Thursday, January 31, 2008

About that working title

Tomorrow I start (again) the editing of Kindred. Following the guidelines mentioned in an earlier post, from author/writing instructor Barbara Rogan (here's her new Next Level Workshop website), I'll print the whole manuscript off and read it. And I won't let myself succumb to the temptation to do a line by line. Really. I won't. Here's a brief rundown of the self-editing steps:

~ Put the novel away for, preferably, a month or more.
~ Read it over lightly to get a feel for the story's flow. Take notes. Do no actual editing.
~ Read first and last scenes to gauge the novel's arc. Did I start and end in the right place?
~ Follow the subplots, reading only those scenes in which the subplot takes place. Strengthen or cut them out if necessary.
~ Overall structure--does the tension level keep rising?
~ Themes: identify, strengthen and clarify.
~ Characterization: isolate each character, read their scenes through. Is their motivation constant and evolving?
~ Dialogue: pay special attention to each character's voice, word choice, rhythm of speech. Make them distinct.
~ Scene by scene reading: is it pleasing, is it shapely, does it draw the reader further on? Raise questions?
~ Language, the sentence by sentence fine-polish edit.

We'll see how this plan of attack works for me, and whether I find it easier and/or more productive to combine some steps.

But about that working title, KINDRED. Book titles are not subject to copyright. A search at for Blood Ties, for example, will bring up books by different authors sharing that title. Still, I'd rather have my own unique title, insofar as that's possible (with the making of books having no end, and it being a few hundred years since the printing of them began in earnest). The title KINDRED belongs to a published novel by Octavia Butler, and it is, in fact, where I snagged my working title sometime during 2004, the year I began writing Kindred (my Kindred).

Sharing the title (should a future publisher not go and change it anyway, which they are wont to do) would pose no problem really, had Ms. Butler's book been about banana boat men of the West Indies, say. But it's about slavery in the southern United States, and race relations, and blood ties extending across the color line. So is mine. Although that's about where the similarities end, they're strong enough, and Butler's book (a time-travel/historical) is well known enough, that should my novel be published I don't want to spend the rest of my career telling people, "Yes, Kindred is about slavery, but no, it's not that Kindred."

So for the past four years I've had my eyes peeled for a new working title--with the idea of leaving KINDRED as the overall series title, because it fits so darn well. I don't have a replacement title for Kindred (Book One) yet, although I have a long... long list of possibilities, or "in-the-ball-parks." Some have to do with the story situation, some with Ian Cameron, my main character. Others reflect various themes in the book--slavery (physical and spiritual), kinship and blood ties, being uppermost. A lot of them have to do with rivers, and crossing them (hence this blog's title).

I realize few have read more than an excerpt or two of the story, if that much, but a book's title is usually what makes me pull it off a shelf at Evangel or Barnes & Noble, to investigate further, when I know little or nothing else about it. A title is a first impression. So if one of these titles leaps out at you for whatever reason, post a comment and let me know which, and why.

My top picks from a very long list of possible titles, in no particular order:

Trouble the Water
Carolina Autumn
Carolina Road
Mountain Laurel
The Bones of Mountain Laurel
Canaan's Shore
There Is A River
The Wayfaring Son
The Leaf That's Blown
The Beautiful Shore
Wade In The Water
Rivers To Cross
Next of Kin
The Near Kinsman
The Wind-Drifted Branch
Coming Unto Jordan
Canaan's River
An Issue of Blood

I haven't tried an Amazon search for all of these titles to see if they're in use, and if so attached to what sort of book (though some I have), but again, if one of the above piques your interest, do let me know

January has been a surreal month. For the past four years I've lived and breathed Ian and Seona's story, never taking more than a week or two off at a time for travel/vacation, even then weighing down my suitcase with notes, printed scenes and research books, to be working on in my free time. I've missed Ian and Seona (and Lily and Thomas, John and Cecily, Malcolm and Naomi, and Judith), and find it a good sign how eager I am to get back to them, to immerse myself in their small corner of the late 18th century.


  1. Hi Lori,

    Canaan's Shore and Coming Unto Jordan were the two titles that jumped out for me - Canaan's Shore probably the winner. It has an ominous ring to it, a hint that there's drama ahead; it touches on the slavery aspect of your novel; and the words just roll off the tongue nicely. FWIW.

    Good luck with the title search!

  2. Hi Lori ~

    It's hard to imagine your story as anything but KINDRED, but you've listed several good alternatives. The two that captured my attention were COMING UNTO JORDAN and AN ISSUE OF BLOOD.

    I hope your return to editing is going well.

  3. Rachel & Sallie,

    Thanks, ladies! You picked some of my favorite contenders. CANAAN'S SHORE and AN ISSUE OF BLOOD. I love finding out what titles others are drawn too. I had an email response from a friend who picked MOUNTAIN LAUREL and THERE IS A RIVER, explaining that since she rode shotgun on my last research trip to NC and actually saw the place, and more than one of the real rivers, those titles mean the most to her.

    In any case, it's so often the publisher who chooses the title, but it will be nice to have this list of possibilities to hand them, if and when that day arrives.

    As for the edit, well, I'm a bit stalled in simply printing the manuscript. Our printer decided yesterday it only wants to spit out about ten pages before stalling. But never fear. We have another printer and Brian will install it this morning. Then at least we can be sure it IS the printer causing the trouble. It's 15 years old, so I'm betting that it's simply giving up the ghost.

    Off to wring a few more pages out of it, poor old thing. *s*

  4. Lori,

    I was first drawn to Canaan's Shore. Shore implies a body of water, of course--in this case a river. And then Canaan's Dark Shore came to me as even more visual and fraught with meaning and portent. It has a somber rhythm too, and the rhythm of words always stands out to me. But I also like An Issue of Blood, which has a lot of implications too.

  5. Joan,

    I'm feeling more and more drawn to AN ISSUE OF BLOOD, which before had been a chapter title. It strays away from the river theme, but that's perfectly okay. *s* AIOB speaks on two levels at first glance, with the word "issue" being a homonym. The kinship level of course, but also the biblical imagery of a person with a hemorrhage that won't be staunched. Plenty of those, emotionally, spiritually, to be found in the story to support that title.

  6. Anonymous8:41 AM

    It's always interesting to read the different responses reflecting various personalities and bents. I'm leaning toward "The Leaf That's Blown" as #1. It conjurs up landscape/climate mixed with emotion/question laced with a wink of intrigue. Makes me want to find out what lurks between the covers!

  7. Anon@8:41am,

    Yes, it is interesting. I've been surprised by a few choices.

    "The Leaf That's Blown" is, at present, the last phrase of the last scene of the book. Does that change your opinion of it as a title?

    It's more lyrical than most of the other titles; I like that about it.