As I grow older, I have become acutely aware of my limitations. For instance, three years ago, I finally resolved myself to the fact that I am never going to win Wimbledon (apparently beating your husband at beach tennis does not automatically mean you’re in with a shot). Equally, I am unlikely ever to headline Glastonbury (‘Adele has a throat infection and you need me to perform my moving rendition of Hometown Glory? Send a car at once!’) and of course, George Clooney and I are now officially through.
On a more grounded note, I have given up pretending to like rollercoasters, wearing shoes which bruise my toe-nails and thoughts of becoming a plumber. On the plus side I have realised that I can and will become a better writer, swimmer and baker of sponge-cakes.
However, there is one thing at which I will always fall short and it relates to writing. Sadly and with much regret, I am absolutely rubbish at coming up with book titles and it drives me potty.
I can create characters, settings and plots. I can introduce hooks, cliff-hangers and dramatic tension. I can make readers laugh and cry and drift off into another world for a bit (at least, that’s what some kindly reviewers have said).
But titles? Man, I struggle. I think I go through a similar process to when I’m confronted with a crossword clue.
‘”Plot”. Four letters,’ my husband might say.
‘Yes, that’s the clue. “Plot” Four letters.’
‘Dunno. I can only think of “plot”.’
Not helpful is it?
I have a similar issue with my books. My first novel had a working title of, ‘The Editor’s Choice’, because one of the female lead characters was an editor and had some choices to make. You see what I did there?
But it wasn’t right, partly because her sister was an integral part of the story too but more importantly, it just didn’t fit. It was like calling your baby Brian when all the time his name was Dave. Wrong, all wrong, my friends.
Luckily my publisher is really good at titles. When they took me under their wing, they immediately wracked their wordy brains (they have all the words and brains at Carina) and came up with, ‘Far From Perfect.’
I could immediately see that they’d hit on something there. However, my prime concern was that this was a title, which less than generous reviewers could use to beat me over the head.
I e-mailed it to my husband, who has occasional moments of genius (don’t tell him I said this – we’ll never hear the end of it) and happily he was having a good day.
‘What about, ‘Not Quite Perfect’?
And that was the moment. He said the three little words I’d been longing to hear without even realising it. From that day onwards, everything seemed to fall into place. My publisher loved this tweaked title and produced one of the most brilliant covers I’ve ever seen to go with it.
The summer of 2013 was surreal and wonderful as we watched, ‘Not Quite Perfect’ climb into the top ten Kindle bestsellers and reach number one in the Romance Charts.
Heady days indeed but when you set your benchmark high, you also set yourself a challenge for the future.
Last year, my second book, ‘Dear Lizzie,’ was published and the title seemed to fit a novel which told the story of the twelve letters left to Lizzie by her sister, Bea after her death. It was more emotional and a departure from, ‘Not Quite Perfect’. In the words of a popular creosoting advert, ‘it did exactly what it said on the tin.’ Or, ‘book’ in this case.
In July my third book will be published and it is back in, ‘Not Quite Perfect’, territory so the stakes are high. So far, it’s had two titles but neither is quite right. In fact, every time I come up with a title and suggest it to my husband, he finds it very amusing to say, ‘that’s good but it’s not quite perfect.’ Cushions have been thrown.
This week I’m determined to sort it though. It needs to be short, snappy and light. It needs to engage and stimulate. It needs to be brilliant and original. I am determined and I’m sure it will come to me. I’m sure they’ll be a flash of lightning, a moment’s revelation and the right words will just pop into my brain. I just need to get ‘not quite perfect’ out of my mind first.
Wish me luck.