Shannon Stacey

Working titles

I am really bad at titles, so my manuscripts tend to have working titles right up until the last possible second. Wandering around the blogosphere, one sees working titles here and there.

Jordan refers to her upcoming novel, Atlantean’s Quest Bk.4: The Return as AQ4. Emma refers to her current works in her progress meter by the couples’ names.

I made a list the other day of projects at the plate and projects on deck, and here’s a sampling of several of my working titles:

The Widowmaker — I have no idea if I’ll keep this title or not, but it’s a western, and comes from The Peacemaker. (The gun, not the George Clooney movie…or was that Peacekeeper?)

Cursed Not-Dead Guy — This one came about because I originally called it Cursed Knight as a working title, but realized it was more like Cursed Warrior, and I kept tripping up, so now it’s Cursed Not-Dead Guy.

Sparky & the Horny Housewife — I’m not sure what to say about this one. It’s a futuristic and the heroine’s an intergalactic ambassador, so…any explanation would be a spoiler.

Kittylitter — *snort* This is the working title for my F1 romance. I think it’s fairly obvious why it simply says F1 romance in my progress (or lack thereof) meter. But lest Angie come and slap me for thinking this is a confidence in my writing issue, the kittylitter refers to the sandtrap (run-off) area on a Grand Prix circuit.

Imp Bomb — No, I’m not blowing up annoying little creatures. It’s actually short for Impossible Bombshell. I had the opportunity to speak with an editor quite a while ago, and during that conversation the possibility of writing a Bombshell came up. In talking about bringing something different to the table, she asked me about my interests. I told her it would be impossible to incorporate my biggest interest into a Bombshell. She disagreed. She said some things. A friend of mine said some things. Within a few days I had a complete outline for the Impossible Bombshell. Unfortunately, I put it off and she left the company and that opportunity was lost. (Yes, there’s a lesson there.)

FDA — That’s short for :censor: Die, Already. It’s, umm…an old SIM wannabe that’s too good for me to scrap, but not something I see another market for.

Wierd, maybe, but each working title encompasses something about that book for me. I just have to remember to obliterate any trace of the working title from everything before I think about sending it out. *g*

I know some writers come up with the perfect title before they write. Others number them or just slap something on at the end knowing it will almost certainly be changed during publication anyway. (Although I think, even knowing it may not stick, the title is very important as a “first impression” thing.)

So to throw the question out there — Do you use a “real” title right away, or do you use a working title, and how do they come to you?

18 comments to “Working titles”

  1. Ellen Fisher
      · October 15th, 2005 at 1:32 pm · Link

    Gosh, you’re more organized than I am. I usually refer to mine as “the futuristic WIP,” “the contemporary WIP,” or “the other futuristic WIP.” Sometimes I come up with a title before I start writing, but more often I don’t come up with a title till much of the book is complete.

  2. Charlene
      · October 15th, 2005 at 2:12 pm · Link

    Usually I start off with something that sums up the story and head off, watching for the Real Title as I go. Dangerous Games had a working title of “futuristic beauty and the beast BDSM lite”. I have another working title I call “Romeo and Juliet in outer space”. No idea what it’s real name will be in the end. Generally I come up with the real title long before the story’s finished, but I have to start off calling it something. :crazy:

  3. Karen Templeton
      · October 15th, 2005 at 2:52 pm · Link

    Not having a title bugs the hell out of me, because without one, I can’t the theme so I know what the book’s about. Since I sometimes don’t have the title before the end of the first draft (or I’ve changed it five thousand times), this says a lot about my writing “method.” As in, I just wing it until it comes to somethin’. For the sake of the file name, however, it’s always one-of-the-chars’-namesms.

    The only times I had the title first were with LOOSE SCREWS and PLAIN-JANE PRINCESS, both of which stuck.

    And now I need to rectify the fact that in the past three days I’ve posted in YOUR blog more than I’ve posted in MINE. :crazy:

  4. Gabriele
      · October 15th, 2005 at 3:47 pm · Link

    Yikes, and there I thought I had too many WiPs.

    I need titles, but I don’t tie my brain in a knot about them. If something sounds acceptable, it can stay for the time being.

    Storm over Hadrian’s Wall – well, since Hadrian orders the wall to be built in the last or second last chapter of the novel, the title is a tad misleading, but I didn’t find anything better. I like to have a reference that makes people guess it’s Historical Fiction. The book is about the guerilla war of the Selgovae under the – fictional – leader Talorcan mac Ferac and his opponent, the Roman cavarly prefect Horatius Ravilla. But there are traitors on both sides, and in the end, Talorcan and Horatius have to work together to prevent the assassination of the emperor and the extinction of the Selgovae.

    The Charioteer – might work, though the MC Ciaran is more than a charioteer. He’s a Dal Riatan warlord turned hostage, then slave, becomes a charioteer, flees and finds his people ruled by a rival, employs the assistance of some Romans to kick the ursurper out but gets involved in the war against the Saxons as a price for their help … But there will be two important chariot races, one in Rome, and the final countdown chase with the bad guy somewhere in the north, Cheviot Hills or so.

    Endangered Frontiers – I actually like that title. It’s about the Visigoths in Italy and Gaul. The Roman Aurelius Idamantes and the Goth Alamir find out they are half brothers. That one has some kinky gay sex (no, not between those two, but between Idamantes and a certain Lucius Vinicius).

    Kings and Rebels (the NiP in revision) – more a working title because it doesn’t say anything. Mediaeval setting all over the place from Scotland to Norway, from Iceland to France, from Brittany to the German/Slavic border. It does deal with kings and rebels to some extent, but more with the relationship between the three MCs, the Norman descendant knight Roderic Sinclair Lord of Dornoch, the Norseman Kjartan Haraldsson, and the west coast clan chief Alastair O’Duibhne an Talla Dearg.

    Further projects
    The Hostage Ciaran’s brother Caolán’s adventures in Ireland where he goes as hostage of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Might work as title.

    Treacherous Alliances – not bad, but no historical reference. It’s another book taking place in Roman Britain, this time during the occupation under Claudius and will feature Queen Cartimandua and her successive husbands Venutius and Vellocatus – whom I have made more than friends. Until Venutius gets kicked out by the queen.

    Egberth – lazy one. The life of Egberth of Wessex, King (Bretanwealda) of England.

    Waves of Freedom – my pirate plotbunny. Not Carribbean this time, but 14th century Baltic Sea. Swashbuckling privateers, Teutonic Knights, and a beautiful woman. And ships.

  5. Gabriele
      · October 15th, 2005 at 3:48 pm · Link

    Oops, I’ve really hijacked your blog here.

    Sorry, or maybe not. We all love to showcase our darlings, don’t we? :rofl:

  6. Ann
      · October 15th, 2005 at 5:42 pm · Link

    Come to think of it, I do usually have a title before I start writing the book. Often it’ll be the first piece of inspiration I receive about an incoming story. I LOVE titles. Find them to be uber important in my process, and was lucky enough to get to keep both Layover and Coffee, Tea or Lea? Now I’m wondering how I’ll feel when one gets changed. It’s all fine and dandy to sit here and think “who cares as long as it’s published.” But I’m sure it’ll be a little strange when it finally happens, as it inevitably will.

    I’ll blog about it! LOL

  7. PBW
      · October 15th, 2005 at 6:59 pm · Link

    I have good luck with hitting the (for me) final title of the book while I’m outlining, but if I don’t I’ll make a working title with something from the story. “Border FreeClinic”, for example, was the working title of “StarDoc.” Other novels start as short stories for me, so I’ll use the short story title until something hits, i.e. 1998’s “Out of Darkness” and “Warrior Night” became 2005’s “If Angels Burn” and “Private Demon.” To prevent confusion, I also assign them a file-code number in case I have several versions of the same story with different titles.

    I do a lot of word association lists when I’m looking for a title — have you tried taking key words from your plot and playing with Word’s thesaurus?

  8. Cece
      · October 15th, 2005 at 8:53 pm · Link

    Shannon I tend to come up with (what I think of as) final titels. It’s rare I don’t have one. Matter of fact the story that will probably be my next wip had a title (and an idea) before I had a story.

    I do however have one just called Cats……… :hide:

  9. Mel
      · October 15th, 2005 at 8:53 pm · Link

    Hmmm, I guess I just go with the flow… in some cases, I get a title first and build a story idea around it. Other times the title has to be brainstormed ad nauseum until something clicks.

    I think alot of us have gotten in the habit of referring to our books as acronyms. (Things got hairy for me when Dante’s Relic was released and Brand Name Dates was then referred to as Dressing Room…. lol.)

    I think Legend of the Leopard came from a portion in the book, at the very end, that referred to the story that had occurred as being nothing more than a local legend. That got cut (or revised or reworded) in edits…but the title stayed. Go figure.

    Right now I’m working on….
    2 stories that I had titles first, plot after (Trophy Girl –hoping to be paired with kittylitter, and Making Mr. Right)
    The rest of started or plotted stories (looking at these… omg, do I have ADHD?) have generic working titles, usually one word encompassing some scope of the plot.

    Shan has such original titles, even in progress ones… I’m jealous. :kiss:


  10. Caro
      · October 16th, 2005 at 9:56 am · Link

    Shannon, I happen to like Cursed Not-Dead Guy — it would certainly get me to pick the book up off the shellf. :cheesy:

    I usually don’t have a title that I’d call in any way, shape or form final until well into the process. I generally come up with something I can stick on the file and that I’ll remember. Hence, the story about a Scarlet Pimpernelish-type figure concerning Egyptian Antiquities becomes “The Scarlet Amonhotep” because it lets me remember.

    Of course, no matter what I name the story, my husband is always going, “Now, which one is that?”

  11. Karen Templeton
      · October 16th, 2005 at 5:02 pm · Link

    Of course, no matter what I name the story, my husband is always going, “Now, which one is that?”

    OMG, yours, too?

    Not that I blame him, since I usually have a couple proposals in the works/on editor’s desk, one WIP, one or two in production, and whatever’s coming out next.

    But then, he can never get RT and RWA, straight, either. :doh:

  12. Anna Lucia
      · October 16th, 2005 at 5:07 pm · Link

    I don’t have to have the real title up front, but I usually can’t get going until I have a ‘joke’ working title. So we get McWife, Danglies, Tequila, Filthy Rick, Frenchman, Going Down, etc etc….

    The actual ‘proper’ title doesn’t usually land until I’ve got 80% of the first draft down. Sometimes before, but only as a hazy idea.

  13. Shannon
      · October 17th, 2005 at 7:57 am · Link

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t have a title until the book’s almost over. :crazy:

    I have another working title I call “Romeo and Juliet in outer space”.

    Starstruck!!! :woot:

    Not having a title bugs the hell out of me, because without one, I can’t the theme so I know what the book’s about.

    ACK! The T word! :noevil:

    Actually, my goofy working titles kind of encompass the theme for me. They don’t necessarily encompass it in words, but the words trigger something in my head that calls it up. If that makes any sense at all.

    Gabriele, I wanna read ALL of those books! They sound fascinating! And I like the titles, too. :nod:

    Ann, do you think we get a better chance of keeping our titles? I’m wondering if because there isn’t an entire army of people dedicated to marketing and surveying and such, if we get a little more control over that. I mean, I’ve even heard of some H/S writers whose own names didn’t pass marketing, never mind titles. :doh:

    I do a lot of word association lists when I’m looking for a title — have you tried taking key words from your plot and playing with Word’s thesaurus?

    I haven’t tried that yet. I might have to do that with the Formula 1 book, because every racing title I’ve come up with has sounded very cliched. And I love the titles the Darkyn books came out with. Especially If Angels Burn. It stands out.

    I do however have one just called Cats………

    I’m not sure, but I think that title may be taken. :rofl:

    I like Trophy Girl, Mel. :thumb:

    Shannon, I happen to like Cursed Not-Dead Guy

    Well, it’s a comedy, so you never know. :rofl:

    I generally come up with something I can stick on the file and that I’ll remember. Hence, the story about a Scarlet Pimpernelish-type figure concerning Egyptian Antiquities becomes “The Scarlet Amonhotep” because it lets me remember.

    Yup, that’s pretty much what I do. And I like The Scarlet Amonhotep. I wonder if they’d let you keep it.

    And Anna, you have the best working titles. Danglies and Filthy Rick are probably my favorites, but McWife is awesome, too! :nod:

    My husband’s response is usually a nod and a “Yes, dear” so I’m not sure if he’s keeping them straight or not. :rofl:

  14. PBW
      · October 17th, 2005 at 4:53 pm · Link

    You might try’s poetry search engine, too, Shannon — sometimes you can pull some cool word combinations from lines of old poetry.

  15. Karen Templeton
      · October 17th, 2005 at 5:30 pm · Link

    ::Not having a title bugs the hell out of me, because without one, I can’t the theme so I know what the book’s about.::

    Missing words (not to mention brain cell) alert. S/B “. . .can’t FIGURE OUT the theme. . .”

    PMS at 53 totally sucks toads.

  16. cece
      · October 20th, 2005 at 5:28 pm · Link

    LOL@Cats…yeah I know. Right now I’m just plotting so I’m not title stressed. :nod:

  17. Laine Morgan
      · October 20th, 2005 at 11:27 pm · Link

    At first, I use just a short title to identify it on my computer. Then, as I write the story, a real title ususally comes to me. For example, I started with “Werewolf” and eventually that changed to “Nerd in a Wolf Suit.” “Vampire” became “Eternal Summer,” and “Greek Myth Story” became “Amazon Sunrise.”

  18. Shannon
      · October 21st, 2005 at 7:53 am · Link

    The encouraging news is that the titles come eventually. I’ve been trying to come up with a real one for Kittylitter and it’s not happening. :doh:

    I really like “Eternal Summer”! :clap:

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