Tuesday, November 8, 2011


There are moments of writing when I discover something fresh and exciting. One such occasion hit me this morning while I sat on the ferry at 6:45, reviewing my chapter notes and beginning to draft a query letter for my untitled novel.

I have a file on my laptop with a list of a dozen possible titles and thought I’d committed to one, but tellingly I never put that name atop the manuscript. I began this project two years ago during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I simply saved it each draft as “NANOWRIMO” for lack of anything more inspiring. The name came during a five-minute brainstorm where I typed a stream of titles on the same theme. Then, The One hit. So clear! (Aside: If only searching for a guy brought a similar moment of clarity and exhilaration.) I typed it and then jotted down my rationale and the multiple meanings. My feet began contorting, rocking and shooting outward as I sat in the snack bar area amongst a cluster of way too chatty early morning commuters. A leap or a happy dance might have effectively let out all the energy, but I am too reserved.

I have struggled with titles since elementary school. I had no tolerance for the standard teacher directions at the outset of writing activities. “Put your name on your paper and then write your title.” Just because the title appears at the top, why should it be written first?

Oh, you can change it later.

Sure. Go into an elementary classroom and watch how much changing young writers do. They don’t! Nobody teaches revising. Sad, but true. The title gets scrawled in pencil, but it might as well be in permanent marker. A quickly determined title limits the writer’s creativity or becomes a mismatch to the subsequent story. Young writers learn to write safe headlines. “The Dog”. “My Thanksgiving”. “The Scariest Moment of My Life”. Ho hum. Is it recess yet?

My wise editor for my first novel knew I was not committed to the title I’d attributed to the manuscript at the time the publisher accepted it for publication. She didn’t fret. “It will come to you at the right time. You’ll know it when it comes.”

And, yes, for this second novel, I do know it! Hooray. Except, I’m not sharing it. Not just yet. Nobody has green-lit the work yet. I reserve the right to change my mind. What if a fresher, more exciting idea pops in my head? Heck, that happy dance may happen after all.

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