There are times in the writing of any work where you are just stuck, and no repositioning of scenes, no amount of research, and no re-reading can get you through it. I have had experience many times—most recently, in coming up with titles for my new young-adult trilogy. And I was reminded again of the importance of my subconscious.
I hate coming up with titles. It is literally one of my least favorite things to do. Unfortunately, titles matter a great deal. A good title will sell a book. A bad one will, at best, make it unnoticeable. At worst, it will prevent people from asking for it or buying it.
So I’m quite aware of what a sad thing it is that I seem so ill-equipped for this title task. Now if you will, imagine the hell of my most recent requirement: having to come up with THREE titles for the trilogy. And not just three, but three that had to work together, perfectly linked.
I spent days mulling over quotes. I enlisted my daughter. I consulted thesauruses. I went back over my research. I read Dictionaries of Celtic Myth. Hours and hours, all in search of the elusive title. I went to bed and told my subconscious: work on this, forgetting of course that in the way of all subconsciouses, it was going to solve the problem in its own good time.
Because that’s how it works. All this stuff, all this information, all your themes and research and motivations and everything, just sit there percolating in the brew of your subconscious. Generally it pops out when you least expect it, and in ways you don’t expect. Like reading through the manuscript and seeing something I hadn’t realized I’d put there, which leads me to solving the problem. But in order for your subconscious to do some of the work, you need to let go. You need to just forget it for awhile. You must admit it’s got the best of you and stop thinking.
Which is what happened to me when it came to those pesky titles. A glass of wine with some friends, talk of our lives and our children…. I’m not even thinking about the YA as I’m driving home. In fact, what I’m thinking is this: “Who names their kid Walter anymore?” and “What is going to be the geeky/old man name of the future, now that all these kids are named Jared and Trace and Keenan?” and suddenly, out of nowhere, the titles for the trilogy—not just ONE book, mind you, but all THREE—came to me like a bird crashing into my windshield.
Letting go is hard. It is, for me, extremely hard. But sometimes, it’s what you need to do. Have a drink. Eat some ice cream. Mow the lawn or play hide and seek with your kids. Let the answer wind its way to you. Let go.
Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of several novels. The Best Reviews has said she writes “Fascinating historical fiction.” Her books have been chosen for the Borders Original Voices program and IndiBound’s Booksense. A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters. Find her at: http://www.MeganChance.com.