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I am at a dilemma, as I cannot title my novel. So I created these questions.

  • What creates a good title for a novel?
  • What should I include/not include in my title?

At the moment, I have come up with 'The Day Before', however I believe that that's quite generic. On the other hand, it does fit the plot, as the end of the novel begins to revolve around what happened the very day before the day in which the first chapter is set.

So, after writing that paragraph I came up with this addition.

  • How can I make my title original?
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    Not an answer to your specific questions, but you might try this: Read through the story, looking for words and phrases that pop, that have significance. Look for the metaphors you use and the phrases that are uniquely yours. Then use that list to generate title ideas. – Ken Mohnkern May 21 '16 at 14:02
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1) What I like to do is go to a book store and look at the titles in the genre I am writing in. If you do that, you will notice that books from the same genre often have titles that are similarly structured.

For example, thrillers have short one or two word titles that relate to things hard, cold and dangerous. YA SF also has one word titles, but these words are mysterious and emotional. YA romance has humorous phrases. And so on.

So, get an idea of title conventions in your genre. These exist because they sell, so use them to create a structural frame for your title.

2) Try to write down what your novel is about in a few words. Brainstorm and don't censor yourself yet. What is the moral premise? What is the plot? What is the end? What is the character's handicap? Etc. Collect as many short phrases and words as you can.

Then try to rephrase these ideas, fitting them into the structural frame you deduced from looking at genre titles.

3) While you do that, try to imagine what your target audience wants. Why do they read? How does your book satisfy their desire. Use your intimate familiarity with your readership to further shape and finetune your title.

4) Show a selection of possible titles to your trusted beta readers, your husband/wife, your agent, your writer's group, and ask for their feedback.

5) Select a title and submit your manuscript.

6) Get rich.

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I recently watch 7 editors choose stories for anthologies. They had read all of the stories a month or two earlier, and were now considering them in front of a live audience.

Every now and then, an editor would pick up a manuscript from the pile, read the title out loud to the audience, and say, "I have no memory of this. Give me a minute..." Then they'd flip through their notes.

Two of the stories were called "Payback." Fine stories both, but the titles did not help the editors recall them or distinguish them.

Then there were the stories where the editor would read the title out loud, and everyone in the room would instantly recall the important details of the story. (Sorry, I can't give examples. The stories haven't been published yet.)

What we in the audience learned from this: One key goal of a title is to help the editor instantly recall the story.

Probably the same for readers, and for word of mouth.

So find a title that helps people instantly recall some key ingredient that makes this story unique.

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When I am Writing my titles I make a list of what I think is most important about the story. Then what I do is I reread parts of it. then I brainstorm and write words that come to me, about and from the book. I will read them then try and make a something that sums up the book. For instance, I wrote a story about a well that holds all the memories of the world. I titled it well of memories. Then I search for the title, I came up with just to ake sure it not taken.

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There are two ways to approach this:

  • marketing
  • artistic

Though they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, an excessively obscure title might be risky in terms of the former (although, it might also help; you never know).

My advice is to ignore any marketing concerns and focus on art. A title must be:

  • indicative of the book in question (can you imagine Jaws being called The Seaside Town instead?
  • interesting. There are several ways to achieve this, but some ideas can be: obscure words; alliteration; deliberate bending of grammatical rules - Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would not sound as... strange with the article included.
  • participating in meaning-rendering mechanisms. Think of a title that makes sense when you have reached the last page of the book.
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  • Nice answer, but I'm somewhat confused. You say to ignore marketing concerns, but then list three (very valid) points that are some of the core of marketing. – user18397 May 23 '16 at 5:17
  • When I listed the reasons I was thinking purely in terms of art, not marketing. As I stated, quite often it can help (i.e. marketing and art go hand in hand), but it can also hinder. For instance, a non-English title might be artistically very appropriate, and yet marketing-wise a bad call. The same goes for a grammatically non-standard title. – user16555 May 23 '16 at 6:26
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One technique is to read your story through and highlight phrases that pop out. Then choose one or a few and tweak them if necessary. Take your short list to your writing group for feedback.

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Pick a phrase from your novel that is significant.

'The Day Before'

Worried it doesn't stand out? Try restructuring it to make it slightly more unique - and make sure that still fits.

'Before The Day'?

Bend your perspective.

'After Yesterday'?

Run the words through www.thesaurus.com and see if something new pops.

'Auld Lang Syne'?

Make something up

'Jabberwocky'?

Go straight to the sequel

'The Day Before II'?

And when inspiration strikes and you find the perfect name, Google to see who else has already written a novel, poem, song or play with a clashing title that.

Happy New Year!

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  • Would "The Day Before II" be a prequel? ;) – WillRoss1 Jan 8 at 14:14
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    The prequel would be "The Day Before Yesterday" 🤦‍♂️ – Michael Jan 8 at 21:31

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