Ah, Space Bear. I’m looking forward to the film, and, potentially, so are you. It’s other, far less interesting, title is ‘The Last Jedi’. Admittedly, Rian Johnson and the rest of the people making that movie never thought it would be formally titled ‘Space Bear’, which would be awesome, but it shall serve, nontheless, as an introduction to the topic of today (Today’s topic? Whatever). That is, the working title.
From what I’ve seen, heard, and read, writers are all over the place on whether a working title is worth having. In other words, do you need to know what your work is called in order to write it?
Technically, no. You can fill a hundred pages full of drivel and then just stick the last word you write down as the title. Or the first. Or the 45,057th.
However, there are some advantages to at least having a title in place. For one, it helps you envision the cover, which in turn gives you an idea of the atmosphere you’re shooting for in the story. If your working title is “The Farmer’s Daughter”, it’s probably going to be hard to get your head thinking of battle squadrons blowing each other to bits in the Tarantula nebula. On the other hand, if you go with “Explodey Bits” as your working title, you might get closer. And the sooner you set on one, the sooner a cover design can actually start getting put together. Nice to have those in advance, because things like pre-orders and promotions are awfully hard to do if you’re just chucking a “Chapter One” page up there.
If you’re planning to do a slew of multimedia around your work, getting an early title has other ramifications. Domain names, for example, are bought. If you want to set up a website for your work, you gotta get on that title and then buy up the relevant web address, or else Swagg the Squatter is gonna catch wind of your forthcoming masterpiece and demand an exorbitant fee payable only in Slim Jims to get the rights. Titles can’t be copyrighted, but images and such around those titles definitely can.
Lastly, you have to pick something when you save that document for the first time. Leaving it as ‘Untitled’ just looks boring. Wouldn’t it be more fun to tell your spouse or someone you love equally, like Swagg, that you’ve just started “Death Grease: Vengeance of the Friers” rather than “something new”?
That’s what I thought.
All this is leading up to a title change I’m making to my nearly-done next work, a dark fantasy novel. I was originally titling it Durango, after the lead character’s name. However, in the course of the story, that name became less important (and, to some degree, changed). So, right now, I’m going with Riven. That’s an important place in the book and, perhaps as important, fits much better on a small book cover. Was it a big deal to change? Nope. Just updated this website and a couple of other places. But having Durango as the title for the last few months gave me a concrete mental space to hold the book in. I framed every morning with “what am I going to write in Durango today?”. The title added context. It was perfect, until it wasn’t. And that’s okay.
You’ll also notice that, on the books page, I have theoretical titles for the next two books in the series. They might change! But for now, they’re a base to build on. And I don’t have to think about what I’m going to call the document.
Opening Lines: The Princess Bride – any line that has the words “scullery maid” is a good one in my book. It’s a great story, and a great movie. But I think what’s exceptionally neat about this one is that William Goldman, the author, also wrote the screenplay (and many others). He’s a great example about how artists don’t need to limit themselves to any one particular medium. Goldman wrote plenty of fiction, a ton of well-regarded screenplays (All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and some non-fiction work primarily around theater and his film work. Goldman spread himself all over the place and had a good time doing it.
Also, keep your eyes tuned – I’ll be dropping a sample of the newly named Riven on this blog tomorrow!
Why? Because, as the author and publisher, I can do what I want. It’s wonderful.