Work-In-Progress Indian Child Welfare Novel

Often I use my blog here to think through dynamics in a story line. I try to stay subtle and not give away any major plot points. And I’ll do my best to do the same here. I’ve been thinking a lot recently on my book 3 project. It’s in need of a new title. But I’m unsure of exactly how to go about it.

Since the novel is in full first draft, I’m going into the polishing phase now, or I call them “sweeps.” As I’m sweeping through the novel to clean up any issues, like maybe shifting around paragraphs or adding more detail to make a scene come alive, I tend to make major shifts in the novel. If there are any plot holes then I’ll address them and I’ll add a large amount of detail.

The novel can grow in big leaps since my first drafts tend to be a step above an outline. It has enough visual to give you the full experience of the story, but it doesn’t yet have that spirit, that energy that makes a novel come alive. The more sweeps I go through, with each round, the characters and the scenes and the landscapes become more and more vibrant.

In this novel, my WIP of book 3, I feel like will jump a good 30K words before I start to slice it back down. My process is kinda like an accordion. I add more and more details and the novel grows larger and larger until it reaches max capacity and then I start to whittle it down. The slicing becomes more like a refinement. This is when the spirit of the novel really starts to shine. The characters become more visceral in their evilness, and become more tangible in their dedication to a cause.

I’m a truth teller. Literary writers are tasked with capturing the good, the bad, and the ugly. We’re not hear to make readers feel cozy in their bubble. We’re here to show them all the dangers inside their bubble so they’ll scramble to get out as fast as they can. Every character has a dark side–there are no saints here–and it’s my job to show all sides of a character. Not accenting their flaws, but highlighting their righteousness so all can see the true darkness of their existence. The more saintly someone tries to portray themselves, their hypocrisy shows how deeply evil they truly are, and vise versa. One of the beauties of being a truth teller is learning how to recognize these competing forces in everyone.

Now back to the title of my “ICW” novel. Since it’s so early in the process, I tend to name it straight. I want the initial readers to see the title and immediately know what they’re getting into. Now titles almost never stick. Once it goes through an agent and then an editor and a publishing review team, the title will likely shift into something you never thought of. I like this process. Largely because by time it’s gotten to that final stage, I’ve engaged with the novel so intensely that I can see the potential for several titles.

But at this early stage in my book 3 WIP, I want to keep it direct. So when my agent and editor pick it up, see the title, they have immediate insight into what they’re about to read–no elusive titles to lure in readers at this stage. It more has to do with the content. Right now I’m just calling it my “ICW novel” because the main characters work for an Indian Child Welfare. I’ll not give away any more details than that. I’m not sure what the title will end up becoming. As I round out this phase of writing, I’ll be coming to a title that’ll work for this early stage. It’s not a title that I intend on keeping, but something that speaks to the core conflict in the novel. It’ll be a next stage place holder.

So tell me how you title a novel. Do you use cultural elements? Do you focus on thematics? What are some of the things you think about as you go through this back and forth process?

(Image was borrowed from piqsels)


  1. Oddly, I like to title my work first, as it gives me a template of the story I want to tell. Like writing term papers in school, the book title is the main topic of my ‘paper’.


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