Thursday, May 07, 2009

Insert title here

I'm working on an idea for a new book. Right now, I'm still figuring out the characters and the plot, as well as the relationships and the settings. Safe to say I don't really know where I'm going with this, but I have one thing. A kickass title.

I'm calling it The Cousins' Club. ( Though I'm not sure if I need the apostrophe. Does the club belong to the cousins, or is it more like a club of cousins? I'm thinking of examples like The Authors Guild, no apostrophe.)

I'm telling you this for the irony, as the book that's in production now—the one I spent three years thinking about and twelve months writing—is still without a title. The final manuscript has been approved by my editor and will likely have a pub date next spring. But we don't know what to call it.

It's been impossible to find the right peg for this plot. Here's the description that appeared in the trades:

Pitched as "Jodi Picoult meets THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE," the new novel tells the story of a suburban mom expecting her second child who discovers that she might be able to slip through a portal to the life she would have had if she never got married. When a routine sonogram reveals unexpected problems, her grief lures her to escape to the life that might have been—in which she discovers that she's stayed with her neurotic ex-boyfriend, and that her mother, who committed suicide several years before, is very much alive.


For about a year I was calling it The Fissure, because the portal my protag slips through appears as a fissure in her basement wall. Likewise, the problem with her baby is a fissure in her skull. But I never liked the title. I'm afraid that people going into a bookstore and asking for it by name would be sent to the field and stream section. Also, it's not a pretty word. Sounds like something ugly that can happen to your rectum.

Then I started calling it The Silver Line, a more descriptive way to say the same thing. I think it's a pretty title, and memorable, but I worry that it sounds like the name of a train.

My agents rejected both titles outright, and pitched it to editors first as The Opening and then as If Only. No one liked the former, and the latter gets mixed reviews.

My editor changed it back to The Silver Line when she reported the deal to the trades. I later came up with The Parting, which my agents love but my editor is lukewarm on. I'm a little torn on that one. I like it for the emotional resonance, but can't get past how hard it is to say out loud and be clearly understood. Try it. Suggest that as a title to someone and see if they think you're saying The Party.

I came up with several hundred alternatives, and pitched the best of the bunch to my agents. They didn't like any of them. But one stuck with me—The Broken Wall. I like this one because the wall in question is both the literal wall in my character's basement, as well as the metaphysical wall between her two worlds. Also, I think it's memorable, and sticks well to the concept.

But I kept going, and four-hundred pages of notes later I came up with The Other Life, which I really liked, as it refers to my protag's two lives as well as the life of her baby. My agents and editor liked it, too. But after living with it a few weeks I started to think it was just too vanilla. And my agents said it's really not as good as The Parting.

So I pitched The Broken Wall to my editor, because I still really liked it. She did, too, but it wasn't a Eureka that's it! moment. It's just another in the list of titles she's considering, and I wouldn't be surprised if the cover of the book has one that we haven't even thought of yet.

If you want to make suggestions, I'm all ears. But don't be offended if I don't like it. Remember that I've been making lists of possible titles for an entire year, so this is a very tough nut. I've even spent hours searching stock images for ideas. Still, if you're keen to give it a shot, keep in mind that it has to sound serious because the book is kind of dark and highly emotional. It should suggest something about the premise without sounding sci fi or paranormal. And it has to be memorable.

And of course, when we make the final decision I'll be sure to post it here.

4 comments:

A Beautiful Mind said...

I like The Other Life. As far as other suggestions: The Second Chance (second baby, possibility of going back to another life, mom who is dead now alive in alternate universe, I imagine she may have to make split second decisions that are weighty, life can change in a split second). For the same reasons, and because of the split in wall skull, etc., maybe "Split Second"
I also suggest "The Rift" which suggests both physical and emotional separation.
Halfway Home
Halfway There
Here to There
There and Back
Here and Back
Past Present Perfect
The Space Between

Ok, I've been overwhelming enough.

Ellen said...

This is great. Appreciate the opinions and suggestions! I actually presented some very similar ones to my agent, and your thoughts make me want to revisit them. Thanks!!

SusanD said...

Ellen, most excellent news that your editor has approved the final manuscript. Cognrats! I do love the title of the new book. As for this one you're having trouble with, hmm, not my strong suit. How about "escaping realities." That's all I got, but i really like "the other life."

complete-joy said...

How about "A Separate Life"? It might be reminiscent of A Separate Peace, but I doubt most readers would connect the two. I personally like "The Half Life" but that might be a little too sci-fi for you. Good luck on the title searching!