The book title dilemma

whats in a nameMy editor and I are having a disagreement about the title of the new book. The first title I chose sounded fairly dull, and I wasn’t convinced. Then I opted for a phrase ‘Seize the Day’ which appears once in the book, and quite significantly, but right at the end. She feels that the reader might be annoyed that the title’s meaning remains a mystery until the very end. She also thinks that the  abstract phrase would be hard to link to an attractive cover image. All this may be true, but I can think of many books where the cover image is a mystery, and the title too: the connections between them and the story are intended to be part of the riddle. Am I asking too much of my readers? Do titles need to be ‘literal’?

We’re now considering various alternatives, but the issue of a connection between title and cover image remains a dilemma. There are various themes and events in the book that could be picked up in both title and image, but which would be most effective? No decision is absolutely necessary for a few weeks yet, so I shall wait for inspiration – showing more patience and tolerance of uncertainty than is customary for me.

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How important is ‘authenticity’?

Problem:

  1. I want to write a crime series based in Cumbria.
  2. I want to have a female detective, who needs to be at least at sergeant and better still at inspector level.
  3. I want to keep clear of the technical complications of the DNA, Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the introduction of computerised data.

But… there were no female detectives in Cumbria until the 1990s. So, something has to give. Does authenticity matter, or could I introduce a female detective earlier than it actually happened? Ironically, the Cumbria police force now has plenty of high-status female detectives, including one with the wonderful surname of Thundercloud, but this is now and that was then. So what to do? My reluctant conclusion is that authenticity does matter: I must stick with my physical setting of West Cumbria because it’s so important to me, and so the time setting has to move into the mid/late 1990s. All the necessary research is unavoidable, but I can do it. Should be fun to discover how life has changed over the past twenty years.

 

Here’s to the Society of Authors

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I love the Society of Authors, for all sorts of reasons. For a start, they let me join, which for an independently published author is a real bonus, as most of the writers’ groups won’t let me join regardless of how many real, well-produced and well-written novels I sell. Second, they provide a source of professional information for any writing or publishing query I might have. Third, they organise useful events, and are trying hard to spread these beyond the capital. Fourth, the monthly journal ‘The Author’ always provides ideas, questions and provocations to make me think about both writing and publishing and keeps me in touch with the inside of the book world that is still relatively unfamiliar turf for me.

This month’s edition of ‘The Author’ contains an article by Louise Doughty entitled ‘The Horror of Being Published’. I have tried without success to get ‘traditionally’ published, which was the form Louise was referring to, but reading the piece rang bells for me, even though my form of publication is on a much smaller scale than hers. Almost all writers, except the handful of global names, have to jostle for shelf space with others and are routinely rejected by people browsing for a book to read. When you’ve spent a year with nothing else on your mind except the research, writing and production of a book it’s hard to realise that this effort may be of no interest to others.

Louise is a highly respected writer, who chairs book prize panels: I’m just a humble supplicant in those very few competitions for long form fiction that permit independently-published entries. One of the few is a local Cumbria-based competition of long standing. Every year I send off the required four copies of my previous year’s publication, and every year until now they have received no mention whatsoever. Fair enough, maybe they’re just no good, although their sales and my readers seem to indicate otherwise. This year my novel ‘Cruel Tide’ was ‘shortlisted’. It got a favourable mention from one of the three judges, but as I collected my ‘certificate’ the Chair of the panel told me with a smile that he and the third judge on the panel ‘don’t like novels’. I’d suspected so, but was surprised to hear him say it. Hey ho. It’s my choice whether to bother entering next year.

‘Just keep writing’ says my partner. And I will.

Incidentally, Louise Doughty was one of the first tutors I encountered when I decided at 60 that I wanted to write fiction. She was a very accomplished teacher and I’m grateful for everything I learned from her and Tobias Hill on that Arvon course in 2008.