My Ex-Title, aka One More Darling Whose Chest I Hammered a Stake Into

Ah, original title, we hardly knew ya...

I announced the title of GEEKS, GIRLS AND SECRET IDENTITIES when the official word was posted on Publisher’s Marketplace, so I’ve had plenty of time to assimilate it, but like my comrade-in-writerly-arms J. Anderson Coats I went through a period of retitling angst. Unlike J, however, I was pretty attached to my original title, which was THE CAPTAIN STUPENDOUS FAN CLUB.

Good, right? Snappy! Catchy! A touch of fanboy geekitude! I happily took that title out on sub, and it’s what was on the manuscript when I landed the offer of representation from Agent Joan. But when I scored the book deal with Arthur Levine he told me (just like J’s editor Reka) that we needed to work on a title that reflected the deeper themes of the book more clearly.

Here’s one of the truly great things about working with somebody like Arthur: my trust in him is pretty much unshakable. Not just because of his stature in the industry and the quality of his authors’ body of work (although those are parts of it), but also because I had the chance to spend a little time with him myself and get a peek into his editorial mind during last year’s SCBWI summer conference. LA10SCBWI, the gift that keeps on giving!

I admit to a few pangs over giving up THE CAPTAIN STUPENDOUS FAN CLUB, but I figured ehh, it’s just another way of killing those Faulkner-esque darlings. It’s possible that my extended state of post-book-deal delirium made me extra receptive to the idea – nothing puts me in a collaborative state of mind like having a dream come true, yanno?

Agent Joan gave me the same “start writing crap” advice she gave J, so I sat down and enthusiastically generated a veritable mountain of stanky, execrable titles, including HOW A SKINNY TWERP WHO CAN’T FLY OR ANYTHING TURNED OUT TO NOT BE A TOTAL LOSER. That’s not a bad preview of the MC’s emotional arc, but yeah, it leaves something to be desired as a book title. It’s not quite long enough, for one thing.

Eventually Arthur and I whittled it down to 3 choices, which he ran up the Scholastic flagpole. Predictably, I suffered a loooong moment of doubt. Crapola! Were those really the best 3 choices? I have to be prepared to accept any one of them as the final title! Am I prepared? If anyone had been there to give me the logical answer they would have said “of course you’re not prepared, chump. You’re never prepared. You are, in fact, a thundering basket case, so just deal with it, you’ll be fine.”

So I punched myself in the face a couple of times, reminded myself I was okay with all 3 of the final options, and remembered that hully gee, I really do trust my editor, and I’m fully committed to publication as a collaborative process. And so it went. My book’s final title came to be. And yo babies, it’s gonna look awesome on a book cover. I know this for sure, because I have actually seen a superduper top-secret do-not-reveal-on-pain-of-death early draft of my cover! But that’s a topic for another day, MWAHAHAHAHA…

Wishing I was still a skinny twerp,
m.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “My Ex-Title, aka One More Darling Whose Chest I Hammered a Stake Into

  1. Cynthia

    Mike, use THE CAPTAIN STUPENDOUS FAN CLUB for your next book!

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  2. While I’m pretty sure that the fact that I am rather fond of the title HOW A SKINNY TWERP WHO CAN’T FLY OR ANYTHING TURNED OUT TO NOT BE A TOTAL LOSER, despite its obvious brevity, disqualifies me as a future title vetter, I think you could throw just about any title on this book and we’ll still all be lined up to read it, Mike. I, for one, can’t wait.

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  3. All better than my usual working titles, which are things like “The Senator Book,” “The Wyoming Book,” “The Ireland Book” . . . It’s good to have something you’re willing to let go of.

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    • Mike Jung

      Thanks Ann Marie! Yeah, I’ve gotten pretty good at letting things go, although I do have the occasional perverse moment where I wonder if I’m TOO good at it.

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  4. Actually, I’m rather fond of “Crapola! Were Those Really the Best Three Choices?” as a title. Get working! (And great post, by the way. A teensy piece of me is still reeling from having to change “A Balloon for Emily” to “A Balloon for Isabel.” I’m afflicted with a phantom porcupine.)

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  5. I can see where your original title, while cute, may not cover all the issues in the book. The juxtaposition of GEEKS and GIRLS in the title, for example, tells us there may be some awkward relational issues that really draws me in. The other problem with your original title is how easy it is to manipulate in the mind of the average middle grader. You don’t want your fans running around calling it Captain Stupidous, do you???

    I am very aware of this kind of issue, because I have the word CARP in my title. MAGIC CARP. Yeah. That’s gonna play well with a bunch of middle grade kids. Although come to think of it, that might be an advantage. There is a certain sick curiosity that would draw people in, wondering what, exactly, Magic Crap is and what it’s used for.

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    • Crape Diem – A New Parent’s Guide to Diapers and the Little People that Fill Them — thank you Jeannie!

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    • Mike Jung

      Yeah, that’s what I think too, Jeannie – much as I loved the original title, it focused on a pretty specific aspect of the book, and one that’s ultimately more a manifestation of the story’s emotional foundation than an actual piece of the foundation. And this is probably a good measure of my own arrested development, but I find MAGIC CRAP terribly amusing, and yeah, I think it could have its upside! 🙂

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  6. What Audrey said. 🙂

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    • Mike Jung

      Aw, thanks Kristin! You people are making me all weepy, which is just gonna destroy my image as a stoic, hirsute beast of stereotypical masculinity…

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  7. I had a manuscript critique at NESCBWI and received a comment about my working title, so although I’m not qite THERE with you, I’m close behind with you.

    I love my title, it’s a great title for a series, it sets the stage I wanted set, but it sound like a book about the wrong character. *sigh* I’ve started writing crap for my NEXT title and we’ll see where it goes.

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    • Mike Jung

      I hear you, Jim. Breathe deep. Remember it’s a collaborative process. Punch yourself in the face a couple of times, that always works for me.

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  8. I’m a HUGE fan of long titles, Mike. especially for MG. I don’t know why, but they always make me smile. So for book 2 add this to your magic crap list:

    HULLY GEE CRAPOLA: HOW I PUNCHED A PORCUPINE IN THE FACE AND ENDED UP WITH THIS SUPERDUPER, TOP SECRET SECOND BOOK.

    Your welcome!
    P.S. Do you have the amazing Barton Boy hooked in for a blurb about your MC’s secret identity? I’d get working on that.

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    • Mike Jung

      Hey Jean! Brilliant title, I’ll get right to work on it. And no, I don’t have the amazing Barton Boy plugged in on the secret identity thing – good idea!

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  9. Mike!! Your posts are always so entertaining–your voice comes through so clearly, so I have always known that your book will be fantastic!

    I, too, have been discussing some things with my editor (in NY yesterday!) but when you have an editor that you really trust, it’s all good. (I did punch myself in the face on the train on the way home, though. For good measure. I’m, now, on the Amtrak watch list.)

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  10. I think I’m going to title my next manuscript PRINCE, no matter what it’s about. That way, when the title gets changed, I can refer to it as THE MANUSCRIPT FORMERLY KNOWN AS PRINCE.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! I crack myself up sometimes.

    Hello? Is there anyone there? Hello???

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  11. I love the title that got chosen but One More Darling Whose Chest I Hammered a Stake Into, is a pretty cool title too – next one??? I hate coming up with titles and always use the place name of the main protag – e.g. Jake instead of The Dark Side of Serenity, which is what it ended up as, now I’m working on Lottie – soon I’ll confuse my brilliant crit buds (sorry Deborah & Pam!) by giving it a real title then changing that title until finally we’re back with Lottie and then in the last week before sending it into my agent the perfect title will pop up.

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