Merry Christmas to those of you celebrating today and tomorrow!
Today marks eight months until YOUR LIFE HAS BEEN DELAYED releases, and I promised that each month on the 24th leading up to release day, I would share behind-the-scenes information about the book. Today I thought it would be fun to talk about the title and also give some tips for those of you who might be working on titles yourselves.
I love brainstorming titles, and it’s generally a process that happens after I finish the first draft, while I’m letting it sit before diving back in to revisions. I always title the Scrivener file with something descriptive about the book. In this case: 1995 story. That’s still its Scrivener name 😀.
When developing the title for this book, my first step was to create a Title Brainstorm document in the notes folder of my Scrivener file. Then I went through my tips for titling a manuscript. I wrote that post in 2013, but I still use all of the tips! Below I’m going to show you how I used them for this particular manuscript.
- List key words, including character names and descriptors. Jenny Waters, time travel, plane words, every time unit you can think of–I wrote them all down.
- Pull out the Thesaurus. I did a search for similar words and phrases from all the key words I’d already listed, just to see if any of them worked better for a title.
- Search the manuscript for key phrases. I always find it fascinating when I read a book and the title pops out at me, that it’s just right there in the book. And while readers will find my title in the book, that phrase was actually added after I came up with the title (hmm… maybe other writers do that too… ).
- Check out topic-specific dictionaries. In the case of this book, I looked through aviation glossaries to see if anything jumped out at me. I added all of those random phrases to my list.
- Make up a new word. I love making up new words for titles. I’ve done it before. It didn’t really fit for this one.
- Plug your key words into Amazon. I love plays on words, and I can totally spend hours doing this, searching out existing titles of books and movies to see how I can twist them into something different. It’s also very helpful to see what’s already out there to avoid using an existing title.
- Look up existing books/movies/TV shows with your topic. This is a new addition to my list. I made a list of time travel media, both to see if I could twist any of them into a new title and also just so I’d know what was already out there. For a minute I really wanted to title my book TIME FLIES and there was already an old movie with that title… But I think I’m going to sign books that way anyway.
- Search for quotes. Like existing titles, quotes can be twisted into something new. I searched for quotes about time.
- Check out the rhyming dictionary. The rhyming dictionary is my favorite! I have spent many hours looking up a word I want to use in a title–say, “time”–and looking up the words that rhyme with it, then finding all the existing titles with those words to see if I can twist them. Yes, I realize this may sound extreme, but I do like my titles to be perfect!
- Pull out the actual dictionary. I didn’t end up pulling out the dictionary for this title, but I’m keeping the tip on here anyway. Looking through an actual dictionary is super helpful if you want to use alliteration!
- Play around with the words. Once I collected all the words and phrases, I listed out as many titles as I could come up with. Some of my discards included: JENNY PAUSED, ETA: SCREWED, LATE ARRIVAL, JENNY ON STANDBY. Plus so many more very bad titles!
But as for the actual title…
I was still in the midst of brainstorming when I tagged along on my husband’s business trip to Charlotte on May 3, 2018. It was quite an interesting experience! (See the screenshot of my tweets for details.) We arrived at the airport at 5 a.m., and over the course of several hours, I repeatedly received this email:
Your Flight Has Been Delayed
Interestingly, this phrase hadn’t come up in my research of plane-related terms, probably because I hadn’t searched for phrases that had to do with being a passenger. I didn’t immediately connect it to my manuscript as I was quite frustrated that we were stuck in the airport–and not even sure we’d get on a plane that day–but after about five times, it finally clicked. I looked at the subject line of that email and thought, if this were my character, she’d be thinking:
Your Life Has Been Delayed
I told my husband what I was thinking, and he liked it too. It’s been the title ever since. So many people I’ve told about my book have said, “Great title!” Including a few best-selling authors I’ve met in person. So I guess I should be thanking American Airlines for that delayed flight and the repeated emails, which twisted so well into a title for my debut book.
But, you know, I don’t think I’ll be including them in my acknowledgments 😉.
I’d love to hear how you come up with titles! Let me know in the comments.