In 2014, I wrote a post about writing titles, based on a Facebook post I had written five years earlier. I think it’s time I did an update, as fashions in titles for genre novels has changed.
Longish titles are back in fashion. This isn’t to say that one word titles have disappeared. However, the longer titles are no longer as rare. Last year, among the most acclaimed speculative fiction genre novels were How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang; When No One Is Watching: A Thriller by Alyssa Cole; and The Southern Book Clubs Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. As you can see, a long title is no longer an outlier on the bookstore shelves. Feel free to give your own stories detailed titles.
I said in my previous post: ‘What a writer wants from a title is a cluster of words that are memorable. Something that encompasses the theme of the work, without giving too much away.’ These longer titles may give away a smidge more of the story, but still are memorable and distinctive. And that’s what a good title should be – something that makes it easy for your audience to remember when they are looking to talk about it or recommend it to friends.
It used to be the Victorians who favoured long titles for their fiction. Not any more. Everything old is new again.
I am going to be brave and declare that I am a successful writer. I’m not rich. I’m not famous. But I’ve had my first solo book published and another one is on the way. I’ve been published in Daily Science Fiction THREE TIMES. I’ve had several other stories accepted for publication this year. I’ve just had a Steampunk story accepted for an anthology.
This isn’t what I imagined success would be when I was in my teens. Those unrealistic ambitions are now superseded by a better understanding of the publishing industry. I still would like to be rich and a little bit famous – famous enough that people will buy my books simply because they know they will enjoy them. Rich enough to not have to fret about growing old and being too poor to enjoy my retirement (do writers ever really retire?).
So, I’ve changed my definition of what success means for me. I am successful right now! This doesn’t mean I have no goals. I aim to have stories accepted by Uncanny magazine and Clarkesworld magazine; I broke into Daily Science Fiction with persistence. The Aurealis magazine has published an article by me, but I want very much to place a fiction story with them. Winning an award or a grant would be kind of nice. And I want to be published as an speculative fiction author with an audience of adult readers.
Goals mean you are still hungry. But I am not starving to death.
This week I was pleasantly surprised to have a story published by the Every Day Fiction magazine/website. What makes it interesting is that I can read the comments of readers that are rating the story. The first critique was a bit of a slap in the face, but the comments after have been both encouraging and helpful. (As always, setting is my weakness. Sigh.)
I’ve supplied the link above if your interested … it’s a five minute read. Not Steampunk, but still Speculative Fiction.
It always seems to surprise people that I write horror stories – particularly my family. I am seen as having a ‘sunny’ personality with little in the way of darkness. This is because I save all my darkness for my horror stories.
As a child, I was haunted by my monster under the bed. (On a tangential note, why do so many people fear the things under their beds.) When I was eight, I convinced myself that the monster had gone to live under my sister’s bed. I never told her about the monster, and she slept in blissful ignorance of its presence. It was a brilliant move on behalf of my imagination, because I was able to sleep without worrying that some paw was going to grab me and drag me under the bed.
By the bye, ‘Poltergeist’ gave me nightmares for years.
Part of my problem is that I have no night vision … a side effect of having excellent colour vision. I can eat carrots until I turn orange, and I will still have very little ability to see my way around in the dark. What you can’t see is scarier when you have a vivid imagination that can fill the shadows with tentacles and teeth.
I’ve found that writing out my night terrors turns them into something I can cope with. It’s hard to be scared of a monster when you can edit out its teeth and slime and stuff. Instead, I can scare other people! Better to be the monster than be the victim…
I read science articles and textbooks for fun. I blame my avid interest in science directly to my avid reading of Science Fiction – I discovered ‘I Robot’ by Isaac Asimov when I was eight. When I had finished reading all the Science Fiction and fantasy books in my high school library – since I went to the same high school for five years, this wasn’t as great an accomplishment as it first sounds – my lovely librarian pointed in the direction of Asimov’s popular science books.
So, I have a large collection of reference books. I’ve read some of these books multiple times, like Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. Over the years, parasitology has inspired several of my favourite stories to write; I am a big fan of the poem by Augustus De Morgan:
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum. And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on; While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on…
Recently, I’ve come across the concept of Survivor Bias. The best example of this was a study done of number of injuries cats presented with in veterinary surgeries, after the cats had fallen from the height of multiple storeys. Strangely, after the 9th floor, the number of injuries were less than those animals that had fallen from lower floors. Now, you might think that the added height gave the cats the opportunity to control their descent and increase their survival. What was really happening is that dead cats don’t get taken into the vet.
Now, I am inspired with the fictional possibilities of this concept. The fiddling of statistics always fascinates me … people think statistics is such a ‘hard’ science. And yet it is one of the easiest to skew the results, using things like survivor bias and sample size and where you chose to take your samples from.
I found out where the word ‘shoddy’ come from. Shoddy used to be an industrial term used in the fabric industry. Shoddy cloth was made from recycled materials, where the fibres were shorter than normal, making the material less durable.
I am now going to use this as a pejorative in any of my Steampunk stories.
The history behind words fascinates me. I’m always on the look out for new words, and for a new twist on old words. Sometimes, the ‘new’ twist is using the word with its original meaning.
Persistence pays off. After two years of submitting to DailySF, I have had a story accepted!
My story, currently titled ‘Cherry Ripe’, made the grade. I did have one other story make it to the second level of reading, but it didn’t get accepted. For DailySF, appears I get better results with humour than with any other writing style.
I have had some interesting news about my health. I have cysts in my liver. Sorry to be a bit vague, but that’s all I really know until I see the specialist in January. I’ve decided I’m not going to get too concerned until I’ve seen the specialist. This comes right on the heels of discovering a cyst in my breast that was completely harmless, so I’m not burying my head in the sand. Apparently I just like growing things like cysts and polyps.
On the other hand, for the first time since June, I’ve made my goal of ten submissions in a month! My muse is working overtime and I keep getting solid ideas for short stories and for added scenes for my Regency-era Steampunk novel. I think there has been so much going on in my life, I’ve just become numb to the drama.
In unrelated gardening news about growing things … I discovered these eggs before they hatched and started gobbling up my leafy greens in the vegetable garden. They have been quarantined.