When I first started my latest novel (the latest one to be released, not my WIP) I was standing in a book store, looking at the spine of a book with the title Blood Moon. I say 'started' here because just looking at this title gave me the idea for a novel in which a werewolf attack occurs on the Moon. The story as originally envisaged in that flashbulb moment, that 'Aha' moment for which all of us writers live, was supposed to be a mystery, with a hideous monster in the middle of it.
When I started actually writing the story, the title was (you guessed it) ‘Blood Moon’. Hey, why not, can't copyright titles, right? Well, no, you can't, which is not always a good thing. We want our books to stand out, don't we? We want people to find our books, don't we? Well, have you ever tried googling the title 'Blood Moon'? There are lots of books with that name. It's really rather shocking. I hope the authors had better names for their books, but it's amazing that so many publishers couldn't be bothered to check! I suppose there might be title generators or SEO algorithms that recommend titles with Blood and Moon in them, but if you want that book to shine don't hide it under a bushel of other books with the same name.
When I was in the middle of writing my story, I grew dissatisfied with the title. It seemed rather ordinary to me, and more important, it didn't actually tell me anything about the book. Worse, what it did tell me was wrong! You see, Blood Moon didn't stay a mystery very long. I think I was in chapter two somewhere when I realized that I had no aptitude for writing mysteries. Or Horror. I'm a character-based novelist, and I usually discover the plot as I'm following my characters around. Blood Moon is a great title for a mystery (or a paranormal, or a romance, or a...) but it's not a great title for whatever this story was shaping up to be.
Sometimes we authors realize it ourselves, and change the title to something more useful. Sometimes we don't, and it falls to the editors and even marketing people to say that our book just doesn't feel like a 'Blood Moon' sort of book, and then where are we? The title influences the book as we're writing it, at least it does for me. As Blood Moon moved farther away from anything mystery-like, the name became more of a straitjacket. So I went on the web, googling the phrase 'Blood Moon' to see if there were any useful alternatives. It turns out there are. Blood Moon is an actual name, the name of a particular full moon, one of the 13 that occur throughout the year. It never occurred to me that people would name them but they do. (Possible series idea there.)
One of those names was 'St. Martin's Moon'. So I thought, 'Hey, sounds like a cool title', but it was much more than that. St. Martin is the patron saint of many things, including beggars, innkeepers, and geese. More important, St. Martin's Moon is the full moon in the sky shortly after Halloween. And here’s me, writing a werewolf novel.
- And just like that (well, not really, nothing about this book was 'just like that') the book got a bit of a makeover.
- Some details got a whole new significance. Because of the title, the time and place of events suddenly shifted. It's Halloween, and I discovered Joseph Marquand, my MC, hates Halloween. Why? Well, let's find out.
- Some details were added. Because of the title, I noticed a church sign one day and worked it into the story. Minor, I’ll admit, but good for flavor if nothing else.
- When I got around to writing the end (I'm very linear) I found that the whole ending had been changed. I discovered Joseph Marquand didn’t like psychics either, but that’s for next book.
- Even the genre was different, and I don't say that lightly. I didn't just change the genre from mystery to paranormal romance, although for a long time that's what I thought I'd done. I ended up inventing a new genre, because the story morphed to fit the title.
The Feast of St. Martin is November 11th. St. Martin’s Moon is November 10th this year. My wife is planning a party, just because.
Like many writers, I started when a story came along and decided that I should write it. Don't ask me why. Others followed, until now I'm afraid to go out of the house with a recorder or notebook in my hand. But I show them, I refuse to write the same story twice!