Working Titles

So if you’re a writer, do you ever find yourself stuck trying to find the perfect title for your forthcoming masterpiece before you ever set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it may be for most of us these days)? Most writing advice says “Don’t worry about it at this stage,” to pick a “working title” and work on your prose itself, then come up with the “real” title later.

But so many of the tools we use, whether it’s Scrivener or Word, Dramatica or Contour, or even WordPress, seem to encourage us to have that title before doing anything else. You need to save your work (early and often), and to do that you need a filename. If you later change the title, you could keep the same filename, but probably you’ll want to change that too. Not really a big deal, but there it is.

If you’re like me and publish your drafts online (you have been reading my work-in-progress, haven’t you?), naturally you need a title before you click that Publish button, but it goes beyond that. As soon as you publish anything to the web, it has a URL. Later, if you change the title, you’re faced with a very serious decision: do you change the URL?

Changing URLs has consequences. For one thing, once Google (or Bing or Yahoo) has indexed your site, there will be links to that old URL for search engines to find. If that URL ceases to function, now there’s a broken link, and yes, Google will punish you in search rank for having broken links. They don’t like that. And they don’t like it because readers don’t like it, either. Clicking a link to get the dreaded 404 error message tends to turn people away. And some readers, if you’re very lucky, may have even bookmarked that URL for later reading.

So, you could leave the URL alone, but just change the “friendly” name of the page, and then you end up with what I have here.

Because, friends, I am changing the working title of my work-in-progress. Previously known as Celestes, I knew this would never be the final title of the piece, as it didn’t even grab me all that strongly. Seeing the reactions of friends to the name only solidified me in the decision to change it, and to change it now.

So, I invite you to follow along with The Silence of Ancient Light as the story continues, and not to worry about the “slug” or URL for the four scenes already published as Celestes. And who knows? Maybe this title will survive to the end.

What do you think? Is this better? Not good enough? What are some of your favorite titles (whether or not they’re your favorite books), science fiction or otherwise?

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