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Titles That Work

The Oxford Unabridged Dictionary says the word “title” is “Of multiple origins. Partly a borrowing from French. French title. Originally classical Latin titulus.” 

A title is a key part of any piece of writing, the handshake, if you will, by which you are introduced to a book. Whether you go beyond the handshake is another matter, but the title can, I think, make or break a book. Surely it can make a difference.

Would we respond to Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby if he had used one of the other titles he considered, High Bouncing Lover? I kid you not. 

Apparently, one of my favorite books, The Sun Also Rises, had Hemingway pondering Fiesta as a title. 

Pride and Prejudice. Austen considered First Impressions

When writers set about a new project, I think it’s common that they have what is called a “working title.”  If there is a new baby in the house, you don’t want to just call it “Baby.” 

In my own work, there have been many title changes. 

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle had the working title Seahawk, the name of the ship on which the story takes place. 

Nothing but the Truth was called Discovery, the legal term for evidence. 

Even Poppy had a different title, because my heroine, in first drafts, had a different name, Pip. 

My Newbery book, Crispin, was called No Name

A recent book, Gold Rush Girl, was called Rotten Row

On the other hand, Ragweed & Poppy, another recent book, had that title right from the start. 

In the course of its publishing history, my Shadrach’s Crossing became, in paperback, Smuggler’s Island

Snail Tale, first published in 1972, became in 2004 (with some rewriting) The End of the Beginning

And countless people who have greatly enjoyed my Wolf Rider have asked, “But what does the title mean?” It means it was a good book with a bad title. 

Even now I am working on a new book which has been called Loyalty from its inception. Of late, I’m thinking that’s not right. Do I have another title?  Not yet. But before I write “The End,” after the last word, it will have, before the first word, a title.

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