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by Shaunna Privratsky
The title of your manuscript is the first thing
an editor sees, whether you send it "snail-mail" or through increasingly popular
e-mail. Think of your title as your moment to shine, to get your foot in the
door, to pique the interest of the editor enough to open and read your story.
Tempt them with a tantalizing title, and then let your words serve up a
Imagine that you are an over-worked, under-paid
editor. Your desk is piled high with a zillion manuscripts that you must search
through for that elusive gold straw in the haystack of mediocre writing and
terrible syntax. You pick up the next two manuscripts and glance at the
Would you rather read: "Untitled, A Story by A.
Scribbler" or "Wild and Wacky Weekends with Wilma by F. Amos Author?"
Perhaps you do most of your work on a computer.
Would you bother opening a subject line with the title "The Story of my Mothers
Death?" "The Silk Robe" leaves more to the imagination and is much more likely
to get noticed.
How do I choose titles? Sometimes the story will
suggest the title, other times I try several before hitting on one that
flawlessly portrays the piece. "Blood Relative" tells the tale of a possibly
murdered young woman. Her brothers ghost returns to give her the second chance
he was never given. Thus, the title suggests that perhaps the ties of blood are
stronger than the grave. Another example is "Rain on Vacation," a poem about the
adventures of a little girl and a tiny frog. Calling it "The Frog" would give
away the surprise.
Alliteration has proven highly effective for me.
I choose words with the same beginning letters or sounds, especially for
articles such as: "Garage Sale Guru," "Confessions of a Coupon Queen" or "Kudos
Other titles are a play on words, like "The
Purr-fect Pussycat," "Oops! My Dot-com is Showing!," or "The Write Path." Your
spell-checker might tell you its wrong, but sometimes ya just gotta break da
On occasion, a great title will pop into my head
before the story. Then I try to devise a story around it. This happened with
"Broken Hearts and Falling City-Girls," a variation on a line I heard in a song
about broken hearts and falling stars. Another title was "Shadow Illusions,"
which Dark Angel Rising recently accepted. This story started out as a
definition in my Rogets Super Thesaurus. [The phrase it defined is just as
beguiling: Spectre of the Brokken]
If you are lucky or poetic enough, rhyming your
title is a sure attention-grabber. My article about finding an inexpensive
wedding dress is titled "Spend Less on Your Dress."
By choosing a crackerjack title, you are
increasing the chances that youll sell your manuscript. Lots of practice and
following these hints will hone your skill at inventing titles. A story with a
tantalizing title will definitely stand out in the sea of submissions and with a
bit of luck, earn you a sale.
© Copyright 2003, Shaunna Privratsky
Shaunna Privratsky writes fulltime from North Dakota, in between shoveling snow. Please visit The Writer Within at http://shaunna67.tripod.com. We are looking for new writers and we are a paying market.
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