Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Insert Title Here

Does anyone have a problem with titles?

I am a terrible titler. Which is actually sort of weird, since once upon a time I worked at a college newspaper, and one of my main jobs was to give columns their headlines. Humblebrag time: I am a bad titler, but an excellent headliner. I once managed to headline a column, "On the third day, God created the Remington bolt-action rifle" -- that took some tricky font action, I tell you what. NAME THAT MOVIE!)

When it comes to my second life as a writing bear, I often think of my skill set like the pain scale.

1- Dialogue
I am really good at writing dialogue. If you know me in real life, you probably already know that I am a sparkling conversationalist. (Not really.) Writing dialogue is completely pain-free, and generally quite enjoyable. Given the option, I will leave a bunch of XXX's where plot should go so I can move on to writing more banter.

2- Critiquing other people's work
I am also really good at critiquing for other people. I am a much faster reader than I am a writer, to a semi-freakish degree. I also have LAWYER POWERS, which means I analyze minor details for a living, and YES, I will catch that inconsistency you built into your plot! I will also provide you with a Power Point about your options to fix said inconsistency, because I am pushy and overly organized. But it makes my eyes tired, so it's a 2.

3- Grammar
Grammar is less enjoyable than dialogue and critiquing, and causes me about as much pain as a hangnail.  I don't actually know what a present participle is, because I always zoned out during that section in English class. But I am generally pretty good at following the rules of grammar, picking up on violations of the rules of grammar, and ignoring the rules of grammar (but only when I have an excellent reason to do so, like ending dialogue with prepositions because NO ONE REVERSES THE PREPOSITION IN REAL LIFE SPEECH.)

4- Beginnings
Beginnings are a vaguely throbbing headache. Unlike IDEAS!, which are a Negative-One on the pain scale (in that they are purely delightful), beginnings cause me a little anxiety, due to the fact that I have a hard time remembering, "Hey, this doesn't actually HAVE to be the beginning. It could always become something else later. It doesn't have to be that great at the moment." They are also difficult because starting one beginning means NOT starting another (at least not yet) -- which if you already have one time-consuming job means Idea 2 may never come to fruition. And that's a serious downer.

5- Endings
I actually couldn't quite decide whether endings or beginnings caused me more pain. I generally think of the ending first, but I tend to fiddle with it more. Endings are sort of like indigestion. Mostly they are no big deal, just some minor tummy rumbles. It's generally the "Am I going to throw up?" uncertainty that is the big problem.

6- Pacing
Pacing is like the last half mile of a jog for me. I know I can do it. My brain says I can, my muscles say I can, but my lungs say, "Oww, oww, no no no, let's stop and smell the roses, and oh, isn't Spencer tired? Shouldn't we stop and give Spencer a break? Look, there are ducks! Let's stop running, PLEASE, and let Spencer look at the ducks!" 
It sucks, but it's definitely not the worst.

7- Middles
This is a sprained ankle (terribly unpleasant, but not debilitating) -- or, if we keep the "working out" metaphor going, medicine ball squats as a Crossfit instructor yells, "YOU CAN DO FIVE MORE!" and it takes everything you have to finish those squats and not hurl the medicine ball at that muscle-bound freak with all the might your pathetic upper body strength can muster.

Ahem. Yes. That's what middles are like.

8- Back story/World building
This is heatstroke. You're sweaty and dizzy, and sort confused about what you're doing and why. You just know you've got to get back to air conditioning and water, and soon.

9- Queries
Have you ever barfed from pain? I have. That's what a query is like for me.
10- Titles

Anyway, I really went overboard with that pain scale thing, didn't I? But my point remains, titles are literally the worst part of everything. 

And the VERY worst part? It's generally acknowledged that if you do get published, your chosen title won't really matter anyway, because people who are good at titles will pick a new one!

Does anyone else have this problem? What's your 10 on the pain scale?


  1. Titles are really what I am best at. It's follow through that ruins me.

  2. All of these pieces are on my pain scale, only in a different order. I don't mind titles. I try to think of one, as well as write the query, before I draft. Saves a lot of pain later. :)

    Merry Christmas, Ru!

  3. My 10 is description. My drafts are always anorexic from a lack of description.