This is a guest post from Nancy Peske.
As you begin to write your memoir, you’ll naturally start playing with possible memoir titles. If you come up with a general title such as Surviving the Worst, Living Fully, or My Memoir of Being a Child Prodigy, you will soon wonder “What belongs in this book? What’s too personal and what isn’t exciting enough to include? What do I need to give more details about? What’s my focus? And what on earth was I thinking when I decided to write a memoir?!” That’s when it’s best to step back and put more effort into titling your memoir. A title will help you focus on your central story and what you want your book’s takeaway to be.
You will want a memoir title that is specific, not general – one that fits with your particular story of surviving the worst, living fully, being a child prodigy, and so on. Think about word combinations that capture the heart and soul of your story about coming of age, overcoming a particular challenge, or living a life that would inspire others to believe in themselves and persevere at achieving their dreams. Sure, you may be writing a memoir about being a child prodigy, but why are you writing it? What’s the central takeaway from your childhood and coming of age? Did you have to discover that Good Enough Is Good Enough? If the focus of your memoir is on letting go of the perfectionism imposed upon you by your parents, maybe Good Enough Is Good Enough is your title.
Maybe your memoir about coming of age in the inner city will have a title that is a play on the term “inner” or the term “city” or “urban.” Maybe your memoir about being a business leader who broke the rules will have a title that conveys the idea that breaking the rules may be outlandish or daring, but leads to success. Think about song lyrics and sayings that come to mind, and play with them to come up with slightly different wording. Think of a powerful image from your story that serves as a symbol or metaphor for what your story is all about.
Let’s say a quick Internet search reveals that no one has used your memoir title except perhaps for one article and certainly not for a book. That’s a good sign that you have or are close to having a terrific title for your memoir! If you like, reserve the URL www.GoodEnoughIsGoodEnough.com and a Facebook page with that title – or vary it slightly. Maybe you decide that instead of Good Enough Is Good Enough you will title your book “Good Enough” Is Perfect. Maybe you use a little alliteration (words that have similar sounds at the beginning) and you go with The “Good Enough” Girl. Keep searching the Internet to see if there’s competition for your title, and keep playing with the words and central concept. Then, try out some of your title ideas on family and friends – or even the barista at your local coffee shop or your Uber driver! Listen thoughtfully to their feedback. Have fun playing with variations on your memoir title so that you end up developing one that is just right for your book, your message, and your story.
Nancy Peske is a developmental editor, ghostwriter, and book publishing consultant with over 30 years’ experience in the book business, as well as the author of several bestselling books. Learn more at www.NancyPeske.com.