Thursday, November 18, 2010

Titles Make me Scream

I noticed I'm writing on a theme, so I thought I'd go with it. The theme is:

The Three Hardest Things to Write
  1. The query
  2. The first chapter
  3. The title
These three things are so hard because a. They're starting points, so you don't have your momentum going yet, and b. They sell the book. They make or break you. A book can be popular if it has a crappy chapter, even if it has a crappy ending, but if it has a crappy first chapter or a crappy title, it's not going to make it off the book shelf.
I wanted my book to have the words "Vestal Virgin" in the title. My vision was that people would think, "A Vestal Virgin? What is that? I simply must pick up this book and find out." The truth is I was stuck on "Memoirs of a Geisha" and wanted my title to be exactly the same. 

I took a writing class where we had to make a list of ten titles for our book and everyone had to vote on their favorite. I already had an idea for my title, but I humored the professor for the grade. Well, everyone unanimously hated the title I wanted. Notice a trend here, anyone?

Here's the list I gave them:

The Story of a Vestal Virgin
A Vestal Virgin's Song
The Song of a Vestal Virgin
The Priestess
A Priestess of Rome
Sacred Burnings
Sacred Fire
The Fire of Vesta
Vesta's Fire

I'm not saying any of these are especially good, but "Sacred Fire" stood out to everyone. (I liked "Sacred Burnings" better because then I could draw a connection between the literal burning of the fire and the figurative inner burning of the heart, but everyone thought it sounded like a cult that set things on fire for their rituals.)

I decided to use "Sacred Fire" as a working title until I came up with something better. I never did, and I eventually grew to love it. Critiquers win again.


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