Writing Tips

Writing Tips: Titling Your Novel

I’m so glad you all enjoyed my Events page. I’m really excited to show my timeline with you (and, to be honest, digging through my portfolio was such an encouraging adventure! I hope you are inspired to do the same. It’s a confidence booster. I hadn’t realized how much media I’d done until I spread the articles across my desk. Plus, I’d love to see what all you have done and are up to!)

Through you all, I received a few emails regarding one line in particular: December 4, 2006—Finished writing November Snow (originally titled It’s Only a Matter of Time.)

Many of you were interested in why the title changed, how it changed, or what the title reflects, and I think this is a great aspect to consider when studying your own piece of work. 

Originally, of course, my novel was titled It’s Only a Matter of Time. The reasoning for this is a funny thing: it’s the last line, and I didn’t have a title for it while I wrote it. I’m a strict believer in not deciding (for sure) on your title until the entire piece is written. I think it’s smart to have an idea, but, many times, a book changes as you write it. You may write an entire manuscript and realize your characters aren’t who you thought they would be. Maybe you have symbols you never even considered. Maybe your setting changed. Your ending may even change. Either way, writing is a journey and it changes, even if you have a plan. Think of writing like life: You may have a plan, but things happen, and your path changes.

This is what I had to consider when I realized my novel was being published. 

I knew It’s Only a Matter of Time wasn’t appropriate. It didn’t describe the tale, it didn’t relate to my characters, it didn’t describe the setting, and it didn’t summarize my overall message. So I set out to discover what DID describe all of these things.

As many of you know, November Snow ONLY takes place in November. It’s told from two perspectives, and it’s in a made-up land, Vendona, in 2089. November 2089 is ridiculous, and Vendona’s November is confusing, because the reader won’t even know what Vendona is until they pick up the book. I couldn’t use Serena’s November, because it ignores Daniel, and the same aspect happens when I looked at Daniel’s November. Plus, the novel isn’t centered around their lives, but how their lives are effected. So what about November’s Election? Doesn’t work. In my case, I’m American, and our elections are in November; readers would assume it’s a fictional tale about our government systems, and that wasn’t my audience.

So I looked at my symbols. I have plenty–but, ultimately, snow is the most powerful image. Snow hasn’t fallen in Vendona in twelve years, and the snowfall landed on a very detrimental date in the tale. However, during this particular November, the weather is cooling again, and the ostracized “bad-blooded” children realize it may fall again–and there may be another vital moment.

I don’t want to spoil my novel, so I won’t say what happens, but snow does fall again.

Through this, I realized the falling of snow, not only effects my characters, but ultimately symbolizes the effect on my reader.

November Snow was born.

I describe my process in the hopes that you all, whether you’ve already written a novel or not, can decide on the most effective and honest title for your piece. After all, you wouldn’t want to publish it and later regret what the title said. Think of it as poetry: a poem’s title is vital to understanding the symbolic meaning of the delicate words on the page. Without it, the descriptions may seem obscure or confusing. The poem, essentially, may not make sense at all.

Titles ARE important–and the right one is vital. Choose carefully and use your heart to do so. 


Because I like sharing little bits of my life with you all: This is a picture of my older brother with his cat, Bella, and my cat, Bogart. Who knew we were so related?
Because I like sharing little bits of my life with you all: This is a picture of my older brother with his cat, Bella, and my cat, Bogart. Who knew we were so related?



34 thoughts on “Writing Tips: Titling Your Novel

  1. Thank you so much for following me! I’m working on a novel too and it’s always nice to find another writer who has been through the process. I can’t wait to read your book and share work.

      1. Awh, you’re welcome. That makes my day hearing that! Happy they did so, have a wonderful weekend 🙂


  2. Nice and thx for the tips for titles 🙂 I guess I will make event page too so I borrowing that idea too 🙂 have a nice day 🙂

  3. You make some really good points here Shannon. I agree that the title can come last, and indeed, I say the same thing to my students when they are writing stories. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights 😉 (and Cat pictures!).

  4. Very good advice about titles. I always have a problem with them and keep thinking I have to make them first to guide me. Inevitably, I change most of them several times throughout the initial draft. I’m going to try to let the story tell me the title from now on. Thanks.

  5. So nice to check in with my computer this morning and find that you have visited my blog and will now be keeping up with me. I’ve returned the “follow”, have subscribed to your Twitter feed, and look forward to exploring your website, novel, poems, posts and other writing..

    p.s. Bogart and Bella must be siblings in a parallel universe to my step-granddaughter (heart of my heart) Andie’s cat, Winston.

  6. It’s always nice to get a little insight into the thought process behind works of art. I agree that the title is one very crucial part of the entire work and with poems and novels alike, it’s quite evanescent – sometimes you know it from the beginning or even start out from the title, but other times it’s so difficult to find.
    I’ve always found translating titles intriguing, because what sounds nice in one language may just be outright silly in another. I have flirted with the idea of becoming a translator and now I even have some trouble translating my own title. It clings so perfect in English and there’s just no way it can sound decent in Hungarian. Ever encountered such problems? 🙂

    1. I can’t say I have. I speak Spanish and Italian, but I’ve never dabbled in translations, although you sound like you could make a wonderful career out of that.
      They have contests for translation work. I just came across one for Arab works yesterday. You should look into that if you’re interested.
      However, I have come into problems choosing between nice sounding titles and ones that are more honest to my piece.

  7. Fantastic advice. I may keep this one on the back burner to share on my blog at some point! My readers could definitely benefit from your explanation of the process of renaming your novel. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I was well into the 2.5th (don’t ask) draft of my first novel before I could come up with any kind of title. Nothing seemed to fit.

    I don’t remember exactly when the title came to me, but it made me laugh when it did because it was so simple, but suited the story so well. It refers to the problem that brings the protagonists together and sends them on their journey, but also to their individual situations before they meet. On another level it works as a description of several relationships in the book, plus a few other little details.

    My only problem with this perfect title is that it’s one word (“Bound”), which makes me wonder whether it would disappear into the sea of YA books with one-word titles. It seems to be a huge trend these days.

  9. Thanks for the hint! I also generally wait to come up with my title until I’m finished working on a piece of writing, but sometimes I come up with the title first and that’s what I base the entire piece off of!

  10. It’s also useful to look at titles of other books and make sure your title doesn’t sound too similar to other books out there. When I was first querying my book, it was titled “Bloodlines.” I was also working in a bookstore, and it was there I realized that there is not one but THREE books out there with that same title. So it became necessary to make a change. Lo and behold, right after I changed the title, I was picked up by an agent. (I hate to mention the obvious, but sometimes a title can make or break your query when an agent or publisher is looking at it. If it’s not intriguing, they’re not going to be interested.)

  11. Hello Shannon,

    Great post. I’ve recently been pondering ‘titles’ as I read through all these How To books on creative writng, there’s always a chapter dealing with choosing the right title and was curious as to exactly how an actual writer dealt with this. Very informative.

    Thanks for following my site and I look forward to reading November Snow.

    Your newest follower.

    Write Fearlessly

  12. I read recently an author recommending the opposite tactic for titling, and it intrigued me. You come up with the title, and you use the imagery and atmosphere it evokes to guide your story. A way of engaging your mind with the theme without forcing yourself on a path as you’re actually writing the thing. I like working titles, but I’m also all-too-aware that they are subject to change.

    My novel’s done, but the title’s gone through many changes, each one (I’m hoping) far better than the last. The latest one seemed to make a lot of people happy, so that’s always a good indicator.

  13. Your advice works for me. I suppose it depends on the type of writer. JK Rowlings says she had the whole thing in her head to start with, so it was OK for her to place titles immediately. I have my fantasies happen while I write them, and often have no idea where they are going until they get there. Still, I’ve been lucky. In all but one of the cases, my provisional title has become the actual one.

  14. Shannon, thanks for stopping by my blog, following it, and liking one of the posts!

    I agree that the correct title is vital. I’ll have to read this post again in the future (I plan on writing two books).

    P.S. Cute cats!

  15. Interesting process. I struggle to think of titles a lot of the time, quite often leaving them until after everything else is finished, but hadn’t considered using the symbolism of the stories in that way.

    Think it also helps when readers discuss the book afterward, as it helps make the title more memorable.
    For instance, ‘Catching Fire’ doesn’t have that strong a connection to whichever of the Hunger Games books it is, so I keep forgetting it’s name. If it were the first in a series, I’d have trouble recommending it to others!

  16. I completely agree with you. A title should be something that catches the attention as well as describe your conflict, or an important or main point of the novel. It’s a hard decision when it comes to changing the name of your baby. 😀 but you gotta do it for the love of it!

    Great, great advice!

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