Right now I feel like seconding Juliet when she says "'Tis but thy name that is thy enemy." Right now, at least, I like the manuscript that I'm busily formatting to make it acceptable to publish as an ebook. I've written and rewritten and edited and gone through numerous critiques, and I think it's as good as it's going to get, and that's pretty darn good. No, it's not the "dear perfection" of Romeo. And it's not Shakespeare. But it's not bad, either. I've talked with a couple of people about producing cover art and I think I've found my man and found a good, solid vision for what the cover should look like. But I can't make that cover until I settle on the title that's going to be emblazoned on it.
A title. A name. There's the rub, to quote yet another Shakespeare play quite out of context. Hamlet was dealing with really serious stuff there. Life and death stuff. And Juliet was dealing with stuff that, apparently, she thought even more serious than life and death. She was dealing with love. Being a middle school teacher, I can attest that matters of love are far more serious that matters of life and death. And me? I'm not dealing with love, or even life and death. All I want is a title that is interesting enough to make people want to pick up my novel without being misleading enough to make them mad once they've started reading.
Sigh. That title is indeed my enemy.
It's not finding a title that's hard. I've had several titles for this manuscript. When I first started writing it, I called it Eponine Rides. That struck me as a dandy title at the time. The main character's name is Eponine, and she does ride her horse, Galopin, several times throughout the story. Besides, I'd heard an editor say that what she was really looking for was the next Black Beauty. But several agents, editors and critique groups let me know that this wasn't the title I wanted. This rose did not smell so sweet. It downright stunk.
So out went Eponine Rides and in came Identity. The new title was suggested by an editor who ultimately rejected the manuscript, but not after telling me that this was the perfect title. It made sense. Eponine discovers in the course of the story that she is not who she thinks she is. Neither is her mother. Or her father. Or most everyone else, for that matter. And she discovers that her situation isn't what she'd imagined, either. So this new title seemed to sum up the whole premise of the story. Besides, singe word titles seem to have such authority. Think Ian McEwan's Atonement and Josephine Hart's Damage. Not to mention (again) Hamlet. But then one friend showed me that there are already ten different books that are called Identity. Others told me that the title was boring, and finally I admitted that this, too, was a stinker. Identity might be the theme of the novel, but it's not a good title.
Up next: a title suggested by a writing friend. She suggested Elephants on the Moon, one of the criptic phrases that the Free French used in their BBC addresses to let members of the underground Resistance know what was going on. It's an important phrase in the story, and it's got appeal because, believe it or not, there's not a single other book out there with that name. But would someone reading that title realize that the book was an historical novel set in France during World War II, or would they think it was a fantasy like Eleanor Cameron's Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet? The last thing I want is disgruntled readers thinking they've been cheated out of their adventures to Basidium.
So now I'm thinking of Rider for the Resistance, which is almost full circle back to my original title. Or Resistance Rider. Or Coded Message: Elephants on the Moon. Or The Identity of Elephants. Or Eponine and Galopin. Or Romeo and Eponine and Fred. And none of those other names smell sweet to me yet.
It's clear I've got more weeding to do.