A Prose by Any Other Name…

31 05 2012

Let’s face it, there are some people who judge others by their baby-naming ability. After all, it is one’s first real responsibility as a parent.  Many of us can instantly think of the ‘creatively named’ celebrity babies who have graced the pages of social media.  Likewise, people judge books by their ‘perfect title’.

Titling is by far the hardest thing I do as a writer.  I know that the title has to be “perfect” in order to capture the intended audience’s attention.  I have moments of brilliance, when I have helped other author friends find just the right title for their books, and yet, when it comes to my own titles, it seems that the pressure to “be brilliant” sends me into a tail spin.  I am always passionate with my ‘first-gut’ title, but then, I second guess myself.  Doubt is a terrible thing!  There have been times when manuscripts have gone through as many as seven titles before arriving at the final one.

Just to share my latest personal struggle with you:  My latest book, is a practical resource intended to help teachers best utilize a 100 minute literacy block.  My colleague and friend, initially suggested the title: 100 MINUTES! (the exclamation mark was very important to him).  Yes! Clearly that was the right title for this book.  It was catchy, short, memorable and clear; all of the important qualities in a good title.  I loved it!  I was committed to it!  I knew it was the one!


 I started to second guess myself.  A hundred minutes of what?  What if the reader’s don’t have exactly 100 minutes for their literacy block?  I started to wage war with an inner battle.  It needed to be perfect! It needed to be just right!  It needed to be brilliant!  New titles started to creep into my mind.  What about 100 MEANINGFUL MINUTES?  There!  That gives it purpose.  Hmmm, what about MAXIMIZING 100 MINUTES ? – nope, trying too hard.  The 100 MINUTE LITERACY BLOCK?  Too textbookish!  Suggestions came from other sources, what about:  DOING MORE WITH THE LITERACY BLOCK?  Doing more?  Doing more what?  A PRACTICAL APPROACH TO THE LITERACY BLOCK – yes!  I love the word “practical”!, No! Too wordy and what happened to my ‘100’ and my “MINUTES”  And on and on came the suggestions.  None seemed right.  I sent out an open plea through social media:  If someone could up with the perfect title, I would dedicate the book to them.  Now, if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is.  More suggestions poured in.  Some were funny like:  BUY MY BOOK, ITS REALLY GOOD, and some really practical:  A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO MAXIMIZING THE 100 MINUTE LITERACY BLOCK.  Ugg!  Titling this book was turning into nightmare!

Finally, I found it. The perfect title.  The one that was catchy, sharp, clever and captured the reader’s attention. It said everything it needed to say, and everything I wanted to say. The one that matched all of my title-success-criteria.  The perfect title was 100 MINUTES!

I have always had an appreciation for good titles.  I have always enjoyed the cleverness that it takes for an author to capture the sentiment of an entire manuscript with a few words.  Finding the perfect title is hard.  It’s a little like naming your children.  You know that it is the first interaction the book will have with the world… and there are people who will judge you because of your book-naming abilities.  But, when you see my new book, please know how much work went into finding ‘the perfect title’!




6 responses

31 05 2012
Royan Lee

Go with 100 Minutes! 🙂

31 05 2012
Lisa Donohue

Thanks Royan, there’s nothing like the inner struggle to find ‘just the right title’. 🙂

2 06 2012
Alyson Kirkwood

When is the book coming out? Can’t wait!

2 06 2012
Lisa Donohue

Thanks. I’m glad you’re excited…I am too! It should be out in the fall. Keep an eye on the Pembroke website for further details. http://www.pembrokepublishers.com Also, I will be tweeting lots about it as it gets closer to publication time. 🙂

13 06 2012
Lorraine Boulos (@RaineCB)

I can’t wait to read your new book, (even though we only have 90 min. for our Literacy Block in our Board. “100 Minutes” sounds way better than “90 Minutes”!)

13 06 2012
Lisa Donohue

Thanks….don’t worry….it is easily adapted to a longer or shorter time frame…so 100 MINUTES should be perfect for your 90 minutes. 🙂

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