How to Write a Novel: lesson one, giving it a fancy title.

Look, there is no right or wrong way to name your novel. Don’t worry about it. Chances are somebody will make you change it anyway. But if you can come up with something fancy, go you! Everyone likes a fancy title. When a reader spots a particularly sexy title on a bookshelf it can be like eyes meeting across a crowded ballroom. Hello, they think, I like the look of you.

Of course, relationships built on a foundation of nothing more than mutual physical attraction are almost always doomed from the start, but you don’t need to worry about that. The sex thing is just a metaphor. You are selling a book, not starting a family. Don’t over think things. We’ll worry about the text of the novel in a later lesson. At the moment we are just thinking about a title. One step at a time.

And as I say, you will probably have to change it. We’re talking ‘working title’ here, not ‘actual title’. Some writers don’t believe in working titles but I think they are good for focusing the mind. Let me give you an example. Say you want to write a historical novel. If you give yourself a working title of ‘All the Romantic Things that Happened at Whimberley Mansion in the Summer of 1910 (oh and Someone gets Murdered Too)‘ then you will have a reminder on the top of each page of your draft not to put any references to Twitter feeds or Rubik’s Cubes or Joe Pasquale etc in your novel (and also that you will need to weave a murder plot in at some point). Then, when you have finished your novel, you can let your editor change the title to ‘The Under-Butler’s Great-Niece‘ or ‘Summer at Whimberley‘ or what-have-you.

I have a working title for the novel I’m working on but I’m not telling you what it is in case some dirty thiever thieves it. However, I am offering up all my rejected working titles, for free, should any of you require any inspiration for your own novels. All I ask is that if you do use one you give me a mention in the acknowledgements bit at the back of your book. Something along I-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-him lines.

Anyway, here they are. Help yourself.

  • The Trouble With Oceans
  • Half a Walrus, Half a World Away
  • Labradors
  • It Happens All The Time (in Newcaste-under-Lyme)
  • Thin Gravy and Broken Promises
  • Remembering Woolworths
  • Elms
  • What Happened During the Week All the Coppers Went on Strike
  • Love at First Sight (on the Isle of Wight)
  • Ed Sheeran vs The Minotaur
  • Moonbase on Mars
  • That Day Me and Daz Fucked Up All Those Badgers
  • The Girl Who Was A Policewoman And, Like, She Found Out Her New Boyfriend Was A Serial Killer Almost Immediately After Having Sex With Him For The First Time
  • Doing the Splits (during the Blitz)
  • The Dragon Wars
  • The Dragon Wars II (Massive Dragons)
  • Bin Land
  • The Cowboys Who Voted For Nader
  • Oooh, But His Hands Were Clammy!
  • Love in the Sex Factory
  • Something Something Something Brexit Something
  • Naked Heathcliff
  • A Serial Killer-y sort of thing, but in Lapland? Greenland? Have a look on a map later
  • World War One but from the point-of-view of, let’s say, I don’t know, a dog?
  • A Cloud Atlas rip-off but better somehow?
  • Fuck it, just write a memoir but change my name from Ben to Den and set it in Whitby or something, that’ll do, won’t it?
  • A sequel to The Great Gatsby check if he dies in the first one or not



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