The importance of titles (and revisions) (and removal of exposition)

©2022 Michael Raven

I am now on something like the fourth revision of the first “episode” of my return to serialized fiction. Maybe sixth; I haven’t been consistent about keeping track of versioning.

While I was considering whether to use one proper noun over another when it came to place names. And then ultimately deciding in this revision that my larger world preferred following the whole Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS), over more complex names for places no decent human would set foot in — besides, those troglodytes don’t deserve fancy place names….

I digress…

Anyway, when I was debating actually mixing up place names where place names would have no meaning to most people who lived there, I started thinking about the title of my WiP: Slideways. It certainly fits, but something about it feels “off” for whatever reason. I took a handful of names from past project that never went anywhere and tried them on for size. Most of them had issues: too tight in the waistcoat, making the story feel crisp; or, kind of on the gooey side, like you might find when you bite into a donut and discover that it has some nasty red filling in it that is neither cherry, nor strawberry; or, the dust was so thick, I ended up sneezing and sneezing until it became sneexing, and that would never do.

But I did try on two others and they felt almost about right, with one notably from a better tailor than the other (or more fit to this larger frame I’ve acquired over the years, *euphemizing* [bless you, have a Kleenex]). The three titles remaining were:

  • Slideways
  • Ash and Thorn
  • fell; gate (alternately: fells; gate)

I put it to a vote on Twitter because their is nothing like crowdsourcing such things to discover your own personal inclinations much quicker than if you just wait for an internal decision to find its merry way back to you. At the time of this post, the current order of preference is: A&T, Slide, fell. Which I find ever so amusing. I’ll tell you why at some other point (there are only six votes and it would be fun if you went and added a few more to make it more statistically significant — right now, it is statistically meaningless).

Anyway, I ought to let it play out because I might learn something about naming stuff if I see what people like when they have zero idea what the story is about.

I’ve also decided, in the past few hours, that I need more restrictions and limitations than freedoms. So I am now inclined to limit myself to NO MORE THAN 1000 words per episode. As I’ve been working on revision 32 (or is it 8?) I’ve realized I tend to put in a lot of filler words that add absolutely nothing to the story (imagine that!). I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly hacking through that jungle with a machete, because I am often replacing my deletions with the same number or more words, but this latest revision has it pared down to just under 1000 words. I had started last night with nearly 300 words more than that. I consider that a bit of a success. My only real complaint about what I wrote is that there is a helluvalotta exposition in this first episode. I think it is necessary to set the tone of the world, and there is only one character in the whole piece (with some references and FUUUUUUU, I can see at this very moment how I can improve that ratio… SHIT!). Dammit. I might need to postpone my initial episode by a few days if I want to address that (and I probably should). Sigh.

Welp, I won’t get to that tonight because I am tapped out, but it is interesting how I am approaching this particular piece in a manner different than I usually do. I tend to do such things like Bobby Stinson did when he soloed on guitar, which is how he drove a car too: put the pedal to the metal, close his eyes, and hope for the best. I wish I could pinpoint what is different this time around.

Well, now I have to think about my ideas about how to get rid of some of the exposition and see if I can find the energy to rewrite large tracts of the piece tomorrow.

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