Which Comes First: the Story or the Title?

When writing, do you typically come up with a title first or write the story and name it later on?

For me it depends on the story. My very first novel still doesn’t have a title that I’m happy with even though I wrote it years ago. Not that I’m still trying to come up with a title for it, but I did for a long time. I went through a few different working titles before settling on Dawn of Darkness, more out of a desperation to settle on something than any satisfaction with that title. However, since that novel isn’t likely to see the light of day without massive (and I mean MASSIVE) rewrites, I’m not too worried about it.

I came up with the titles for two of my other novel in the midst of writing or revising them. My latest novel, however, has worked out differently. This time I came up with the title first and it was the title that inspired the story. I knew I was going to write a music-themed mystery so I jotted down a bunch of music-related words and phrases and when I wrote down what was to become my title I was like, “THAT’S IT!!!” And the story grew from there.

So for me it changes from story to story. Sometimes the story inspires the title and sometimes the title inspires the story.

When and how do you come up with titles for your stories?

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8 Comments

  1. beckony said,

    May 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a title first. Maybe after writing a few pages, but never before writing anything. Usually, I call my pieces by the protagonist’s name until I’m forced to title it for submission.

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      May 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      I love finding out how things work for other writers. πŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting!

  2. amberskyef said,

    May 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Typically I like to have a title just so what I’m writing feels more authentic? πŸ˜› Plus, I’ve been a bit obsessive lately with pre-release marketing, so it’s nice to have a title to throw at my readers when I’m talking about my current WIP.

    By the way, your blog is beautiful. Is it custom?

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      May 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you! I just used a wordpress template. πŸ™‚

      I usually have a working title of some sort even for my wips that don’t get officially named until later, just to keep them straight in my head and files. But my working titles generally aren’t very good.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Nicole L. Bates said,

    May 11, 2013 at 4:30 am

    For me, so far, the story has always come first. Usually the entire story because I need to know how it all comes together in order to pick something that will reflect the big pictures. I usually don’t know exactly how that will happen until I’ve written The End. πŸ™‚ Great question, Sarah!

    • Sarah L Fox said,

      May 11, 2013 at 9:38 am

      I get what you mean about needing to know the big picture before choosing a title. Thanks, Nicole! πŸ™‚

  4. May 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I came up with the title of my WIP shortly after coming up with the rough plot. The plot has changed to some extent but the title remains…

  5. August 23, 2013 at 3:13 am

    I come up with my titles halfway through a WIP. Sometimes I take a brief phrase or specific word from the story and use that as a title. Of course, titling stories isn’t easy because I always change my mind. Usually it takes a few tries before I have a title I’m completely satisfied with.


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