Thursday, May 25, 2017

“A title that tolls off the reader’s tongue”

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!

Denis Ledoux says a memoir’s title is “about the reader not about the writer.”

Choose a title that reaches out to readers and hooks them because, Denis points out, “Many things are competing for the reader’s attention [so] a title needs to be a player in the competition.”

Think about what your potential readers need. In his post, How to Choose a Title for a Memoir, Denis asks:

  • “What is your ideal reader struggling with? Where is his pain? Place a word or two that describes that pain into the title….
  • What outcome will the reader achieve when she reads this book?...
  • How can you involve the reader’s curiosity?”

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

And then have fun crafting a few possible titles for your memoir.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Your memoir’s all-important subtitle

Your memoir’s subtitle will help you accomplish your title’s goals, which are to:
  • establish a distinct identity for your memoir,
  • catch potential readers’ attention,
  • entice them to buy your book,
  • read it when they get home,
  • and recommend it to their friends.

A good subtitle explainsilluminates, sheds light on—a book’s title. It:
  • tells potential readers how your book is different from others,
  • hints at what readers will find within your memoir,
  • expands the meaning of your title,
  • and might allude to secrets within.

Brooke Warner writes, “The most popular trend in memoir right now is to identify your key theme or themes, and build a simple subtitle around that: A Memoir of Faith, A Memoir of Resilience, A Memoir of Love and Loss.” She says that type of subtitle works “because generally memoir readers are seeking out memoirs based on themes they’re drawn to, or exploring in their own lives.”

Don’t miss Brooke’s post, An Author’s Guide to Book Subtitles. In it she includes eight Key Takeaways for Book Subtitles.

Let’s experiment. Look at these titles without their subtitles:

Spiritual Misfit

Hillbilly Elegy

The Perfect Storm

Jackie's Girl

Love, Africa

Kisses from Katie

Did those titles intrigue you? Make you want to buy them? Give you a good idea of what you’ll find inside the book? Probably not.

Now look at those same titles with their subtitles. Notice how much more they reveal about the memoirs’ contents:

Are you pleasantly surprised at how well those subtitles work? They catch a potential reader's attention, offer a distinct identity for the memoir, and hint at what readers will find within the book.

The only subtitle that's too vague is Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie David Majors. Readers will need to look at the back cover to learn that at age 19, Katie moved to Uganda and adopted 13 children.

Below you'll find tips for crafting a strong title and subtitle:
  • Choose a title that’s easy to understand.
  • Choose a title that’s easy to pronounce. Read your title aloud. If it’s clunky or if it’s hard to pronounce, revise it.
  • Choose a title that’s easy to remember.
  • Consider the benefits of a short, crisp title.
  • Witty can be good, but only if it really works.
  • Be concise—be sure every word needs to be there.

Don't miss Susan Kendrick's What Makes a Good Subtitle and How Long Should It Be? It's packed with helpful info. 

Remember, if a traditional publishing house publishes your memoir, that company will probably have the final say on your title. On the other hand, if you self-publish, you'll choose your title.

Either way, work hard to create an excellent title.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Have you crafted the perfect title for your memoir?

Traditional publishing companies usually choose titles for their books, but most of us here at SM 101 won’t be working with traditional publishing companies. Instead, we will self-publish our memoirs—and that means we choose our titles.

Because a book’s title is so important, expect to work hard on crafting the very best title for your memoir.

Let’s step back a minute: How do you decide whether to buy a certain book? The first thing you notice is the title, right?

If the title doesn’t appeal to you, you put the book back on the shelf. You want a book that makes you curious, draws you in, and makes it impossible to put the book back on the shelf.

If the title does grab your attention, if you’re like me you’ll read the back cover for more info, and you open the book and read endorsements that might be at the beginning of the book. But remember, it was the title that inspired you to do so. That’s why your title is so important.

So how do you piece together The Perfect Title?

Rachelle Gardner suggests you “identify what kind of feeling or tone you want to convey in the title” and ask yourself, “Does the tone of the title match the tone of the book?”

What is tone? says, “The tone in a story can be joyful, serious, humorous, sad, threatening, formal, informal, pessimistic, and optimistic…. Tone in writing is really not any different than the tone of your voice. You know that sometimes it is not ‘what you say,’ but ‘how you say it.’…The definition of ‘tone’ is the way the author expresses his attitude through his writing.” (Don't miss all the good stuff in Examples of Tone in a Story.) 

Daniel Scocco offers additional tips—seven 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 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.

With Rachelle and Daniel’s tips in mind, begin jotting down ideas—lots of ideas. Use a thesaurus to look up key words and find alternative, more interesting words.

Then take a break from your title ideas. Over the next days and weeks, you’ll be surprised at new ideas that will spring into your mind at the strangest times of the day and night. Add those possible titles to your list and again distance yourself from them.

Come back later and take a fresh look. You’ll spot some titles that you can eliminate. Polish the other possible titles and again set them aside for a while.

Next time we’ll have more advice 
on crafting a compelling title for your memoir.

For now, have fun playing around with title ideas.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your memoir’s title

Last week we looked at giving your memoir a temporary, working title instead of a permanent title because the process of writing often takes the story places the author never expected. If that should happen to you, you’d have to change your title. (Click on that link to read last week’s post.)

While you write your memoir, in the back of your mind play around with possible title ideas.

When you’re close to finishing your manuscript, the time has come to get serious about choosing just the right permanent title.

Kathy Pooler offers good advice in her post, “Does Your Memoir Title Pack a Punch?” She lists questions she asked herself in crafting her memoir’s title: 
  • Is the title catchy?
  • Does the title strike at the heart of my story?
  • Does my title reveal my promise to the reader?
  • Does the title create interest for the reader?

For now, then, ask yourself Kathy’s questions and come up with a few potential titles for your memoir.

And there you have it: your Tuesday Tidbit.
We’ll have more tips on Thursday, so y’all come on back!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Choosing a working title for your memoir

I’m trying to pin down the perfect title for my memoir. I’m not ready to publish the book yet, but in the back of my mind I know I’ll need to craft its title soon.

If you’re like me, you have a list of potential titles, but the best one hasn’t yet jumped off the page at you.

What can you do in the mean time? You can give your memoir a working title—a temporary, unofficial title, a title under development.  It doesn’t have to be brilliant—only you, and maybe critique partners, will know what your working title is.

Did you know it might be better to give your memoir a working title until you pin down the just-right title?

Why? Because:

The process of writing
can take your story
in a different direction
than you 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….”

So if you choose a title before you start writing, you might discover, in the process of writing, that your story takes on a life of its own. If your memoir heads in a different direction than you planned, you’ll probably be left with a title that’s no longer just right.

With that in mind, choose a working title, expecting to 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 discover your final title.

So, now, put on your thinking cap 
and craft a working title, 
and be sure to come back next week 
for more tips on crafting a permanent title 
for your memoir.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: On “careful and honest articulation” in writing your memoir

"Writing about the spiritual life
is like making prints from negatives....
Often it is the dark forest 
that makes us speak about the open field.
Frequently prison makes us think about freedom,
hunger helps us appreciate food,
and war gives us words for peace.

Not seldom are our visions of the future
born out of the sufferings of the present
and our hope for others out of our own despair.
Only few 'happy endings' make us happy,
but often someone's careful and honest articulation
of the ambiguities,
and painful conditions of life
gives us new hope.

The paradox indeed is that
new life is born out of the pains of the old."

Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out