Recently over the Easter Holidays I held a little one question poll on my blog, here, in order to potential readers and anyone at all interested in my novel in progress.
The poll question was
If you saw a book with the title 'Valkyrian Ventures' and tag line 'Working to recover lost souls means your afterlife is never boring?' would you be interested in it?
The results are now in as that poll closed the weekend just passed.
Yes 4 (22%)
No 7 (38%)
Maybe 5 (27%)
Not sure 2 (11%)
To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect and I was pleasantly suprised by the amount of votes I got in total which was 18. But the results made me think even harder about where I'm intending to up with my current novel in progress.
The first issue I came up with was the matter of title - what to call my piece of writing. I had until presently been calling it 'Valkyrian Ventures' simply because I liked the alliteration and I thought the name suited my adventurous tales of valkyries. Yet this showed how much of a mistake I made - I settled on that title simply because I knew what it meant, what it was about because I was the author. I wasn't thinking as a potential reader. I wasn't thinking of whether it would actually catch anyone's interest, whether it was too vague, too out there, too ambitious, too presumptious? None of these questions even went across my mind. These results taught me a real lesson about the importance of what a title adds to a book. Albeit a novel in progress on my part. The evidence that more said 'No', 'Maybe' and 'Not Sure' showed what little meaning potential readers saw in my working title. If I could not attract any readers even at this (Some might say ridiculously) early stage then how on earth am I meant to impress an agent let alone a publisher. I fear even the 4 that did vote Yes they would be interested is perhaps only due to the draft tag line I used 'Working to recover lost souls means your afterlife is never boring.'
So the solution here was a change of title - now that is where I thought a bit harder about it. Instead of choosing another title that I felt was good I decided to hold another voting poll with a selection of title options in which voters must read at least one chapter from my work so far in order to help them better decide the title choice they vote for. This vote poll can be found at the top of this post at the forefront of my blog - if you wish to participate it would be greatly appreciated and any comments, tips or further advice is always welcomed.
The new title selection was created with my trying to think about what words would represent the world and characters in my novel as well as have at least some relatable meaning to a potential reader.
'No Angel' - came from part of a title of a re-written version of Chapter 1 as a stand alone short story which was titled 'I Am No Angel'. The phrase 'No Angel' stuck with me as it sums up Valkyries quite simply for a modern audience without actually giving too much away, it also shows the paranormal/supernatural elements and it also suggests something quite naughty as you would perhaps describe a naughty girl as 'no angel'.
'Valkyrie's Touch' - came from a suggestion on Twitter by @G2L who noticed my endless tweets about this pole and title suggestions. He suggested 'Betrayed in Valhalla', 'Death by Valkyrie Dust' and 'Valkyrian Amulet'. Of course none of these titles suited by novel in progress (not because I didn't know where it was going therefore it might appear harsh of me to dismiss the possibilites suggested in these titles) but because I don't think @G2L had actually read my current works. But 'Valkyrie Dust' caught my imagination. I didn't want 'dust' to remain part of it though as it kept making me think of Fairy/faerie dust like Tinkerbell uses which was the wrong kind of first impression I wanted to give any reader. However something directly to do with the Valkyries did intrigue me so I got thinking about how they collect souls or how people of medieval times might have believed they did so. I'm not entirely sure if medieval pagans believed they collected souls in jars or not but it ight be something quite evocative like 'calling' out a soul from a slain warrior or merely a 'touch' to bring them into the afterlife. I myself preferred using the latter to create 'Valkyrie's Touch' which is evocative, curious, intriguing and also suggestive of angel like actions - linking it back to the phrase 'touched by angels' etc.
'Soul Chaser/Soul Catcher' - both came from the same idea of what how to summarise what Valkyries actually do. Which in my depiction is to capture souls (although they do lay claim to them it's not as brutal as it sounds) to take to Valhalla if they pass the Bitfrost Test and in some cases chase them if their target soul (of clients as they call them) are siezed by an opposing entitie be it from the same religion (to feed Hel, Queen of the Underworld) or from an opposing religion or some other darker paranormal force.
Again if any of these titles even catch a spark of your interest please do read my draft chapters via links at top of blog before you vote upon the title you prefer.
Next issue brought about by the first poll was genre identity and/or book space (which shelf in a Waterstones or WHSmith would your book be located if published?). For me this also tied in with my tagline which is what would appear on the front cover to suggest or hint what kind of story lies within the pages to readers.
Firstly the tag line used in the previous pole I now feel upon reflection revealed perhaps too much, might have been offputting to readers to learn immediatly that the main character is dead and somehow busy in some kind of afterlife. Plus the use of 'recovering lost souls' might have been too strained a play on words. So after several rewrites I have currently resulted in this (I hope) better alternative:
"There are more than Angels and Devils after your soul."
This refined tagline has also helped me put my developing novel's genre in perspective. I have always found it hard to describe where my novel would fit in the gigantic realm of Fantasy Fiction. Although my story does use fantasy to a certain level in which to enable such characters as valkyries to run around in the modern world. My current writing couldn't and shouldn't be labelled with just Fantasy. There are several subsets of Fantasy and I believe mine fits the subset of Magic Realism - "the plot may concern an inexplicable intrusion of the magical or otherworldly into otherwise ordinary lives." as described by Lisa Tuttle in her book 'Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction'. I think that phrase and this genre is what my writing is involved with. Although it could be interpreted now as Dark Fantasy as there is now a huge outburst of books dealing with paranormal characters in a relatively parallel modern society and world. Need I any other example other than Stephenie Meyer's global hit 'Twilight Saga'??? Vampires alive and well in modern USA? Except of course my story doesn't deal with 'dark' characters such as Vampires or Werewolves or Witches or even a Huccobous (as I saw one book proclaim). My own tale deals with the unseen spiritual side of life and the wide range of characters, entities and gods provided by such a variety of religions (modern and old) to choose from and how in my vision the afterlife has equal impact on the current lives of the living. So my novel if it were finished and published would probably be found in the Dark Fantasy section of any good bookseller as it tends to suit the mix of characters breeding in this new modern genre.
There you have it - a whole lot of serious thought, changes and decisions all because I asked one question regarding my writing and the feedback from it (and I do say a big thank you to those 18 who voted) has helped me not only rethink the title of my developing novel but also the tagline, genre and book space. So if you as a writer find any particular problems with such isses as those I've discussed try turning it out to your potential or current readers - let their voices be heard and opinions made and you may well be provided with an answer or at least aided in thinking it up.
My next big writing challenge is not the always present task of continuing to write it (which I admitt I've been too relaxed about of late but I have been thinking up some ideas and doing plot out lines for Chap 4 etc) but to come up with a pitch of no more than 3 lines and write a good synopsis/brief.