You wouldn’t know this from my blog posts, but I’m reasonably good with titles. I can pick that one killer phrase, the thing you deleted, the great image, and slap it at the top of my work or other people’s work. I even came up with some chapter titles for Dr. Cougar.
I hate clickbait titles, or obvious titles. If it sounds like the subject line of an email it’s a shitty title. If it involves the words “amaze” or “crazy” or “blow your mind” it has no place in a creative writing setting. The poets say that your titles in the table of contents should compel a person to turn to the poem itself. That’s not true of every poem in a manuscript, but it’s a good rule of thumb.
A good title can be a striking image, a good turn of phrase, or something that has two meanings. A little action is good. I like a shorter title. “Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form” is my least favorite title in the world. Try not to be pretentious. Imagine an event director at a bookstore introducing your book. Imagine your engineer relative asking for the book in a bookstore.
My book has six or seven chapters and a bunch of chapterlets, which are titled. For the most part, the titles are pretty strong. There was a correlation between the right title and the focus of the chapterlet that can’t be ignored. But I have two chapterlets with the same name and for the life of me, I cannot come up with a good title for them.
How do you determine titles?
Excuses for not posting:
I was too busy talking to my sister.
I was too busy mourning the fact that my sister is gone.
There are triplets in my house who interrupt me every three seconds.
Adjunct Clause is entering season 5 and I’ve planned nothing. (Fortunately it is not a class I have to design from scratch as there is framework already there for me.)
(I kind of miss designing classes from scratch. It’s fun. There’s probably something wrong with me.)
It’s been the hottest August on record in my fair state. I’ve worked for meteorologists. We’re all going to die from global warming.
I’m finishing the fucker.
Someone has to keep Sarah W on her toes in pun wars
Not only am I finishing the fucker, I’m reading it out loud, to myself, usually in my yard
It may have been quiet over the last week on my blog, but that sure isn’t the case in Fangs and Clause Central. My sister Cougar is literally in the house and we’ve been talking and fighting and talking while fighting. Evidently recreational fighting is the way of Clauses.
I wouldn’t know because I am abandoning the Clause family reunion to stay home and write. This goes against the very fabric of my family culture. (Yes, that’s probably a mixed metaphor. Yes, I’m too lazy to change it.)
It’s easy to say you’re going to finish a book over the summer, especially in April. But when August looms it becomes a little more tricky. I have been working mostly regularly on the book. A little bit most every weekday. But there have been visits and visitors, there has been burnout and panic. Sometimes I just want to spend my free time reading a book under my tree.
When are you done? I don’t know. But I know I’m reaching the end of my ability to make the MS better under my own steam. I could keep chipping away at it for the next 10 years, but I don’t want to. I want a finished book. So it’s nose and grindstone. It’s looking up all the tiny facts I have been glossing over. It’s develop the last little bits and polish, polish, polish.
When is it over?
You might think I’m talking about current events, but I’m not. My current writing problem is that the sight of my manuscript makes me want to barf. But the best way to get rid of it is to finish it. I have to finish it sometime so it might as well be August.
Or I could kill myself. Whatever. (Note: Indy Clause is not in the least bit suicidal. She is reminded of a friend of Anne Lamott’s who told her he could type or die. Yes.)
What can I possibly do to get back into the manuscript? I thought about going to the local coffeeshop, but people would probably annoy me. I thought about going back to bed, but that wouldn’t get me back into the MS. I thought about writing a blog post, and I deleted five tries before I finished one.
I just did it. And now that I’m an hour into my workday, I can tell you that one of the best editing tricks I have for late-stage drafts is to figure out what I hate. I don’t hate the whole MS, I just hate the mealy-mouthed beginning of a particular chapter. I hate the chapterlet that I can’t get to say what I mean it to say even though it seems important. I hate the order of chapter four.
My friends, these are all things I can fix. And now I’m going to ignore bigger picture pressures (Cougar arriving tomorrow, dog squabbles, impending family reunion, no time, no time, no time). Today I’m going in.
And if you want me to write something that isn’t a whine about writing, please send me any editorial questions you have.
In the past week I have visited six states and three old/new friends. I have rearranged my house, spent time with Sophie the New Poodle, hosted a bunch of people, cooked, and after that went to an obligatory social occasion where I knew no one but the hosts.
In between, I have collapsed into naps and sat amongst the poodles. Yesterday I enforced a Pax Clause between Sophie and new roommate poodle. Then I went to bed. This morning I have a plain old workday. Thank god.
My proudest accomplishment this weekend, besides Pax Clause, was faking my way through Hebrew songs when no one else on my side of the room did. The words were written down. I have been faking my way through Hebrew songs and prayers half my life. Hasn’t everyone?
What are your proudest recent achievements?
And someone please send me a good editorial question so I have something more interesting to write about. Thank you.
I love July. It is the pulsing heart of summer. It is also the only time I fleetingly miss working in an office as my house does not have air conditioning. I have learned over time that the heat makes for good editing weather because really I should move as little as possible.
Ms. Sophie is settling in nicely, thanks for asking. Oh you didn’t ask? Too bad. Poodles are really elegant dogs (except of course when she shakes herself and near falls over). They test boundaries, but ultimately want to do what they’re told. As a result, I have a black shadow that is nearly as large as I am, but much furrier.
Yesterday someone online recommended the conscious style guide, which is a compendium of useful, nonoffensive terms and precise definitions to use when talking about sexuality, ableism, ethnicity, age, and health. Some people call this political correctness, I call it being accurate and letting people determine what they want to be called. You wouldn’t call your new friend Bob by the name Mark just because you are too lazy to say Bob, right? Right.
And one last little link, which makes me want to change this blog name to “Why Clippy* Drinks.” Can I do that?
[*A quick reminder of who Clippy is. This link makes noise and might make you laugh until you cry.]
How is mid July in your neck of the woods?
We agreed to get a dog the first week I went freelance. And when I say, “we,” I mean, I finally caved in to my spouse’s incessant pleading for a dog. To his utter surprise, a month ago and seven or so years later after Mr. Dog came to live with us, I agreed to get a second dog.
It’s nice to have a dog when freelancing. At least it looks at you when you moan about having to renumber citations eight times. For christ’s sake why can’t people with Ph.D.s in science cite each source IN NUMERICAL ORDER ON FIRST MENTION! There. It drove me to all caps. (Spare me your observations that they may have added or taken out sources and were more interested in the content than getting their citations straight. I just don’t care.)
Walking a dog gets you out of the house when you can’t take it anymore. They’re cute and love you. So why not have two dogs? I mean you could just drive a few states away and pick up a gorgeous poodle dog who was rescued from Louisiana because her owner died and the family didn’t want her.
So now in addition to having a little muppet thing (Mr. Dog), I have a horse, by which I mean a tall 36-lb poodle lady. I can’t work because I have to get up and go into the other room and look at her lounging on my couch. Is she comfy? Is she really mine? Holy shit!