It’s the age old question with no clear answer. Much like its more famous counterpart,“Which came first, the Chicken or the Egg?”, there really is no way to answer this definitively. You might think that the egg must come first as chickens come from eggs. But then, where would that first egg have come from? No one knows! It’s similar with writing: Does the title inspire the story or does the story inspire the title?
The good news us writers is that it’s really a question of what works for you? There is no write or wrong answer (did you see my little play with words right there? Thank you). We have the freedom to choose which will be our first move. And if it works – all the better! If it doesn’t, then we can switch easily to the other and try again.
For me, I have traditionally come up with a title first; letting it inspire and shape my story’s concept. Then I move on to writing the story itself. This may work for short stories as the title suggests the main subject. Such stories usually are single subject based in the first place. Easy! However, when I write longer manuscripts or am writing in the Fantasy genre, I’m starting to feel that the title first method might be hindering my progress. Perhaps it would be better to allow the story to present an appropriate title as it develops. But then, there is another problem that arises.
In this world of electronic files, if you have several stories in the works at one time, you can’t really go around with a series of files named Untitled.docx. It’s bad enough when I have several versions of the same story and I have multiple files with names like: Hobbit.docx, Hobbit_1.docx, Hobbit_Alt.docx, Hobbit_2nd_alt.docx….and so on. Which is the current file? Which one had the line that I wanted to use in my Hobbit_1st_rewrite.docx file? It get’s ugly fast. Now, imagine dozens of files with Untitled as the title. I already have a head ache and I’m just writing about it.
So where do we go from here? I don’t want to get into the options computers give us with folders and file hierarchies that would work to keep many things sorted out. What I’d like to ask is which method do you subscribe to? Do you prefer one of the other or do you employ both methods depending on what you are writing?
So what comes first?
I welcome your thoughts.