime, of two people who find "the right one" but are kept apart for a lifetime by the calculated interference of someone they both thought of as a friend.

7 comments:

Carolyn Brown said...

Love your title and the cover! I often find songs that have a line in them that say exactly what I want in a title. Sometimes the title comes to me in a flash before I even begin to write (The Ladies Room) and sometimes it changes (All five of The Promised Land Series and at the last minute). I think we struggle because the title is the first calling card for our readers. Title, cover, jacket copy and then they read the first paragraph; usually, in that order. Looking at your title and the cover, I'd say you've got the first two covered! Congratulations!

Sandy Cody said...

Oh, Leigh, I so identify. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone. You came with a very provative title in Wait A Lonely Lifetime. Love it. Love the cover too.

Carolyn Hughey said...

Leigh, the title and the cover of your book are perfect. The cover artist did an amazing job.

I don't typically have trouble coming up with a title. I do that even before I write the story . . . but it's after I'm done that I begin to question the title and then the frenzy starts and I search Amazon for titles and sometimes, I'll take part of a name and twist it around, and then you know what? I ultimately go back to the original title because it does sound better than anything else I've found. LOL

You story sounds so intriguing and certainly not what I expected to hear at the end about the person keeping them apartment was someone they thought was their friend. Now that's a new twist. Can't wait to read it!

Nelson Souzza said...

Stopping by to wish you both a blessed weekend, Jennifer.

Beate Boeker said...

Wait a Lonely Lifetime is such a poetic title, one that pulls you right in . . . longing mixed with melancholy. A great choice it!

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Thank you, Carolyn. I have to say the designer gets most of the create for the cover! I asked for a picture of Florence and he gave me Florence AND the Arno - couldn't be better.

Sorry I'm so late responding, everyone.

Leigh Verrill-Rhys said...

Sandy, Carolyn H, Beate and Jennifer,
I'm not very clever with titles or catchy phrases! I was very lucky with Wait a Lonely Lifetime. We'll see what happens with the next book...fortunately, titles are not subject to copyright. I did check with Avalon about that and was assured I hadn't broken any taboos.

Thank you all for your kind comments.