Before SEETHINGS was finished, the novel tried on many other titles. That name didn’t appear until eight years later. During the book’s long development, alternates were applied to assist the author with writing its content. Few were considered to be permanent fixtures. None were planned to appear on any bookshelf.
There are fair and good reasons why a book starts with one title but finishes with another. In SEETHINGS’ case, I used one of my titles as a temporary label, sort of a mission statement, for the purposes of keeping me on track as I wrote the yet unknown story.
This was SEETHINGS’ very first title and the story was always going to be about a storm. I love a good thunderstorm and wanted to write a great story about one. It was to take centre stage, but how that’d translate into an entertaining story was uncertain. I wrote Stormfront on a post-it note and then stuck it to my computer’s screen. That little yellow tag kept me on-task during the first draft (and it stayed around for another couple of rewrites).
As is usually the case when I write, something else got added to the original draft. The story soon developed the nucleus of another plot. It paralleled the first one but, while the hot, summer rain dominated the core of the narrative, a chilly relationship story slithered right up against it. I saw the irony in this dichotomy and so I wrote a new title on a fresh post-it note and labelled it as Cold Climates.
Attracted to that new second plot, I kept working on developing the chilly relationship between those two characters. My goal was to create six identifiable occasions in the story when the couple’s life soured and their bedroom turned icy. Thank goodness that title didn’t remain. Neither did those six occasions. The key ones stayed while the rest disappeared into oblivion.
Stop laughing. This title will make perfect sense after I explain why I chose it. The process was getting really serious at this point. The book had been written ten times and it was due for some real-world testing. A beta-reader journey was the next step. Feedback mattered — not for the book’s title, but the story beyond the cover page that displayed it. I handed my readers the manuscript in a four ring-binder and said nothing of the narrative. This long title fronted it, acting as a type of synopsis and reader screener. If the reader didn’t like the sound of the title, they didn’t get to read the book (some people can’t abide violent stories no matter who writes them!). Those who tolerated the title got to read the story, and then I waited for their comments/reviews to return. The book was never going to be called Pink Tears In The Hot Rain And The Cold Stench Of Death. A real title would come much later.
With the last of the structural edits being finalised, four titles were selected for proofing (I can’t remember one of them — yes, these are mock-ups of the original mock-ups. Those files have gone astray). Each of these simple proofs was printed using the same image on the background, only their titles differed (even the font was the same). I shopped them around to friends, family, book club members, strangers, anyone keen enough to give me an opinion. I didn’t tell them what the story was about (the beta readers weren’t involved), I just wanted a new set of strangers to look at the mock-ups. “Which book title would make you stop and look twice?” I asked.
The votes came back and the book officially became SEETHINGS in mid-2012. Of course, it wasn’t yet ready for the reading market. Sorting out a title was just one step in many more to come. The next thing to consider was a suitable cover graphic (clearly, I didn’t go with the lightning bolt option) but that’s another post for another time.
Until then, enjoy your reading. Michael.
Five women’s bodies are discovered after the nights of thunderstorms. Their spouses are suspected of the crimes, but it becomes clear that someone else is responsible. There’s no blood and few clues. A storm photographer who specializes in taking pictures of lightning may be the only witness.