I have a theory about titles:
If the title is the first thing you write, then the story goes like a dream.
If the title is the last thing you write, you are screwed.
This is the problem I’m having at the moment. My second story collection is almost done, but I don’t have a title. I have left it too late, and now I am struggling.
If I had come up with the title when I started writing it, two years ago, then it would have helped guide the book’s development. Now I’m trying to come up with two or three words for the cover that speak for the 50,000 words inside. That’s a lot of pressure for two or three words.
Your title is the thing that first sells your book. It’s your hook, so it has to be sharp enough to catch attention. Boy I would love to have something as cool as A clockwork orange, or The wasp factory on my cover, one of those titles that puts two words together for the first time ever and is hugely memorable because of it.
But maybe it doesn’t have to be one of those kinds of titles. Some of my favourite books have pretty plain titles (Perfume by Patrick Suskind, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Road by Cormac McCarthy, Nemesis by Philip Roth).
I often think about the names of some of the biggest bands of all time, and how dreadful some of them are. The Beatles is maybe the worst band name ever conceived, but we all accept it. It doesn’t affect how we feel when we listen to A day in the life.
Imagine being given a brief, today, to rename The Beatles, based on their body of work. You sure as hell wouldn’t name them The Beatles.
Better to start with a title. The title is the first thing your reader reads, so it should be one of the first things you write, IMHO.
My current favourite for my new book is The Stone Thrower. It’s the title of an individual story in the collection, and the stone thrower is a metaphor for something that all the stories have grown out of. But I’m not going to settle just yet. I probably won’t settle till the covers are whizzing through the printing machines in a few months’ time.