Choosing the Title of Your Novel: It’s Time to Name the Baby!

April 24, 2014

naming the babyI usually have no trouble choosing a title for a piece of work. The title typically comes before the work, or concurrently, and when it does, it seems right.

You can feel when a title is right. It sits in the gut in just the right way.

Not so my current novel. My opus of numerous years has remained title-less. When speaking of it I call it ‘my novel’ or ‘my regency romp’ or ‘my regency soap opera’.

It has no official name–yet.

I need to rectify that. I am nearing THE END, starting to cast my eye towards publishing, and I can’t keep calling it ‘my novel’, certainly not in my query letters to agents.

It’s time to name the baby!

But what do I name the baby?

I have no idea. Nothing from the novel itself leaps up. No particular saying or place.

I’m stumped.

I decided to try random associations, something I like to do when I’m stuck/have writer’s block.

I turned first to the tarot, randomly selecting a card. I got the card ‘judgement’. Reading through the meaning of Judgement,  this phrase stood out:


Ooooo, I thought. That might work! It fits with the story (several of my characters have their pasts rise up and bite them in the bum).

Plus, my novel is the first in a series and think of all the ways I could play around with ‘shadows’!

Shadows of the Past, Shadows of the Heart, Deep Shadows, etc.

But does this exemplify the quirkiness of my regency romp? Is it too common a turn of phrase? Does it stand out? Is it too hokey? Does it sound too ‘Harloquin Romance’?

So I kept hunting.

This time I plucked a few of my favourite era-ish themed books off the shelf, closed my eyes and chose a page.


Here are some of the phrases I found that could conceivably be turned into titles to fit my  novel:

From Gothic by Fred Botting (pg. 48):

  • Let Fancy Roam
  • A Certain Distance

From Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (pg.148):

  • Feeling Haunted
  • Impulses of the Moment

From Glenarvon by Lady Caroline Lamb (pg. 142):

  • The Meaning of That Glance
  • Jests of Fancy

From The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker by Tobias Smollett (pg. 70):

  • Uncommon Regard
  • Turned Tipsy Turvy (which has the benefit of alliteration! Always welcome in a title!)

I even tried randomly selecting a page from my own novel.

  • A Peculiar Message
  • Sitting in Solitude (more alliteration!)

None leap out at me as the one, I’m afraid.

I guess the next step is to write them all up on slips of paper, stick them in a hat and pull one out with my eyes closed?



  1. Try the Complete William Shakespeare – Will the Bard always has something…

    As to agents, have you read Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing Chapter 4? If you haven’t, you should. Dean has been on the New York Times Bestseller list, and he knows what he’s talking about.


  2. Oh, and there’s also this.


  3. Good idea re Shakespeare! I really am at the point of pulling it from a hat…but we’ll see. Maybe I can come up with something soon!

    Julie J.

    • Shakespeare has something for everyone!


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