They say writers have to kill their darlings. That could mean the title of the series they've worked on for two years.
The one they made playlists to and drew in fancy letters in notebooks in class and created whole Pinterest boards dedicated to that name.
And that title could change four months before the release.
Or well after.
I discovered this during my discussion with the head of LPC when I had a chance to meet with him this last week in Raleigh. Before this meeting, he, my managing editor, and I struggled to come up with a tagline for Den, now Blaze.
After sending him thirty or so, none of them appeared to do the trick. So he tried to have me explain the book to help hone a good tagline.
Awesome Editor: So, what's your elevator pitch?
Hope: Basically, I take the first three chapters of Daniel and plop it into a high school. (I have this part nailed down)
Awesome Editor: The first three chapters of the Book of Daniel? What happens in those?
Hope: Well, chapter one is when they refuse to eat the King's food. Chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar has a dream, and three is the fiery furnace.
Awesome Editor: (Frowning) So, wait, the lion's den doesn't happen in this book?
Hope: Well, no, that's book two. I have a trilogy planned, dividing the twelve chapters of Daniel into three -
Awesome Editor: We have to change the title of your book.
I sat stunned for a moment. Tripping over something along the lines of "oh, OK" my mind began to race for how to change my plan for the trilogy. I had wanted all three titles to use the same three letters (DEN, NED, END) and the novellas accompanying it (ED'N, NDE).
Sure, it wasn't that big of a deal. Titles changed all the time. But for some reason the news punched my gut, leaving me breathless for a moment.
The editor kindly explained that authors have to maintain a flexibility on most elements of their story. He told me of examples of how they changed titles, covers, and other major elements of the story up to the release, and sometimes even after to help increase sales.
It made sense.
Writing is a business, and I'd forgotten all about that, caught up in the false cradle I'd created around the story. Even with some of my own clients, I'd asked them to make major changes to their story. So I should've been able to adapt and do the same.
But, about an hour later, I warmed up to the title (pun entirely intended): BLAZE.
It made more sense. The story literally modernizes the fiery furnace story found in Daniel. Plus I set things on fire about six times in the book. When I posted about it on a handful of social networks, readers appeared to warm up to the title even more, too.
Authors, if you struggle to let go of certain darlings, learn from my mistake. Editors, agents, and beta readers/critique members may see flaws in your story that you never anticipated.
And, who knows? Maybe their suggestions will help your book catch fire.