Thursday, July 29, 2010

Work in Progress: Titles, Again...But with a Survey!

Why can’t I title my novels? Why am I paralyzed by this simple act? Seriously, next time I’m going to write a novel to fit a title that I like. Even yesterday’s poem on the Writer’s Almanac mocked me:

From the beginning of “Her First Novel,” by James Tate

When Connie finished her novel she came
over to my place to celebrate. I mixed up a
shaker full of Manhattans and we sat out on the
porch. "Here's to… What's the title?" I
asked. "Well, that's a problem. The title's
kind of awful. It's called THE KING OF SLOPS."
"Gosh," I said, "that's unfortunate. I think
you can probably do better than that." …
[read the rest here]

Anyway, the good news is that I’m winding down this round of revisions, about to send this baby into the world to see what the world thinks, but I still don’t have a title that doesn’t make someone cringe, whether it’s my husband or my writing group or me.

For a while the book was simply called THE CHICAGO RIVER. That’s what the computer files all say. But that’s not really enough. Then it went through several different options, none of which felt like 100 percent to anyone except the desperation in me.

To find a title I have:
--skimmed parts of the Bible
--skimmed Huckleberry Finn
--skimmed Song of Myself
--skimmed Heart of Darkness
--torn through the tables of contents of several, random books of poetry as it’s my contention that poets have the best titles
--reread parts of The Wasteland
--reread parts of Mark Strand’s The Continuous Life
--googled river quotations
--read a website about river rafting
--googled Polish sayings
--reread my Polish cookbook (source of the title of Pears on a Willow Tree)
--googled poems about rivers (there are a lot of bad ones out there)
--bought a book of poetry because someone told me there was a villanelle about a river in it (very lovely, but nothing to steal for a title)
--reread my notes on Frederick Jackson Turner’s “The Significance of the Frontier in American History”
--high-jacked a late-night social gathering at VCCA to beg for title ideas (they flowed as the scotch flowed, becoming sillier and sillier as the scotch kept flowing)
--looked up books with “river” in the title on amazon
--spent a couple hours one morning writing a 3-page, 2-column list of titles, none of which was any good except for maybe the last one
--begged Steve to read two chapters about the Chicago River in a jargon-ish non-fiction book and write a list of suggested titles

So, now it’s up to you. Please take my exciting title survey…I’m serious and I’m desperate. That’s a very scary combination. I’m not going to say much about what the book is about, except to note that it takes place on one day in 1900 in Chicago, and, as you might have guessed, the Chicago River is important.

Try this link--

Click here to take survey
or since I don't trust my tech skills, try this if the above doesn't work:

Thank you! [Note: There will be a sign-up to create your own survey after you're done, but you can just close that screen and exit. The price of free services, alas!]


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.