Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 36(ish) Days

[Quick Note: As I mentioned in one of the earlier Countdown posts, I’m currently on vacation/religious observance in Wisconsin. One consequence of that is that I haven’t had the free time to write these blog posts as efficiently as I would like, so this post is delayed by a day or two from when it should appear. I am going to attempt to double up in order to get back on schedule, and try and prevent any further time slips between now and November]

I suck at coming up with titles.

Clearly, that’s not the only thing I suck at, as anyone who’s been following this “Countdown to NaNoWriMo” series can tell you that my time management skills aren’t exactly stellar either. (The obvious fact that I’m writing this two hours after the day it’s ostensibly meant to appear on has ended might be a clue to any new readers I might have also…)

It’s true, though. Despite being a reasonably creative person, any time I try and come up with a title, I struggle. Looking at my past two attempts at NaNoWriMo, I hate my titles. My first NaNo, an alternative history tale about Nazis successfully infiltrating and potentially sabotaging the Manhattan Project  (development of nuclear weapons) was given the awe-inspiring title of “Untitled” for the first fifteen days of November 2011. By day eighteen, it had expanded into the much more lofty “Untitled Alternate History NaNoWriMo draft” (I can just see that one rocketing up the bestseller list, can’t you?) Eventually, I kept ping-ponging between two titles “Trinity,” after the code name for the initial nuclear tests, and “Das Manhattan Projekt.” I felt the latter was too generic and suggested a lot of different associations before “World War II era nuclear development,” and the latter was just terribly, terribly cheesy.

By way of contrast, my 2012 NaNo title was the only thing about that thrice-accursed work that came easily. With it being a superhero/espionage conspiracy novel, I decided that “cloaked” was the perfect title, as it suggested both clandestine activities and superhero costuming (even if capes are usually thought of before cloaks), it didn’t hurt that my main ensemble had earned the media appellation “the Cloaks & Daggers” in-story.

Sadly, it seems that “Cloaked,” is very much an outlier for me in coming up with titles. If you look at the few short fiction extracts I’ve posted to this blog, you’ll see that one thing they all have in common are terribly awful titles. The least bad is probably my spin on the King Arthur mythos, entitled “The Bear of Albion,” this only works in my opinion because “Albion” is a reasonably well known name for ancient Britain and that many of the Celtic and Roman chieftains that are thought to be the basis of the mythological Arthur are described as “bear-like.” The trouble is, how many people realize that, and would understand that Arthur is the titular character? This is probably compounded by my decision to use Merlin as the first person perspective narrator for the story.

Another one of my excerpts, and a second alternate history idea that I’m kind of developing is based off of the statement by one of the men on the John F. Kennedy Secret Service detail that they came perilously close to shooting Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington, DC on the same night that Kennedy died in Dallas. I just thought “what would happen if he had fired that shot?” So, as the point of divergence, “One More Shot,” made sense as a title, but again it’s awfully generic and would have to be altered to give any clue what the tale was about.

And then there’s my third excerpt. Would you guess what a story entitled “Pegasus” is about? Would you have even pegged the genre as being anywhere near “military science fiction?” I put it to you, dear reader, that you would not. That makes it an absolutely terrible title, even if it had more thematic resonance when the story was focused more on an airborne assault.

That’s my woe with titling. Am I alone on this particular issue?

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6 thoughts on “Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 36(ish) Days

  1. Titles are the one thing I’m good at creating. Both of my NaNoWriMo tries had lovely titles and loglines. It’s the act of completing a writing project that I suck.

    This year I think I’ve got another decent title and a bit of a premise, but I have no plans of writing anything that could get published. I feel like I need to get a junk draft out of the way before I undertake a project that I’m truly invested in.

    That’s the usual trap of a beginning writer, having an idea that you feel is so good that people would actually want to read it, but you end up frustrated and put it aside because the grande vision in your head looks nothing like what you’ve just written. I figure the best therapy for that is to write a throwaway story for NaNo and get a rough draft under my belt.

    My NaNo for this year is titled Botched. The logline: A pro wrestler framed for murder in a small town teams up with an overzealous fan to clear his name.

    Perhaps it’s fWc inspired, but Elmore Leonard novels would always have quirky lead characters, perhaps this is an homage to the recently departed genius.

    But it will truly suck, of that I am certain.

    • Well, crafting titles and loglines is (allegedly) easier than trying to bang out an entire project, even if it’s a skill that has thus far eluded me.

      NaNoWrimo is pretty much designed to be the junk draft that turns a kernel of an idea into something a hair more substantial, so treating at such makes sense (I personally tend to be unable to shut down my internal editor, and so my junk drafts kind of morph into semi-junk by around the 20th and to almost coherent readable status by the 30th, but they are a long, long way from “half-decent” at that point)

      Your logline sounds fantastic and something that I would want to read. I uess Elmore Leonard is kind of known for quirky protagonists, but if you asked me what one thing I associate with Leonard is, it would be absolutely crackling dialog. No one writes speech like he did.

      It’s a first draft, they are kind of supposed to suck!

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  3. Pingback: Countdown to NaNoWriMo: 20 Days | Thoughts of a Lost Limey

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