Monday, April 2, 2012

Rumors of a Title

Laura Barkat begins her book Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing with a problem – she’s having difficulty writing, at least on a sustained basis. Too many other things to do, too many distractions and priorities. A friend visits, she talks about the problem and then asks her daughter Sara to get her a glass of water. Sara returns with a “There are rumors of water but I couldn’t find any.”

Sometimes, when the water’s not there, rumors of water may be sufficient.

I am editing the manuscript that is the sequel to Dancing Priest, and I’m having difficulty. The draft is done; the draft has been done for some time. I know the story; I know where the story will go if there are any other volumes in the series. The problem is the title, and it’s indirectly affecting the editing and rewriting.

The problem is I don’t have a title.

The manuscript has had a working title for years. But the working title no longer fits – it would be better for the third volume in the series (assuming there is a third volume) and it would give too much of the story away.

So I’ve cut the manuscript loose from its working title, but don’t yet have a substitute. The story is easy enough to summarize: Michael Kent and Sarah Hughes are married and establishing their family when they are faced with extraordinary circumstances, including death and destruction. The story is still a kind of romance, but it is other things, too, and it speaks to some of the issues our culture and civilization face.

Originally, this manuscript was part of Dancing Priest. But after 150,000 words came pouring out, it had to be divided. The division occurred at a natural place, but the working title for the second manuscript really only fit the very end of the story.

So I’ve been fretting and worrying the idea of the title. Do I keep “Dancing” in it? Likely not, since there isn’t any dancing in this story. So I have to call it something other than “this thing,” and “new manuscript” works for only so long.

I’ve been moving slowly through the editing and rewriting – checking, adding, deleting, amplifying, deemphasizing. The biggest change has been to add certain short scenes at key places, with the effect of adding tension and even some sense of foreboding.

But what do I call this? For now, it’s a story without a name, which makes it something like a person without a name. And a name (or title) is always important. It defines, limits, and expands. It helps frame the story and even serve as something of a centering device.

I’ll take Laura Barkat’s advice and settle for a rumor of title.

Perhaps something like “A Light Shining.”

This week at TweetSpeak Poetry, we’re beginning a discussion of Rumors of Water, led by Lyla Lindquist. For Wednesday, we’re discussing the short selections that comprise the first section, entitled Momentum.

Last year, I reviewed Rumors of Water, and you can find it here.


Bill (cycleguy) said...

I'm looking forward to reading it Glynn. I was so captured by DP and knew a sequel had to come. :) Blessings my friend.

L.L. Barkat said...

Sighs. :)

I know this can be so frustrating! I wasn't able to actually revise Stone Crossings until we settled on a title AND a sub-title. Then it helped create that final focus.

And then 'Rumors' was born of a title, and everything fell into place after it.

No final formulas. Ever :)

Megan Willome said...

Titles are tricky. What was good about the title of "Dancing Priest" was that it tied into a significant scene in the novel, one that played like a movie in my mind. Surely there is something like that in the new novel that you can draw from.

Michelle DeRusha said...

I know exactly what you mean, Glynn. My book had a title from the start - but then right before I queried agents, I changed it. Trouble is, I still think of it and refer to it in my own mind by the original title.

I like Megan's advice...or maybe you could have a friend read it and brainstorm a list of titles with you?