What comes first? The title or the first chapter?

My husband is a title fanatic. Before he’s put pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, he’s got it, and it doesn’t change. As part of my toxin-free fresh start for 2011, I’m pouncing on a new project and the title is the last thing on my mind. First, I need to know the characters inside out, then the setting, then the two or three ideas that will make it into a story. I’ll spend a long time gathering information on the main subject, talking to people who might have gone through a similar experience, and then I’ll write a synopsis and a few chapters to see how it feels. After that, maybe, a title will spring to mind. But if it does, it will probably change four times before I’ve finished the first draft, and will definitely change once the publisher gets hold of it. Not sure what the norm is… when did Donna Moore come up with “Old Dogs“? Karen Campbell with “After the Fire“, Chris Ewan with “The Good Thief’s Guide to…” , Steve Mosby with Black Flowers? When do most writers come up with the perfect title?


~ by helenfitzgerald on January 10, 2011.

2 Responses to “What comes first? The title or the first chapter?”

  1. Hi HelenInteresting post (and thanks for linking to my books). For me, the title of my Good Thief’s Guide to … series was what pulled everything together, and I didn’t start the first book, Amsterdam, until I had it. It was pretty fundamental in setting the tone of the books and I can remember really clearly coming up with it after weeks of thinking and playing around with different ideas. I knew I wanted to write about a burglar. Knew I wanted each book to be set in a different city. And I wanted to get that all in up front. I tried a bunch of different things, and in the end, the titles are really my attempt to pun off the Rough Guide series of travel guides. Mind you, this could explain why I’ve sometimes found them shelved in travel writing sections of book shops by mistake…What about Amelia O’Donohue is So Not a Virgin? Your title is so strong that I would have guessed everything grew from it?


  2. Hi Chris, No – Amelia was my husband’s idea after I’d finished the book! I wonder if the perfect title is a boy thing?


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