In the last blog, we saw the dominant form for the novel title prior to the Twentieth Century was the eponym - or the name of the main character of the story. To an extent, this is reflective of the tacit understanding of the novel's purpose as form versus a play or a short story or a poem - as one person's moral or literal journey.
It's all change in the Twentieth Century!
In this first of two, we're going to look at the first half of the century, and in the next the end of the Twentieth Century as there's a sea change from the 1980's.
In the Twentieth Century the eponym is old news and almost gone.
Yes, there's a slightly broader range of 'statements of literary intention' but not so much as you might think.
In fact, the title form from 1900-2000 is dominated by one form.
The Reference. (The Deferential Doffing of the Author's Cap.)
The citation or quotation. A referential, deferential, preferential doffing of the hat either to the Bard, the poets, or to the...
Welcome to Titology, or the study of titles.
In this short series of blogs on the origins of novel titles, I will perform a rude taxonomy to classify the species. For my roll call I'm using a combination of the bestselling, best-regarded 'Top 100 Novels' lists from the UK and the USA.
A title is a statement of literary intention.
As a form in itself it has become increasingly nuanced over time, but it's still possible to decipher the motives and meanings behind titles, and quite fascinating. Once armed you can title your book with confidence and sharpen your creative intentions. When we know what we're doing, as authors, we tend to do it rather well. When we don't we tend to do it rather badly. Post-rationalising your intentions in multiple drafts of a novel is a bore, as I described in the last blog.
Now, the modern novel is considered to have started in 1605 with The Ingenious Nobleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes better known as...
"In my younger and more vulnerable years," (to borrow from the opening line of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald) I would write a novel, many times over many drafts, discarding huge amounts of material, then set about the business of the novel title.
My 'blue' period of retro-fitting a novel title has been one of twenty years, so you could say it's become a habit. Possibly a bad habit. I wonder how other novelists work? As you will know from an earlier blog, Scott Fitzgerald struggled with the title of his most famous work and it came after the novel was complete.
Having become aware, thanks to exposure to The Novelry, that most writers can write, but most (like me) struggle with story, I've sharpened my practice and put story first and foremost, and I teach that way too. We begin with what readers want; story. The idea for a story needs to be good, not great, but good enough. The rest is in the treatment and the logic that unfolds what happens next.
In the coming weeks at the Sunday blog, we will be getting you all set to take it from the top and start writing your new novel in 2020. If you know what you'd like write, get started with our creative writing course like the Ninety Day Novel course. If you're a writer short of an idea, the Classic course will help you create a powerful story. If you mean business, and 2020 is the year you're writing that book, then sign up for our Book in a Year program for a safe and steady managed process. In the meantime, mull the idea over. Consider how you're going to write it. Here's this year's annual for novelists. Click on any image to read novel writing tips from Louise Dean. You can find the complete collection of our writing advice for those writing a novel here. Happy reading!
Taking time out of 'normal' life to immerse yourself in your other world is important for a writer. It's not so much about word count that comes with the daily practice, it's about leaps of insight in terms of the story and theme. Step changes.
These happen at a remove from the habits, routines and chores which obscure the bigger picture. If you want to take your novel to the next level, you need to get away. Not for sightseeing, though walks are helpful to refresh tired eyes, for a relief from the interruptions and duties that keep your mired, pedalling to stand still.
Our writers' retreats are carefully constructed to ensure complete full-body immersion in the world of your novel. No road noise. No deliveries. No cooking. Comfort. We believe in pillows; wonderful pillows for heads to dream new dreams.
Whenever I return to our retreat at Marshwood Manor in rural Dorset, that first night I have the sense of tipping backwards in the bed, as if my head is...
SLAYING DRAGONS or how The Novelry saved a writing life.
"Kill the dragon," said Louise.
I was enmeshed in one of my all-too-frequent cycles of Writer’s Doooooom. My antagonist – a shapeshifter – had four alter egos: an evil taxi driver, a threatening bird, a magical girl and a dragon.
And my novel wasn’t working.
Rewind a year. A previous novel – contemporary women’s fiction – had been published six years earlier by a small press, and I’d struggled to write another. Writing against a backdrop of some extremely challenging life events hadn’t helped. 30,000 words were abandoned. 48,000 words: ditto.
I came across The Novelry when Louise offered one of her online novel courses for auction for the Grenfell Tower fund, something made me follow this one up.
I told Louise Dean the sorry tale of how my writing...
The list of presents that every good writer boy and girl deserves to gift themselves this Christmas. Here's your round-up of the writing apps upon which writers really rely. They've been hand-picked to cheer you right up! I love these gadgets.
You'll find some old faithfuls and some new entries to our list - the tools I use when I'm writing and those most loved by our writers at The Novelry.
It's a better time to be a writer than ever before thanks to technology. (I know, I know, proper writers are supposed to be Luddites, but why? Make your life easier. Writing a novel's tough enough.)
If you're tackling a big project like a novel, the organizational engine of Scrivener will ensure everything goes off to plan. Our members can enjoy a 20% discount on Scrivener at our Members' Library.
The app analyzes your writing and presents its findings in over 20 different reports (more than any other...
One of the sweetest old chestnuts beloved of writers is the notion that a story is driven by what a character wants. Quite so.
It's a convention, it's a construction and it's a fakery of the highest order, yet we must have it so.
In real life, people are not propelled by singular obsessions, they are in fact a mess of conflicting wants, warring desires and to-do lists. This does not make for a great story. The ruse of a story is that the heroine or hero has a one-track mind. Those of you enjoying the BBC TV series 'Gold Digger' may not have stopped to consider how likely it is that a professional man in his late thirties with a family is obsessed with his mother's new boyfriend being a tad on the young side? Sure, in real life, he'd raise an eyebrow then get back to his in-box. But then there would be no story.
An entertainment requires some stage machinery that's about as sophisticated as a canon that fires one canon ball. We entertainers pull a fast one on the...
The second of a two-part special blog on Orwell's own development as a writer to greatness. (Continued from this blog.)
I believe that novels happen in major leaps, via fits of destructiveness as much as creativity. What's more, an author's creative output is not a steady and static production line. Many writers find their voice, nail their theme, hit the sweet spot of storytelling art, inventiveness and lucidity in their later years.
So, how did Orwell make the leap from The Clergyman's Daughter to works like Animal Farm and 1984, from more conventional middle-of-the-road writing, small themes and safe prose to the stark, and bolder books of his last years? To 'prose like a windowpane'?
‘What I have most wanted to do… is to make political writing into an art’ George Orwell.
He wasn't quite there in 1939 after Coming Up For Air. So what happened to Orwell's writing in the years before Animal Farm written at the end of the war?
"If I had to make...
The first of a two-part special on Orwell's own development as a writer to greatness.
How did Orwell make the leap from The Clergyman's Daughter to works like Animal Farm and 1984, from more conventional middle-of-the-road writing, small themes and safe prose to the stark, and bolder books of his last years? To 'prose like a windowpane'?
Write the book only you can write, the book you're meant to write, I counsel writers on our novel writing courses, but how do you locate the book you can write freely and truly and honestly with cleanliness? Let me show you how Orwell, the author of that phrase, found his way.
Eric Arthur Blair was born 25 June 1903 (and died at just 47 21 January 1950 - which gives this ageing writer pause for thought.)
“I had the lonely child's habit of making up stories and holding conversations with imaginary persons, and I think from the very start my literary ambitions were mixed up with the feeling of being isolated and undervalued. I knew that I had a...