what is in a name
My editor returned her comments to me mid last week and it was perhaps the best feedback on a draft manuscript I have ever received so it was a great boost to my confidence as a writer. It was good to read her commentary on what I believed was my best work to date. Getting better with each outing.
In amongst all the constructive commentary was the line "the draft is great except for the manuscript's working title". Embrace a name change she says. Believe me it is far better being told that than being told to rewrite the content.
She has a point. The problem with the working title was apparently it had been done to death in the fantasy genre and she encouraged me to do some "research" (read: look an online booksellers and see how many times the title comes up in a search) on alternative titles that are consistent with the theme of the book, the theme of the series.
I did the research. I reconsidered the series theme. I looked up words in my thesaurus (and I love my thesaurus). I remembered that when I started the journey, I was writing a single book about the nature of crime and punishment (granted, set in a world where there were parallel universes). Over time, the book became a trilogy of three books and then, like all good fantasy series, I have developed a concept for a fourth book. [Aside: if the "Panopticon"series is a success, the truth is that there are possibly several other book concepts that can be derived from the theme floating about as ideas in my head but I want to take a break from the series to write a short story collection.]
As I was developing the trilogy story ideas, I envisaged three books with the following focus - the first part would delve into choices made by characters with the key protagonist in the series being the subject of a monumental "fall from grace" from which the working title "The Fall" came. The second part delved into the consequences of those choices especially the punishment dimension, hence "The Penitentiary" as the title. The third part asked the question what if the punishment did not befit the crime and there were quests undertaken to deal with that injustice, hence "The Crusades" as the title. At its simplest, it is: "People - Place - Pursuits".
The second and third part titles are immutable in my mind (the second particularly so given the book has already been released). But I decided to take on my editor's advice and change the working title of the first part. So, with the manuscript heading into the final stages (read: three months to release date), the working title has officially become a new novel title and that will be...."The Recidivist".
I know - some folk will have to look it up. It is intriguing as a word nonetheless. But the best thing about it is that, before it was ever used in the legal system to mean repeat offender, its origin stemmed from the phrase "fallen angel". It could not be any more perfect for the story I have written. Serendipity.