Jan 24 2009
Cadet Davis reviews and revises the titles of 30 manuscripts submitted to a writing workshop. This will help you evaluate and improve your titles.
- Jihad 2115. This is a very straightforward title for a futuristic counterterrorism story. It identifies itself to its niche of readers very effectively.
- Certified to be Human. This is more of a head-scratcher, but it’s stylish and I’m pretty sure that the book is about a cyborg trying to be human. However, it could be smoother as something like Certifiably Human.
- Midwife Crisis. I’m such a sucker for puns. I think this one works because I know what’s at stake and what the book is about. Also, it markets itself as a comedy, which is often a difficult thing to show with a title.
- We Are Justice. This is delightfully creepy, but I don’t know enough about what’s going on here. Is this… a dystopian superhero novel? A futuristic cop story? A hard-hitting detective story? Etc.
- A Human Failing. It would probably help to be more specific about which human failing we’re looking at. (Lust? Vengeance? Something quirky?) For example, something like “Charity is a Human Failing” would say a lot more about the book. Also, I think the word “human” may be a red herring. Are there nonhumans in this book? Since that sort of detail will help shape the audience, it’s probably something that should be clearer. In contrast, “Charity is a Human Failing” leaves very little doubt that there are nonhumans in the book, so that will help pick out the right niche of readers.
- The Hacker. This is a character, not a story. What’s the hacker doing? Why should we care?
- Performance Review. This needs more style and specificity. What kind of performance review are we looking at? Why should we care? If this were a story about a bureaucratic take on heaven, for example, we could try something like “Halo Needs Shining; Wings Not Much Better.” It hopefully conveys the feel of a performance review but shows us more about what kind of story this is.
- The Junkie’s Promise. Promise is a very vague word that doesn’t really say anything useful about the plot. I’d really like to know more about what’s at stake for the junkie. Junkie is a great word, by the way. It helps set the setting and attract the right subset of readers.
- Ragged Edge of Hell. I like the style here. I feel like I know something about the plot (an unpleasant trip into hell), but it might help to show us something more about the protagonist and/or what’s at stake for him.
- In the Beginning. This is borderline awful, but I think it’s almost acceptable because it clearly marks itself as a story about Genesis. It identifies itself to readers, but doesn’t say as much about its style as Jihad 2115 did.
- Beware the Fury. What’s at stake? Why should we care? What’s the setting? Don’t know, don’t care. (You’re going to be hearing “don’t know, don’t care” a lot, so please get used to it).
- The Blessing. Who gets blessed? In what way? Why should we care? What’s at stake? What’s the setting? Is this fantasy, real-world fiction or something else? Don’t know, don’t care.
- Tyre’s Bride. Who’s Tyre? Why should I care about his bride? What’s at stake? Setting/genre? DKDC.
- The Right Profile. It’s not clear enough what’s going on. What kind of profile are we talking about? (For example… criminal profiling, the profile for the right job candidate, or something else entirely). What’s at stake? Another detail would probably help this title a lot.
- Scare. It’s very rare that a horror book gets an awful rating from me, but this one says nothing about the book except that it’s horror. It would probably be effective to be a bit more specific about what happens. (EG: Texas Chainsaw Massacre vs. Signs vs. Blair Witch Project).
- White Heart. The word “heart” sucks. Also, what’s a white heart and what’s this story about? What’s at stake? What happens? Why should we care?
- The Sick Man. Sick in what way? Specifics will really help this title. Is this a story about… mental illness? Coming to grips with a fatal disease? A psycho serial killer? An epidemic?
- The Second Coming of the Fallen Angel. The phrase “The Second Coming” is a huge red herring here.
- Definitely Warped. Stylish, but this doesn’t say enough about the story.
- Buddy 1205. I don’t feel like I know enough about what’s going on here.
- The Other Body. No clue. What’s going on here?
- The Omega Climber. What the hell?
- Devour. One word titles are usually ineffective, and this is no exception. Adding another detail would probably help make this more specific and stylish.
- The Goddess Renewed. Renewed is an awful word here. It would have been better to go with something that suggests what’s at stake. For example, what’s she renewing herself from? If she’s just trying to overcome fatigue or the heavenly equivalent of a midlife crisis, I’d use something like “The Tired Goddess.”
- Legacy Soldier. I don’t know what the word legacy means here.
- Dream Dark, Dream Deadly. I don’t know… This just feels really cheesy.
- Hair Troubles. Could be interesting, but I think that it needs to be more specific.
- Night Songs. “Songs” is an awful word for titles. So is “Night!” Not surprisingly, when you string together two awful words, you get an awful title.
- Bjorn the Upstart. Interesting noun, but the name Bjorn here feels like a red herring. Are we talking about the rock star or someone else with that name?
- Vision. A vision of what? Or, alternately, are we talking about someone’s eyes and literally what they can see? What’s the setting? What’s at stake? Why should we care?
- With His Own Two Hands. Who is “he” and why should I care about him? What’s he doing with his hands?
- The Senim. What’s a Senim? Don’t know, don’t care.
- A Friend in Need. Too cliche. Needs more style.
- The Real Estate Mogul. This is a character, but not a story. What’s at stake? Why should we care about this mogul?
- Keeper of Man. I don’t know what’s going on here. It sounds like it might be a Biblical allusion or something, but I’m really tired and I didn’t pick it up. Next! (If my reaction seems petty or unfair, keep in mind that publisher’s assistants spend hours each day doing this and they’re looking for reasons to throw away manuscripts. An unclear title is a great place to start).
- Song of the Siren. Way too bland.
- Skinny. This is a character trait, but not really a story. For example, what’s skinny and why does it matter? For example, if this were about a boxer trying to reach a particular weight class, “Making Weight” would be more effective.
- The Mad Cave. Interesting adjective, but I don’t know why I would care.
This article was the tenth part of a series. If you’d like to read our reviews of other batches of titles, please see the list just below.