So, titles. You might have noticed that I haven’t told you the name of the book. This wasn’t because I wanted to do a big unveiling, but because although I had a working title, I didn’t feel comfortable with it. It just didn’t feel right. Theoretically short story collections should be easy to name: pick a story that summarizes the collection and you’re set. I chose the story that I thought did just that, but when I realized how reluctant I was to tell people what it was, I figured I should probably go with something else.
Titles are hard for me. When I first started writing, I stuck with very Raymond Carver-esque titles, one-word, plain descriptions. After awhile that got boring (and kind of ridiculous) and I never quite mastered anything more clever. These days I accidentally stumble on to titles, get them suggested to me, or stick with average titles and hope that the rest of the story will make up for it.
And then I read this post at The Rumpus on the very topic of titles.
The point is, though, when it comes to the writing process, sometimes a bad title can help you more than a good one. In their book Deepening Fiction, Sarah Stone and Ron Nyren talk about the idea of creative beginnings versus actual beginnings: Even if we end up cutting the original “creative beginning” of a novel or short story—the part of the novel or story, often, that we’re most attached to—this doesn’t mean it’s not an essential part of the writing process. In some ways, it’s the most essential. The same goes for titles, I think.
This made sense to me. When I gathered the stories that would be used in the book, my working title helped me find a centre and organize them into a cohesive collection. It wasn’t the snappiest title, but it did the job. And then, once I got the collection in order, I was able to sit back and pick something that made more sense.
So, the title I’m happy with and that has gotten thumbs up from even the pickiest people I know (Hi Andrew, Hi Soraya) is named after a short story called “Bats or Swallows”. Bats or Swallows and Other Stories.
I think it sounds like a book.