In professional writing, titles are important things, particularly when you want said writing to get noticed. If you’re composing an article, a blog post or some other kind of professional publication to-be, your main goal – or so I’d assume – is for someone somewhere to read it.
Probably, a lot of someones. The more the better in most situations.
But with so many other titles and headlines and headers and other informational banners out there, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. And knowing that puts even more weight on our writing shoulders to come up with something utterly brilliant.
As such, it’s not at all uncommon to come up with the title before we write anything else.
Unfortunately, that can be problematic.
Fortunately, there’s a solution.
I recently ran into a situation where I was writing a professional piece for someone about a certain topic – let’s say the word “irony,” since that’s one of the most misunderstood words in the English language.
(That’s the honest truth. I seriously avoid saying it at almost all cost for fear that I’m using it wrong.)
The title of this based-on-true-events piece was “Novelists Can’t Stop Talking About These 3 Ironic Reviews.” And yes, I had the title before I thought out the full piece. Because the real word I was working with that day was something I thought I actually understood.
It wasn’t until I had a good 800 words done out of 1,250 that I went searching for another source. So it was completely on accident that I discovered the error of my ways. Regardless, there the truth was. Smacking me right in the face.
I’d been writing for an hour and a half based on an incorrect assumption, thereby rendering everything I’d written wrong.
That’s a very frustrating situation to be in, to say the least. It’s even more frustrating when you have a to-do list that’s a mile long. And it’s most frustrating when you tried to kill a big black spider that morning but missed, and now have to thoroughly clean your entire living space to eradicate the eight-legged menace.
But moving on…
At that point, I knew I had two different decisions in front of me. I could stop writing and go into editing mode, reading through what was already down to see if I could salvage it.
After all, sometimes it’s a matter of merely moving paragraphs around. Cutting certain lines out, adding others in and otherwise redirecting the already established conversation can truly do the trick. But alas, that wasn’t the case this time around.
For a minute there, I was sure I’d been left with only one other viable option. And it wasn’t leaving the article as-is. I’m not going to knowingly hand over something to a client or my general readership that isn’t properly polished – even if 99% of readers probably wouldn’t have noticed.
I’m very happy to say though that, before I could delete the whole entire thing, I realized I had another possibility to grab onto. I could just change the title from “Novelists Can’t Stop Talking About These 3 Ironic Reviews” to “Are These 3 Reviews Really Ironic?”
That and altering three other lines would put me in the clear.
(I’m not saying this trick will work every time, of course. But it’s worth considering when you’ve already done so much work.)
After making those switches, I had the article over to my client within the next half hour. Considering the cool authorial trick I was reminded of, I’d say the momentary frustration was worth it in the end.
Which means my only complaint is that I haven’t found that big black spider.