Friday, December 6, 2013

Make Your Titles Useful

Of course, you've heard it all.

Make your blog titles tempting. Make them enticing. Make them relevant.

But I'm going to add another adjective: useful. And I'm learning it as well.

You see, this realization came when I was reading this one blog post. I read the title and I started to read the post. Then I basically just freaked out.

Honestly, the post didn't jive with the title at all. They were two separate beasts entirely, I couldn't see how they were related at all until later on in the post when the actual title-part was introduced.

Maybe the author had something great to say in those few paragraphs in the beginning. Maybe the author had some point to make. But I couldn't get it, I couldn't understand the post, I couldn't start reading because I was so darn confused.

I'm not saying your blog titles have to be simple summaries of your post. I'm not saying they have to be dull. Make them exciting. But all that flash won't matter if it just confuses the reader. I'd rather have a summary of a title than a flashy one, because, think about it: summary-titles will make reading the post much more easy, and summary-titles are most prone to getting picked up by Google searches (do you search 'How to get good characterization' or '101 Tricks in Spicing Up Your Hero' when you do a Google search?).

Yes, yes, this post is directed towards the blog-writing audience, but it works for every other writer as well. Think about chapters.

I forget where I heard it, but one agent makes all her clients get rid of their chapter titles and replaces them with numbers, unless the titles are super super important or voicey.

I was aghast when I first read this (I loved my titles!) but then I thought about just how long I spend trying to find a good chapter title. And then I think about how chapter titles ruin some books for me if I glance at the Table of Contents (because, honestly, if I read, 'Back Alive' as the title for the last chapter, do you think I'll believe that the main character is dead?).

Just something to think about. I still love chapter titles when they're used well, but reading about this agent made me realize just how much more important the story is. It's something many of us (me too) forget; we think awesome titles, awesome covers, awesome whatevers, will make-or-break our novels when the single biggest thing we should spend the most time worrying about is the text itself. That's where the gold is.

Titles should serve the purpose of whatever comes under the title, be it a blog post, a chapter, or even a whole darn book. Don't make the mistake of thinking the title is more important than the rest of the words. If anything, your title should help convey or even further your text's meaning (think of the poem "In the Orchard") but not make it more confusing. The title should be a vehicle to convey the message of the text without interfering with it. If your title does this, then feel free to add all the attention-getting and sparklies you want.

Because the main star is the text, not the title. And we should never forget that.

How do you feel about chapter titles? And how much time do we spend worrying about the less important parts of a book?

P.S. You might not believe it but I've been going to sleep before midnight for the last two nights. It's literally something I haven't done in years, and I plan on going to bed even EARLIER tonight! AHHH!!!! THIS IS CRAZY.


  1. My blog post titles are usually summaries. But that's what search engines go through, so it's important.
    Titles for book chapters aren't important to me. All three of my books are just numbered. Considering the very last thing I do is divide my manuscript into chapters, it would take me forever to create titles for them. I have a hard enough time with book titles!

  2. I just recently broke my fantasy WIP into real chapters, and I decided to give them titles. I have a feeling the book's title will get changed, lol, but I think the chapter titles are solid. I don't really care if a book has chapter titles, though. I often don't even look at blog titles. lol

  3. I'm a fan of "Chapter 1," "Chapter 2." Having said that, my YA thriller has a logical break after chapter 3 (I think it's 3) and the next two chapters are NOT numbered at all, but rather titled "The Fall" and "The Hard Landing."


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