For me as a newbie writer, one of the hardest things I’m finding is choosing a title for my novels.
Last February I sat down to complete a book I’d started writing the previous November. I knew the title, it was going to be called “When Love Calls.” But then as the story progressed it became “Summers End” where it stayed until a few weeks ago. But it never felt quite right, it felt like it was wearing the wrong sized clothes. I carried on writing the book, then editing, then re-writing and then a bit more editing in the vain hope that the proper title would make itself known to me.
As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I have done this year to push my writing is to join the Romantic Novelists Association. In particular their New Writers Scheme. This scheme allows me to submit my manuscript and an anonymous published author will critique it. And although I’m not looking forward to receiving the critique back (I’m also hoping the author will reveal themselves) it will hopefully push my writing up a few gears. The title was my main sticking block though, I was reluctant to submit it until I had a decent title.
I googled and came across this article. I worked my way through the points, and Summers End just failed on so many levels. Points six and seven in particular. The title certainly didn’t match the story and in a way, the title sabotaged the plot. My story certainly isn’t set over summer, it’s set over a two-year time frame. The only connection was that in the novel there is a play called “Summer’s End” which I also felt wasn’t a strong enough connection to the entire plot of the novel.
Inspiration finally came from a throwaway comment during a recent conversation. Whilst out shopping I bumped into someone whose Mother I had nursed a good few years ago. She asked me where I was currently working, and I said that I was on a career break trying to make it as an author. She applauded me for following my dreams and then as she walked away she said: “Well I hope you have a successful second act!” I knew that people who change careers in their middle-age are often referred to as having a second act so this wasn’t new to me, but I couldn’t shake it off all day. On the last read-through, before I submitted it, I realised that “The Second Act” was a perfect title for my first completed novel. It perfectly reflects Sarah’s journey through that of motherhood and divorce, and the journey back to her just being Sarah. No longer relied upon by adult children, not time-restricted by school runs or prescriptive tea times, just her own wants and desires. The Second Act also perfectly reflects Aaron’s story. He is a well-known actor, and not just for his films. This is his second act also, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start again especially after a pivotal life moment.
So my advice to any newbie writer like myself is not to get too hung up on the title. It will come to you, either through the writing process or in an unexpected moment like I had.