It seems as though everyone has been talking about YALC this week. Sadly, I couldn’t linger there because I’ve been madly doing the rewrites to my new book. Which is currently called ‘7-LOVE SONG 210615 (4) with Bella’s comments’. That’s the title of the Word document I’ve been working on, and it got me thinking about the evolution of book titles over the course of the creation of a book.
This one started life as Only Aimee. That was the title when I pitched it to my agent, and it was woven into the language of the pitch itself. (Only Aimee understands the problem … Only Aimee can get the rock band out of danger …)
Then Aimee became Nina. I was never sure about Aimee as a heroine’s name. Would readers wonder how to pronounce it? Ay-may in a kind of French way, or Amy? I wasn’t entirely sure myself. Plus, a friend asked if her daughter, who’s a fan of my other books, could be in this one, and her daughter’s called Nina, and I liked that name anyway, so … great.
But Only Nina just didn’t sound right. So the book became This Is Not A Love Song.
It captures the spirit of it perfectly. It’s about a girl who ends up being shut away in a country house with a falling-apart rock band as they try to write an album, and she hates, more than anything, the idea of being a ‘cliche rock star groupie’. She refuses even to be attracted to them. If only life were so simple.
I love the Public Image Limited song and was happy to reference it. Luckily, my publisher liked it too. In our emails, it became TINALS. Early drafts were named that way. But my good friend Keren David has a (very good – read it!) YA book out at the moment called This Is Not A Love Story, and she got there first. Hmm.
I’m a Blondie fan too, so for ages the book was called Heart Of Glass (or, in emails, HOG). Drafts became HOG FEB 5, or HOG MAR 4. (It’s been a tough book to write. There have been many drafts). But my publisher felt that was a bit too sad and fragile for a girl who’s much more ‘bring it on’ than that. So we needed a new-new title.
Hmm again. Eventually I came up with Love Song. But only if the typeface could somehow be romantic for the Love bit and tough for the Song bit. It was a temporary solution while we all thought some more. Meanwhile, the rewrite went off to Bella, my editor. I dated it, so we didn’t lose track: LOVE SONG 210615.
When Bella opened it, all she could see was tiny weeny pages on her screen. This was because I’d been fiddling about with Zoom in Word at my end. (Writing can be techy sometimes.) By the time she’d opened it several times to work out how to read it, it was LOVE SONG 210615 (4). Then she commented on it. ‘LOVE SONG 210615 (4) with Bella’s comments.’ And sent it back to me.
I have saved to a new version 7 times in the course of going through the edits. Usually I just resave, but if I’m making significant changes, like moving large sections of text around, I create a new version in case I hate what I’ve done and want to go back. This time I put the draft number at the front, because the title was so long I couldn’t even see the end of it in Word most of the time.
And there we are. In the meantime, my lovely illustrator, Helen Crawford-White, has come up with a brilliant cover that – to all our surprise – made the simple title work. Love Song it is. We thought we’d probably need to change it again. In fact, we probably don’t.
All this is a long way of saying that there’s a long and often tortuous journey from the initial idea to the finished page. It’s painful at the time, but later I love looking through old draft titles and seeing how they changed. Hopefully this one is finally there. Soon, we can take off all its scaffolding and let it sit, in its bright red dual typeface, on its bright blue cover. Look out for it next year. If we got it right, it will look as if it’s always been that way.