On Writing II: The 15 Stages of Choosing a Book Title

All writers know the extreme pressure of having to choose a book title.  No matter how epic your sci fi fantasy semi-autobiographical post-apocalyptic vampire romance novel may be, if you don’t name it something somewhat catchy, ain’t NOBODY gonna read it.

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 7.59.41 AM
Actual title and pseudonym I may have considered at some point

The issue is, choosing a good title is like going to buy a pair of jeans: you think it will be easy and only take thirty minutes, but instead you end up sobbing and berating yourself after hours of fruitless effort.

Don’t believe me?  Well then, I present to you the 15 VERY REAL stages of choosing a book title:

Stage 1:  Finish writing your book and editing your manuscript.  Write down the first title that comes to mind – it’s perfect, and cute, and catchy, and everyone will like it! Now on to the query letter…

Stage 2: As you’re about to send out your polished query letter, decide to Google your chosen title just to make sure no one else (or very few others) have used it before.  You’re sure that all will be well because you’re so clever and original and definitely the only person who’s ever thought of this adorable turn of phrase, but better safe than sorry!


Stage 4: Cry.

Stage 5: Spend hours scribbling possible titles on scraps of paper, hate all of them.


Stage 6: Find a title you don’t completely hate and yell “MWAHAHAHAH TITLE GODS I DEFY YOU!” while shaking your fist in the air.

Stage 7: Send out queries with new title, get agent*.  Agent reads MS and is like, “Overall pretty good; change these things, and also the title sucks.”

Stage 8: Cry.

Stage 9: Procrastinate trying to find a new title by meticulously addressing all of agent’s edits.

Stage 10: Procrastinate trying to find a new title by knitting.

Stage 11: Procrastinate trying to find a new title by cleaning out your closet.

Stage 12: Procrastinate trying to find a new title by drinking.

Stage 13: After fortifying yourself with alcohol, go back to your scribbles, scribble more title ideas. Cry.

Stage 14: After like 12 back and forth emails with agent, finally choose a new title.  Agent submits MS to editors.

Stage 15: Wait and resign yourself to the likelihood that if your book is sold that the publisher will immediately want you to change the title.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


*Of course, getting an agent takes a while, but that’s an entirely different post.  My agent is Sharon and she is great and despite the snark in this post I am very grateful that she told me to think up new titles because my original ones did, indeed, suck. ❤  

Writing Update – I Am This Dog

So anyone who has been reading my blog is aware that earlier this year I wrote a book.  It’s a memoir about my time as a chicken farmer in Kansas.  Ok, so that’s a lie, but it is an actual novel, with words and sentences and characters and stuff, and after writing it I was like, “Huh, I think this is ok.  I will try to get it published!”

Then I went online to learn about publishing, and cried because all the articles said, “Oh, you want to get published?  Never going to happen – HAHAHA #BYEFELICIA!”  And then I was like, well, screw this, I’m gonna try to get a literary agent anyways because I HAVE DREAMS.

I started querying (if you don’t know what that is, thank your lucky stars and move on with your life) and I was this dog:

I was this dog but less adorable.
I was this dog but less adorable.  And I didn’t wear a tie.

Publishing is a crazy business, and the more I queried and the more I read about queries online, the more I needed wine and a nap.  Then, something miraculous happened – I was referred to a couple of wonderful agencies, and they read my book and wanted to represent me!  When I was given this information, I was this guy:


It turns out they were serious, and I said, “Are you aware that I’m a dog who has no idea what she’s doing?”  I actually only said that in my brain; outwardly, I pretended like I was confident and also that I am a professional human non-canine who knows things.  It was only 20% totally awkward.

Then I had to decide, and I was like, THIS IS AN EMBARRASSMENT OF RICHES (FYI: it took me four tries typing “embarrassment” before I got it right; thanks, spellcheck.  Yep, I’m a writer.).  And then I decided, and now I have an agent, and she is wonderful!  I’ve signed with Sharon Pelletier of DGLM, and she’s fantastic and funny and gets my book, but now I’m worried she’s going to see this blog and ask, why did I sign on to represent a dog who has no idea what she’s doing and also lacks opposable thumbs?

I don’t know, Sharon, but you’re stuck with me now.  Sorry!

So that’s my writing update.  As you might be able to tell, I’m pretty psyched.  I’m also scared, because I’m a dog who has no idea what she’s doing.  But honestly, aren’t we all that dog at some point in our lives?  I think that’s the moral of this blog post, and maybe the Bible, too.  Peace!

P.S. A completely unrelated shoutout – Happy 30th Birthday to my girl T of Tears. Sweat. Sea.  WE ARE GOING OUT TONIGHT!  I know I’m a dog, but I can still drink wine, I promise.

On writing

After years of vaguely dreaming that one day I’d have the time and drive to actually write something real, I’m finally doing it, and it’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience.  I used to write short stories “for fun” in the summers in high school and college, but then I started working and everything else in my life sort of disappeared because capitalism.  Throughout my twenties, I would sometimes come home from work and open a doc on my computer, intending to commit ideas to (virtual) paper that had been floating around in my head for months or even years.  After a sentence or two, or maybe a paragraph, I would stand up, pace around my bedroom/kitchen/living room while silently berating myself for wasting time that could be better spent exercising or sleeping or doing actual work, and then close my computer to go watch the Daily Show before passing out.   This all changed a few weeks ago when I came back to San Francisco after over a month of leave time at home with my family.  After completing the requisite grocery shopping, pharmacy, and laundromat trips, I realized that I had a lot of fucking time on my hands.  I had all sorts of grand plans for how to fill this time: I was going to volunteer, and do yoga seven days a week and get ripped abs, and take a psychology class, and knit, and also perhaps learn hip hop or some shit.  I was ambitious, ok?

Instead, without really planning on doing it, I started writing a novel.  I’ve written 1-3K words per day on average for nearly four weeks.  I think some of it is great, and some of it is awful.  Most of it is ok and can be made good with revisions. When it’s done I will see what I can do with it – if I can sell it, or self e-publish it, or just share it with my friends and family who will tell me IT’S TOTALLY AWESOME no matter how shitty it is.

What’s interesting is that after a decade of intending to write without doing anything about it, now that I’m actually writing it’s not at all what I expected.  Here is what I have learned from nearly a month spent writing:

  • Writing is super easy…when you’re inspired, which happens like for five minutes on average per day.  You’ll be writing one particular piece of dialogue, or a sentence or two of description, and it just flows, man, from your brain, and you’re like, whoa, I am a fucking genius, this is some Charles Dickens-level shit right here!
  • Writing is extremely fucking hard…the vast majority of the time.  And also boring.  You’ll type a sentence, and look at it, and realize you left out four words, and then fix it, and then realize that you used “surprisingly” twice.  And then you’ll fix that, and realize that you just replaced one instance of “surprisingly” with “to my surprise,” which is basically the same fucking thing.  Then you go on thesaurus.com to look up synonyms for “surprisingly,” and the first option is “exceptionally,” and you’re like, why the fuck would I want to use the word exceptionally, I want surprisingly, but I can’t say it twice, jesus why is this so hard I WENT TO COLLEGE! Then you delete the sentence and start again, and this is why writing novels takes longer than like, a week, for most people, Stephen King, you motherfucker.
  • Writing is best done in coffee shops…because if you try to do it at home, you get distracted by things like your refrigerator, which is full of food, and so you eat it, but then you have dirty dishes in the sink, and you know that because it’s San Francisco the fruit flies will be all over that shit, so you wash the dishes, and then it’s been thirty minutes and all you’ve managed to do is look up synonyms for “surprisingly” on thesaurus.com.
  • Writing in coffee shops is a terrible idea…because everyone there is also writing on their laptops, and they look really professional and/or like tortured artists in skinny jeans and flannel and hipster glasses, and you start thinking, well, shit, that bitch over there is probably the next Harper Lee or something and here I am writing some contemporary romance crap, and then you scoot your chair over to get a better look at what that girl is writing, and it turns out she’s just checking Facebook, and then you’re like, HAHA SHE’S SO LAZY WHAT IS SHE EVEN DOING IN THIS COFFEE SHOP WHICH IS FOR ARTISTS ONLY?! And then you realize that you’ve been in the coffee shop for ninety minutes and have written only 200 words, consumed two mochas, and really have to pee, but you don’t want to use the coffee shop bathroom because it’s gross, so you go home to pee, and then are distracted by your refrigerator again and it’s a vicious cycle.
  • The internet is really helpful for writing…because you can do “research” and look up synonyms on thesaurus.com instantaneously, and in the olden days people had to actually own real thesauruses (thesauri?) and dictionaries and if they went somewhere other than their house they had to lug it with them.  Poor Jane Austen.
  • The internet is the worst thing ever in the history of writing…because of literally everything else on the internet that is not thesaurus.com, including wordpress.com.

I’ve probably learned other things in my month of writing, but I can’t remember them right now because I got distracted watching a video of a German Shepherd doing laundry on YouTube. 

Guys, my book is going to be AMAZING.