What's in a Title

I've long written titles. I'd like to think I've become better at the practice over my four- and five-year-old self, who pretty much stamped every story I wrote with large block letters: The Cat Who (insert verb here). That little girl aspired to be taken seriously as a writer, but it wouldn't be until much later that I'd actually start learning to be one and varying my writing in all forms.

As a journalist, I'd write headlines - a sister to the title, really - mostly to politics and crime that I covered in a small town. Short, impactful, to the point. I did shoot for wordplay where I could - it draws in the reader in a place where one already is competing for such short attention spans.

Moving on to titles for novels became an entirely different story, however, despite the same goal to grab the reader's attention. I was attempting to snag readers of a different variety, here. This time middle grade readers, parents, potentially educators and other book lovers who might pick up a mystery relayed from the point of view of a cat.

The Great Cat Nap. The Clawed Monet.

I found selecting titles for my middle grade novels fun and entertaining. I even have the working title for the third in the series (stubbornly stuck in Writer's Block Land in this current timeframe). Those titles never changed from working title to past my agent and editors at the time.

In writing young adult, I struggle more for those titles. Often, I've thought I've had the one that best fits it, only to have a critique partner (or two, or three) tell me it needs to be changed. It seems trends in recent years have swung towards giving young adult longer titles, almost poetic in nature. A long song lyric or piece of prose. I'll Give You the Sun. All the Bright Places. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. The short, quick titles of the past - The Outsiders, The Giver, Twilight - seem to be fewer now than they used to be.

I have no idea what the next title of my next completed manuscript will be, as I currently don't know which of my works in progress will beat the other to the finish. That's part of the fun of being a writer, however. The next big thing is just one more keystroke or pen swipe away.

Happy Reading!

AM Bostwick


  1. I love that: Not knowing which project will be the first to make it past the finish line.

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