For writers, titles are tough. There’s no getting around it. Revising a piece we’re working on many times can be the only way we finally find the core of an article, or anything else we’re writing. It is also true for coming up with an appropriate title. Often, it can take many attempts before we finally connect with one that feels right.
I learned how true this is when I was doing final edits to my soon-to-be-released novel (October 15, 2021). The work is a sequel to Freefall: A Divine Comedy, a novel that Pen-L Publishing released in 2019 (they’re also publishing the sequel), and it shows how Freefall’s main character Tillie was influenced by her early years.
The title for the sequel has gone through so many transformations that it’s hard to keep up with it! But first an overview of the narrative, a synopsis I created when I thought the title would be Confessions of a Canadian Girl in Training, though I had also considered Tillie’s Thirst for Thrills, Tillie’s Lust for Life, and Portraits of a Canadian Girl in Training.
Forces of the fast-approaching ‘60s—a decade of rebellion, discovery, and change—have already started working within the younger Tillie Bishop, the main character in Confessions of a Canadian Girl in Training (CGIT). Abandoned by her mother, and on her own from the age of fifteen, she quickly becomes street wise. Early on, she sheds whatever she’s learned as a Canadian Girl in Training (CGIT), preferring to make up her own rules. Creating Christmas candles and tree decorations at CGIT meetings does nothing for her. She prefers smoking cigarettes in the church bathroom during meetings and playing kissing games afterward in a park with neighborhood boys. She also would sooner read her mother’s movie and true romance magazines than textbooks. They excite her about what the future holds—dating men and having sex. Glamor becomes her guiding star. Though she fails at the religious ideals of being a Canadian Girl in Training, she succeeds at something else—a burgeoning acceptance of her wayward self.
I ended up thinking that Confessions of a Canadian Girl in Training would be more evocative since readers would wonder what this character had to confess and might also be curious about what Canadian Girls in Training do. My publisher and I were moving ahead with edits, thinking that this would be the final title. But then I realized it might work for Canadians who are familiar with CGIT, but what about my American readers?
Concerned, I submitted both the cover in progress along with the Confessions of a Canadian Girl in Training title to several Facebook groups whose members are mainly writers. While some liked the working title, Confessions, most were puzzled by it because it didn’t give much insight into the novel’s contents. So my publishers and I returned to the drawing board and tossed back and forth several possibilities. None clicked.
But then Kimberly Pennell came up with The Ripening: A Canadian Girl Grows Up! It immediately resonated with me and others I tried it out on. It indicates that the narrative is a coming of age story, and “the ripening” suggests it will be rich in sensory details and likely sexual ones as well.
So, dear readers, that’s my story about how I gave birth of one of my titles. I hope it inspires you to push your own efforts until you find the one that gives the message you want.