And The Title Goes To…

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Insecure Writer’s Support Group day #IWSG

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Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your writing doubts and the fears you have or have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time.

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Wednesday is also Writing Wednesday

Typewriter Pink

Writing Wednesday is the day I like to share what I have learned on my journey from writing to publishing to marketing my first book and then doing it again. The type of information I wish someone would have shared with me, back then.

And the Title Goes to…

I always have a hard time coming up with titles for my blog posts. Book titles and chapter titles are even tougher to come by. Advice however is free and flows abundantly.

The simple rule is the title should be short, easy to remember and contain a noun, a verb and maybe an adjective. Most best- selling titles have three words or less. Your sub- title should be longer and should tell the reader exactly what they will be reading.

My personal rule is to use a ‘working title’ because chances are your editor may suggest a change and the publisher yet another change. That should end the stress, right?

With my first book, I was at my wits end trying to come up with something when my brother came to me in a dream and told me what the title should be. The book is about his random road rage murder so I wasn’t about to question his suggestion.


I assumed the title for the second book would come in a dream too. It didn’t happen. The Stranger In My Recliner came from a line in the book.

Titles are not copyrightable so legally you don’t have to worry about using a title that has already been used. Laws get murky when someone’s name is used in the title. If you are writing a biography and want to use the name of someone famous, check with an attorney. It is legal to use anyone’s name but there are circumstances that could land you in trouble.

Trademarked titles are a different story. James Patterson uses nursery rhymes, Three Blind Mice, Along Came a Spider etc…If you choose to use a nursery rhyme title you may find yourself needing an attorney. You may win but it will take time and money. It would be easier to come up with another title. Taylor Swift is now trade marking the titles of her songs. It is a crafty way to get around the copyright law.

Nursery Rhymes

It only takes a few minutes to do a Google search or an Amazon search.

There are websites that generate titles. I have yet to get a title I used from one of them but they are fun. (my fave)

Titles can be a place, a thing, an event, a name, a song title (that isn’t trademarkedJ, cliché, play on words, line from the story, ports, ships names, river names, something provocative etc…

How do you come up with your titles?

Happy Writing,


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43 Responses to “And The Title Goes To…”

  • Great post Doreen.

    My daughter Cindi came up with the title for my book, Rude Awakening. But when my editor said I needed chapter titles and told me to take a word or a phrase from within each chapter, I really had fun coming up with them.

    I thought I knew what I was going to name my second book, but I may have to rethink that considering what you said about using names.

  • Helene Cohen Bludman:

    Oh, does this post resonate with me. I seem to come up with blog titles OK, but for the life of me I can’t come up with a title for my WIP. I have tried those generators, too. Gah!

  • I’ve not written a book so my experience is titling blog posts. Sometimes I know from the start what I want to use for a title and other times it evolves. I haven’t worried about keeping it to under 5 or 3 words but I think that would apply more to a book. I would be much more obsessive about getting just the right title if it was a book. Seems like it would be more difficult. Blog posts come and go and can be renamed if you want later if you come up with something even better. Interesting post! I’ll check out your work.

  • PS – just bought your book!

  • I have a terrible time coming up with titles. For one of my last books, I even tried a lot of those title generators–they were awful! But, like you said–funny.

    It made me laugh when you talked about the success of three-word titles. My recent release had a three-word title, and my publisher made me change it to a five-word.


    So sorry to hear about your brother. That’s so sad!

  • Great post. I love coming up with titles. I work with puns, alliteration and all other manners of word play. Thanks for more food for thought.

  • Both of your book titles are great, and I love that the first one came to you in a dream. That doesn’t surprise me since I do some of my best “writing” while sleeping! Titles are really challenging, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks so!

  • I have a tough time with titles, but I always use a working title (that may change several times).

    The Foreign Language of Friends was once Change of Plans. A novel I haven’t even begun yet has already changed from Finding Jane to Factory Girl. What She Knew, which comes out in the spring, was once The House on the Hill (I had to dig through my files because I couldn’t even remember the original title).

  • I do enjoy coming up with titles. Not only of my over all story, but I enjoy naming chapters as well. I do YA writing and I find it fun to do. I always enjoyed reading books that had a different name for each chapter.
    Also, those title generators look like fun too, but not sure I’d ever use of the suggestions either.

  • I start with working title too–normally as you said a line in the work, or theme, or emotive theme, all always subject to change. It gets really hard when you feel you came up with to great titles for same book and have a hard time deciding between them.
    Juneta Writer’s Gambit

  • How do I come up with my titles? Since you asked:

    You should write an essay about your brother coming to you in a dream with the title for your book about him for Chicken Soup For The Soul. They’re currently looking for stories about ANGELS AND MIRACLES and one of the suggested topics is “messages from loved ones who have passed on.”

  • Titles are hard. I’ve been struggling with a title for my current WIP for months. My first book I knew the title right away, and I even made sure that there were no other major books with the same name out there. Unfortunately it took me years to get it out, so in the end someone published a book with the same name like a month before I did.

    IWSG October

  • I always look forward to your Wednesday words of wisdom and luckily this week your post reminded me that it’s that time again … for another IWSG post. I can’t believe another month has rolled by. October is a really hard month for me. It’s a bittersweet month. My daughter, Blake turned 17, on the 2nd. She is my only surfing triplet girl. Her sisters died from meningitis when they were really young. I know that I am truly blessed that she survived, but I still get sad and depressed during this month. I always wonder what it would be like if they were all three here. It has eased up a little over the past five years, but this year, it hit me harder than it did last year. I believe it is because she is growing up and will be going to college soon. She has also been sad lately and asking me a lot of questions about her sisters and pulling out the old scrapbooks, photo albums and videos of home movies. My son’s birthday is October 21st. I hope I can pull myself together by then.

    I love the meaning behind the title that came to you in a dream from your brother. Since your book was about his murder, of course you could’t ignore or question his suggestion.

    I am hit or miss with titles. Some just come to me out of no where without any thinking at all and others I struggle with. Now, I need to go and work on my IWSG post that I almost forgot about. Thanks for the reminder.

  • I have a tendency to write long titles…and I don’t care! Advice I’ve heard (and used) to use the language of your audience because it will resonate faster. But in the end, I like to go for what feels right to me. The title of my next blog post is “I literally scared myself shitless!” True story.

  • I’ve heard arguments both for and against long titles. Some online publications have titles that are so long, they could be paragraphs. Being succinct is a challenge, and now that titles are being trademarked, we will have to be extra careful. I predict a lot of future lawsuits! Yikes!

  • Lidy:

    Titles are never easy. Some titles just come to me and I just know that it’s “IT.” But that doesn’t happen a lot (wish it did, though). I have an epic fantasy WIP (hiatus) which was formerly titled Spiritus Mundi because I wanted the title to tie in to the them of end of the world, inspired by William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” Then I thought of changing the title to “Trimurti” or “Triptych.” In the end, I ended up making a list of 30 alternative titles (thanks to, until I ended up with the current title “Harbingers of El Tinor.” So yeah, titles aren’t easy.

  • I cannot, for the life of me, come up with titles. I’m horrible at naming my stories–that’s why my novella is called Pearl, after the protagonist.

  • And, another Wednesday gem. Thank you for this sage advice on titles. They’re always hard for me. Too much journalistic training, I guess, and insufficient attention to using my creativity for titles.

  • Trying to come up with a title for tomorrow right at this moment.

  • The title of my memoir, Tornado Warning, came from a poem I wrote that is included in the book. In my case the title is a metaphor for what life living in an abusive relationship was. That said, for years the working title was, A Promise Broken, but I began writing the book in my early 20’s, by the time the book was finished decades later the working title no longer fit. I am obsessed with learning about titles and also love covers. Great post, Doreen. And I love that the title of your first book came from a dream.

  • I had a horrible time coming up with the title for my new novella. I wanted to include something about the heart, since a character undergoes heart surgery and another had his heart broken in a relationship. I also wanted something about death since the action occurs on Nov. 1, or the Day of the Dead. After considering “Heart Damage” and “Heart Failure” among many others, I finally settled on “Heartstopper”. Whew! That was tough.

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