Are you ready to choose a working title for your story?
To do so, we have to start with our original question: How do you write a story? Well, of course, there’s no one answer. Just look at the number of How to Write a Novel guides there are, how many MFA programs, or how many seminars and writing groups there are. I don’t think there is one way to write a novel, a short story, or anything in between. So let’s not pretend.
But there are some things that can help. As I said in my first post, intention is one big one. I think you have to intend to write a story. Part of that intention is picking a place to begin. Picking a place to begin doesn’t mean that is where the story will begin when it’s finished. But choosing something to focus our effort is a good way to get going. A way of setting that intention.
One way to begin, is to pick a working title for a story. Notice the qualifier “working” title. This use of a qualifier has intention behind it: by calling it a “working” title, we intend both to put a name to whatever it is we are trying to write, but we also intend to take the pressure off of ourselves a bit. A working title is a title under which we do our work. It doesn’t have to be the title of the story. In my experience, it likely won’t be the title once we’re done. But it gives us some sort of focus, or at least a stake in the ground we intend to till.
So for the first work of real work, let’s pick a title. I’ve decided try and write a story about that most uncomfortable period of life: high school. And I want to try and tell the story of a young kid—a boy/man—growing from insecurity to independence. Kind of a “preparing this kid for what’s out there” story.
So with that idea in mind, I want to pick a working title that reminds me of what I think my story is going to be about (recognizing, of course, that once the story gets out and gets read, it might turn out to be about something completely different, but that’s an issue that is outside our intentionality mandate: we can only control what we do, not what others think we did).
I’ve settled on this working title: Young Man of the World. This working title is intended (see what I did there?) to remind me of what I’m trying to do. I won’t get attached to this working title. Instead, I will use it to start things off and hopefully stay the course.
The great thing: if, as can happen, I find out half way through, that I’m writing a different story that I set out to write, I can change the title. Because it’s only a working title.
So for this first week, do that. Think about the story you want to write and pick a working title. Then, and this is a magical moment, pick a slightly larger font than the 11 of 12 point font you’re going use for most of your story—say 16-point font, or even (no!?) 20-point font. You can even use a different font colour. Then centre it on the page.
And them for this week, you’re done!
And just like that you’re both done and begun.