writing

The Trouble with Too Many Titles

640px-cranes_hokusai
Egrets from Quick Lessons in Simplified Drawing, Hokusai, 1823, via Wikimedia.

It seems like all I’ve been able to write lately are titles.

Strictly speaking, that isn’t true – I’ve written other things – but titles are the only pieces of writing that have come easily these last few days. I never thought that I would have this particular problem. I’ve certainly struggled with choosing titles in the past. Yet these days potential titles tumble from my keyboard with terrifying ease.

The trouble with titles is that they come with stories.

When I phrase it that way, the issue hardly sounds like a problem at all. What is wrong with having a few new titles and their accompanying story ideas? Surely it’s better to have too many ideas than too few. But the sheer number of them overwhelms me. I want to give each and every one of these nascent stories form. They all exist vibrantly in my head, and I can’t help but want to bring them to life.

Unfortunately, there isn’t time to write every story any more than there is time to read every book. Many of my stories will never be born. Not really. Not the way that I’d like for them to be. That’s something I have to learn to accept. Self-editing can come at all stages of the writing process. Even at the title.

But I still sigh in exasperation when I realize that I’ve added another title or 12 to the list of them that I keep. They are unwieldy little creatures.

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24 thoughts on “The Trouble with Too Many Titles

  1. I have students who would read this article with dumbfounded envy – they love writing but they constantly struggle to generate ideas… While not as creative as you – I certainly don’t have a problem worrying about not having sufficient ideas – what tends to bother me is what I’m going to work on next…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel this way all the time! I have only recently started dabbling with the idea that not every story I’ve brought to existence will become fully formed. It terrifies me. I want so badly to flesh out every one of them. But I’ve come to realize that some ideas were just meant to sustain you through a certain life phase and once it’s over, so may be the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That certainly makes sense! One author I know stopped writing a series of books when she was in the middle of them, and she’s never published the next book in that set. The series was so deeply reflective of a particular time in her life that she can’t seem to go back to the books now that the time has passed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Both of my novels have been labors of love spanning nearly twenty years.now. They start and stop based on what I feel I need to write. But the sense of obligation is strong. Wow, a book series terminated! See, so scary! From a writers perspective.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this. I feel this way too, not necessarily with titles but with dialogues. Its like i would think of these beautiful lines but struggle to build characters that would encompass the feelings i want to portray.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I can see how that could happen. Sometimes we can envision a particular moment or phrase independent of a larger narrative. (And in some cases, those lines are themselves a large enough narrative!)

      Like

  4. Titles are interesting, come out of nowhere, and can surely get you going! I see it as the equivalent of a musician writing the chorus to a song and then coming up with the verses. I believe Tom Petty wrote “Free Fallin'” That way.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I have this same issue, and glad to know someone else feels this way.

    I’ve a whole ton of things I’ve done what I call ‘Word Doodling’ on, and have never, and will never finish.

    PS. I’m glad I could read this. I got a post in my in box from your site earlier that said the post I was reading was password protected, and that I had to go onto the site to read it.

    I deleted it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I have the exact same problem, though I don’t have titles. I litteraly get lost in my own fictional world so often and create or continue stories, it has started to be a problem with the current story that I am writting. It is growing and growing and growing and… you get the idea. I have a feeling I’ll have to keep some of my ideas only to my head, or create a trilogy or something. Writing can be sooo complicated sometimes. Other than that, nice post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is amazing how stories can build off of each other and spawn other stories. And I love how engaged you are in the world you’re building! (Though I understand how seeing it all grow that way can feel overwhelming. Sometimes our writing gets away from us.)

      Liked by 1 person

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