How’s writing going for you? Have you had a chance to sit down today and write, even if only for ten minutes? If not, stop reading my blog immediately and go scribble down a few ideas, just to wake up your brain and stretch your imagination — after all, the title of this project is ‘First We Write’. Before we discuss writing, we must go and write, because that comes first!
You’re back? EXCELLENT!
Titles are funny things. When I work on a project, I have absolutely no idea what it’ll be called when it’s finished. For the most part, I pull my book titles from an integral part of the story, but as that story hasn’t yet been written, there’s no material to mine. Until it’s done, I don’t really know what the pivotal image or concept will be, or what symbol will best describe the character’s arc, or what will snag a reader’s attention.
But I still need a title to call the project. I’m often working on a number of items at once — it’s not unusual to have a few short stories, a novel, and couple of video projects on my desk at one time, and it’s necessary to have a method of referencing them. “I’m going to work on No. 5 for an hour, then do a bit of work on No. 7, then meet with clients about No. 82 after lunch”. Nope. Not going to work.
That’s where working titles come in.
A working title is a fake title, something to hold you over until you’re finished and you can settle on something that best encapsulates your story. On rare occasions, a working title ends up being the finished title, too: Snakes on a Plane is a famous example of this. But normally, a working title is just a place-holder, easy to remember and destined to change.
Plus, a working title is a great way to deflect interest, too. You might not want your friends to know what you’re working on, and you might not want to give away the twist at the ending. You might not want someone else stealing your ideas, either, and if you choose a fake title to avoid a particularly unscrupulous competitor, that’s called a ‘title ruse’.
Either way, a working title gives you the opportunity to choose something fun and diverting. Currently, I’m calling my new project ‘Dread Mountain’. Why? It takes place on a mountain, and I figure my characters will experience some horrible things there. It’s not meant to be clever or engaging, deep or insightful. It’s only a way of keeping myself moving forward, and at this stage of the game, that’s a good enough reason for me.