Sunday, December 16, 2007

A working title finally

Up until last week my book didn’t have a working title. All through the writing of the first draft, a couple months of stewing and a couple months of working on the rewrite, I didn’t refer to it by any name at all, aloud or in my head. I was in no rush to find the perfect title, but it made me a little anxious that nothing had leapt out to suggest itself as a possibility. I was worried that there was nothing grounding it—no strong metaphor or image that held it together, no theme connecting it all the way through. I could think of lots of metaphors and images and episodes that I had confidence in, but none of them seemed overarching enough to warrant being the title.

Now that something has come to me, it kind of confirms that my anxiety was well founded—I can see an overarching theme and metaphor much better now that I have a title and that I was working much more blindly before. Having the title is even helping to solidify and focus the plot and character. The lack of a title was coincidental to the book just not being very well developed yet.

I also know now that I was right to ignore that anxiety and keep moving forward anyway. The larger underlying fear—that all the work was shit and going nowhere—wasn’t well founded. I needed to ignore that and keep going on the assumption that while what I had so far wasn’t as well developed as I wished it was, it was still something and was still adding up to more and more something every day.

This line of thinking reminds of something Toni Morrison says in an interview about trying to find the right metaphor for a book. I forget it exactly, but I remember that when I saw it, it seemed to clarify things for me for a couple of days. I’ll have to look for that again.

The title . . . I should say a title, since working titles are more likely to change than not, for both artistic/literary reasons and, if I should ever be blessed with publication, for marketing reasons . . . A title came to me uncomfortably late, but it has always worked out pretty good. I’m quite proud of my title, actually. I hope it doesn’t change. However, this is one of several pieces of valuable experience I have gained in my first book that I will try to do better on in my next book—to settle earlier on some of the thematic and metaphor issues that a good working title is a symptom of. I expect my early work in future novels will be much more “on task” than it has been in this book.

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