It may be that for me the hardest part of writing is finding good titles for my books. For my second book, my working title for more than six months was Real Lawyers Are Good Managers or some variation of that. The book is broken into three parts: Client Management, Case Management, and Practice Management. So it seemed like a good fit to have something about managers in the title. But I could never get settled on that title. I never just really loved it.

I couldn’t get comfortable with dumping the title either. Despite several brainstorming sessions, I hadn’t come up with any alternatives. So I reached out to a group of lawyer friends and pitched the title. There was a resounding thud. No one liked the title. I was discouraged. But out of that conversation, the new title was born: Stop Putting Out Fires. Someone made an off-hand comment about spending most of their day putting out fires rather than making any real progress. This sparked some previously dormant synapses, and I suddenly had a title that I loved. It took nearly a year to come up with a good title.

In the same boat with a different book

Now, I am working on a novel … well more truthfully, I’ve been fiddling with this novel for going on a couple of years now. I’ve started to make some headway and have committed myself to writing it. But I don’t love the working title I’ve given it. I just can’t come up with anything more striking than what I’ve got now.

Maybe everyone has this difficulty with finding good titles for their books. I don’t know. There are enough people who struggle with developing good titles that there is a book about it. My friend Cary Chu, who did the amazing cover design for Stop Putting Out Fires, directed me to Now All We Need Is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way. I’m excited about reading and hoping that it’s going to be revelatory — is that too much to ask?

In the meantime, I’ll just keep plugging away at my writing projects, scouring my brain for good titles.

Photo by Juan Antonio Segal.

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