I came across some doosies whilst searching for a working title for my Norse mythology manuscript. There are lots of frustrating and annoying things about writing but I’d have to say that the working title is one of the most difficultly pleasant things about it.
On the one hand you have the enjoyable task of creating an interesting title while on the other you have a pull-your-hair-out difficult task of sifting through garbage titles your pathetic mind has created.
Just to be clear, I’m not calling anyone else’s mind pathetic. Just mine.
Until I pick out a title for my manuscript (whatever length it may be), I exist within a horrible cycle.
Situation: Working on a nameless project bugs me (sometimes almost to distraction)
- Can’t think of a title till I know more/have written more of the story
- Working on title-less projects bugs me so much that I sometimes get distracted
You can see how I might have a problem.
To be clear: title-less does not mean nameless. I can’t very well work on a project without a name. How would I ever refer to it even to myself? Night’s Treasure was Greek Gods or Greek mythology. The sequel was NT2. My new one is Norse mythology. But these aren’t titles.
I read somewhere (I forget where but it was probably Writer’s Digest) that a good way to find a title for your manuscript is to consider the main characters and their characters, any underlying feeling/situation/theme/etc in the story. Then write down at least 100 ideas that come to mind no matter how rotten they are. Put your list away and forget the issue. A couple days later, take your list back out and choose about 10 of your favorites that you think really represent the story. Put them away again and come back in a couple more days before choosing your favorite from those.
The details of that could be different (probably are in fact), but that’s how I remember it and it worked for me.
Most of my ideas are laughable, some are painful to write and even more painful to read again later. I wanted to try something different with my Norse title. My Greek mythology projects each consisted of two words, one of which was possessive – Night’s Treasure, Shadow’s Strength. I didn’t want to fall into a pattern.
I failed. Pretty much everything I thought of was ridiculous. Exasperated, I considered using the heroine’s name as the title: Ildri. Like the Lunar Chronicles: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. Or the classic Rebecca.
I was talking to my dad and mom about it, bouncing some of the whoppers off them, and they actually helped me decide. None of the ideas worked because they didn’t match the character so far. They didn’t know the rest of the story like I did (not written yet) so they didn’t know how she would grow to encompass those ideas.
I was this close to making the title Ildri’s name when I looked back through the list one last time with my parents’ thoughts in my head. The idea was already there on the paper but I had skimmed over it before because it seemed too blasé. I wanted it to be all about fire and ice etc but those all sounded too GRR Martin and/or too melodramatic.
It pretty much says what needs to be said about the underlying theme. And like with the golden apple for NT, I have a symbol for it: the Web of Wyrd.
It symbolizes the past, present, and future being intertwined together. I’m not going to get into it right now, but it’s a good symbol for this Norse project. It’s not super pretty or cool but it represents my thoughts on the Norse myths in this case perfectly. I’d use a newer version of the web of wyrd but it needs to be traditional, not modern.
Oh yeah. On a side note, I am now adding pictures for this project on Pinterest. Here’s a taste:
Welcome to Jotunheim! Or the Arctic Sea. Whichever.