Thursday, September 10, 2015

Craft your memoir’s best title, Part 2

“A clever title is great if it is clear,” writes Judy Cullins, “but a clear title is always preferable. The best? A clear and clever title.”

Does your memoir have a title yet? If not, I hope last Thursday’s post and today’s will inspire you to work on it. Remember: It’s good to give your memoir a working title until you can pin down the just-right title.

Why? Because:

The process of writing
often takes the story
places the author never expected.

The process of writing
can take the author’s story
in a different direction
than she planned.

Denis Ledoux explains it this way: “Over the time that you linger with your story, it will frequently begin to change—not the facts and the dates, but the interpretation and the metaphors and images you use, the vignettes you choose to include or omit.  You will see your stories in ways that you may not have seen it before….”

With that in mind, choose a working title, knowing you might change it later, depending on what you discover as you continue to write. In fact, you might not pin down your permanent title until you’ve finished writing your memoir, but your working title can help you reach your final title.

Daniel Scocco offers seven interesting methods of crafting your title:

He suggests listing nouns, verbs, and adjectives that describe your story and “combine them into different phrases.”

Daniel also suggests describing an important turning point or the climax of your story, noticing key words. “Mix and match these words,” he says, “to see what works for you.” I like that: “Mix and match.”

Read the rest of Daniel’s seven tips in his post, “Picking Your Perfect Title.” They are intriguing.

Choose a title that’s easy to pronounce and easy to remember. Jerry Waxler points out that a good title helps a reader recommend a book to a friend.  I hadn’t thought of that before, but his point caught my attention. He says, “…the title should roll off the reader’s tongue when friends ask for a recommendation.” Good stuff, Jerry!

You might consider giving your memoir a one-word title.

A title with a visual component works well in catching potential readers’ attention.

Analyze other memoirs’ titles. 
Study advertisements. 
Examine article titles in newspapers, 
magazines, and blogs. 
Ask yourself 
“What makes them work?”

Or, how about a Shakespeare quote? Or a phrase from an old hymn that’s in the public domain? (Avoid using copyrighted materials. Check out the laws thoroughly if you’re tempted to use anything copyrighted. Click here to read Virginia Lloyd’s How to Get Permission to Use Song Lyrics in Your Book.)

In her excellent book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor, Priscilla Long tells us to craft titles that “give readers an extremely accurate idea of what’s behind the door they are about to walk through…. [S]hun lyrical flourishes, obscure metaphors, and anecdotes with delayed points.”

She urges writers to avoid being fancy. Instead, she says, we should be direct, accurate, plain and simple.

So, now, put on your thinking cap and craft a working title, or maybe even your final title. And come back next Thursday for more tips on putting together a title for your memoir.

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