How to Title Your Novel: The Complete Writing Guide

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Did you know that Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons  Why started out with a different title? He had  

named it Baker’s Dozen, given Hannah Baker is  the main character and she shares thirteen tapes,  

with the number thirteen being commonly known as a  baker’s dozen. Like most authors, he didn’t really  

want to change the title. But r egardless of how  you feel about the book, I think most of us will  

agree that Thirteen Reasons Why is the more  enticing name. It creates intrigue—thirteen  

reasons for what? It promises a list, and with  thirteen being an unlucky number in many cultures,  

it feels ominous, especially when the  reader learns the novel is about suicide. 

Titles can be short and simple, like The Shining,  or they can be long and quirky, as with The  

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  They can evoke the genre in an obvious way, as  

in Interview with the Vampire, or feature a title  that doesn’t fully make sense until the very end,  

like with The Sense of an Ending. Titles shine a spotlight on the heart  

of the novel, directing readers’ attention to  an important element that thematically ties the  

story together. For some writers, coming up with  a title is even harder than writing the book.  

After analyzing a few hundred novels, I’ve noticed  patterns that might help you brainstorm ideas  

for a musical, memorable, and marketable title—one  

that sounds like poetry to the ear,  that readers will easily remember,  

and that captures people’s attention. The blog Novel Writing Help recommends  

“naming your baby” early on because . . . “1. It’s good for your motivation.  

When you give something a name, it  always feels more real, more alive. 

2. It’s good for the continuing development  of the idea—because thinking about what to  

call your novel forces you to think hard  about what the novel is actually about.” 

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