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My Novel, Publishing, The Writer's Life, Writings

Conducting a Title Search

Who would have thought a single line could be so difficult to write?

Throughout the entire eighteen-month writing process, my novel was called The Ballo Brothers, which was the name of my grandfather’s vaudeville act. He and his partner are the central figures in the story, which is set in Paris in the week just before World War I. But there’s a woman who is also a main character, and my agent didn’t think a title with “Brothers” in it was sufficiently accurate.

So about a month ago I began to work on a new title. No problem. I’ve always been fairly good at titles with my short stories. But I drew a blank. I tried short ones, long ones, literal ones and vague ones. I’ve prepared lists of descriptive words and tried dozens of combinations and nothing captures the essence of the story. Opening Acts? Closing Acts? Songs of War? Songs of Discord? Nothing worked. As we’re now ready to solicit publishers, I suggested we submit it as The Novel Formerly Known as The Ballo Brothers. Publishers might not see the humor in that.

Fortunately my agent, Rob Daniel of Andrea Hurst Literary Management is a patient man. Each time he rejected my title efforts he suggested I concentrate on the essence of the book. What is it really about at its core?

I turned to my local writers’ group for help and they gave me some good suggestions, but I still wasn’t there. I even searched web sites having to do with the theater and the war, hoping to find a term or phrase that worked.

And then, finally, without warning or further provocation, an inspiration. As the Music Fades Away, Sure. It captures the tone of the book—Europe slipping from peacetime into war, and has a literary application in that the performers must stop playing when their theater abruptly closes. I think it will work. I’m waiting to hear back from Rob. I hope he likes it. I hope, too, that he doesn’t ask me to start considering pseudonyms. Hmmm. How does the writer formerly known as Joe Ponepinto sound?

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About Joe Ponepinto

Co-publisher, with Kelly Davio, of Tahoma Literary Review. Author of "Curtain Calls," a featured Kirkus Review. Married to Dona. Dad to Henry, the coffee-drinkin' dog.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Conducting a Title Search

  1. >>Who would have thought a single line could be so difficult to write? Answer: a poet!

    But really, I like your newly proposed title way better than the previous options. I’d absolutely pick up a book titled As the Music Fades Away. Now get to work on that glyph for your Artist Formerly Known as Joe Ponepinto banjo…

    Posted by Kelly Davio | January 25, 2010, 11:55 PM
  2. That stinks that you’re still stuck on a title. As the Music Fades Away gets at least an A- from me. I hope your agent likes it. Tell him the publisher’s just going to change it anyway :)

    Posted by cpurcel1 | January 26, 2010, 12:17 AM
  3. Though I was a fan of “The Ballo Brothers” – I do like this new title very much. As you mention, it gives a glimpse into the tone (pun intended?) of the novel. Great job to you, writer formerly known as Joe Ponepinto! Fingers are crossed that Rob likes it, too!!

    Posted by kobbie | January 29, 2010, 3:34 PM

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