The Joy of Titles

I would love to be able to offer a really useful, insightful post here on how to craft a fantastic title for a piece of writing. Any piece, be it poem, story, novel, article, blog post, etc.

There are two reasons why I’m not. Firstly, there are lots of helpful how-to books, articles and blog posts out there which offer advice on all aspects of writing, including titles. I don’t want to be another one in the crowd. That’s my ‘save-face’ story anyway. The other, and slightly more pertinent reason, is that I am absolutely terrible at it.

So this is more a tale of woe and a call for people to comment with their own title failures so I don’t feel quite as utterly useless.

I’ve read a good bit of the helpful advice mentioned above, and to be honest it hasn’t really helped so far. I’m hoping that this is because I am taking on other lessons and techniques and my brain is resisting being overloaded. In which case the trick to crafting titles will click in in its own good time. The alternative is that there is a special knack to titles which you’ve either got or not. In which case, I’m doomed.

My main problem is short story titles. I have started entering a monthly short story competition, which always gives a set theme. This is great, it provides structure and a springboard, especially good for beginners like me. The problem is, being on a theme, there feels more pressure to provide a stand-out title. After all, they will be receiving hundreds of entries, all on the same topic, and they have to start a cull somewhere. Assuming I manage to get through the “Oh-dear-me-this-person-has-sent-it-in-on-pink-paper-with-a-flower-border” stage, and the this “this-person-can’t-even-spell-their-own-name” stage, I then have to make it through the “oh-dear-Lord-couldn’t-they-think-of-a-better-title-than-that-have-they-no-imagination” stage. And I have visions of my masterpieces, which would otherwise unfailingly win first prize, falling through the filter right there.

I have tried using a phrase from the story, or twisting a phrase from the story. This seems to give me the result I’m happiest with, but it’s not the witty/ironic/highly intelligent/achingly beautiful thing I’m looking for.

So my next mission, in my journey to become Millionaire Writer, is to crack titles. I will leave no stone unturned. I will experiment, play with words, seek divine guidance, etc, until I am the Mistress of Titles and you are all begging me for help and inspiration.

In the meantime though, I have a story with a not-bad title to print and post.

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