A Note on Novel Nomenclature

So, I’ve written in the past about “the novel that I’ve been working on since forever” (and also often used the term “blather” when referring to it) and I’ve mentioned the new novel that I intend to start writing (just as soon as I have time to write).

I’ve come to find these long descriptive phrases to be unwieldy.  And, from the perspective of you, the reader, they’re not entirely useful or meaningful.  Because those long, unwieldy descriptions don’t tell you anything about the book itself but instead tell you about my temporal relationship with the book.

This ends now.  Inasmuch as I may continue to refer to either or both of these books – or even inasmuch as I might refer to any of my writing projects – I intend to start referring to those works and projects either by their titles (in the fullness of time) or by code-titles (in the beginning).  Eventually, therefore, I may be able to add word count meters and write in blog posts about my various projects and what I’m doing in them, and it will be easier to you, the reader, to understand what I mean rather than having to parse some long-and-not-altogether-useful-phrase like “that novel that I’ve been working on since forever”.

So, let’s get started.

Project SOA#1:  This is the novel that I’ve been writing since forever.  I chronicled my history with this novel, and why I call it “the novel that I’ve been writing since forever”, here, here and here.  It’s an epic fantasy in the most epic way – and as you can guess based on my code-name, it’s intended to be the first in a series.  But, it’s also the most classical of my fantasy novel ideas, the most bog-standard.  Perhaps, even, the most unoriginal, at least in its most recent form.  And yet, it’s highly personal to me, and therefore I still want to make this novel happen.  And if I can pull it off, it will be something more than just “epic fantasy” – it will belong to a genre to which few other works can truly be said to belong to, which is a subject for another day.  But it will take a writer with more skill than I currently possess to pull it off, and so I’ve moved it to the back-burner to await that time when I have honed the skills I will need to do it justice.

The Book of M:  Called thus because the letter “M” features prominently in the actual working title of the book, i.e. “M” would be capitalized and word-initial.  This is the new novel I’ll be working on as time eventually allows.  It is not your grandpappy’s epic fantasy.  I’m not even sure it is epic fantasy – but it’s definitely a flavor of fantasy of some kind.  It might also be Steampunk, but I’m not entirely positive whether it is…  It is definitely dystopian.  If I can pull it off, it is also goodness.  Think Mad Max meets the Final Fantasy video game series meets something-else-that-escapes-me  meets my brain.  In short, it should rock.

The Book of M is intended to be a stand-alone fantasy novel (i.e. not the first of a series), but since I don’t know yet exactly how it will end, I can’t say that with any level of certainty.

And what else is on my brain, besides these two books?

The Book of J:  Another novel concept that I received in a dream.  Yes, really.  I dreamed the plot to this book.  The letter “J” features prominently in the concept-title of this one, as does the letter “M”, but I already had a “Book of M” in my code-names, so “J” it is.  This is another “not-your-grandpappy’s epic fantasy” story.  It does feature a Hero’s Journey motif, but it’s not in the style you’re familiar with.  And it’s positively loaded with shades-of-gray and nuance.  More pointedly, for a fantasy novel, I haven’t yet decided if (and if so to what degree) magic will be used in this story.  There probably will be magic in some form or fashion, but so far it hasn’t figured especially prominently in my thoughts on the subject.  Since Book of J is still just a rough concept I haven’t any idea, yet, whether this will be a single volume or multiple-volume story.

Story of G: This is the next short story I intend to write for the Writers of the Future contest.  After “PFTETD” placed an honorable mention, I am both encouraged and determined to go all the way.  I don’t know if Story of G will be strong enough to take the top honors, but I’m going to give it my best shot.  Story of G is based on one of the flash fiction stories that I’ve posted previously to this site, but heavily modified and enlengthened.

What Happened in August Valley:  What Happened was going to be the next story I wrote after completing “PFTETD”, but after making it about a thousand words into what I had originally expected to be about a 9,000 word story, and having realized I still didn’t know where I wanted this to go (despite it being based on a real-life series of events), I stalled.  The problem, of course, is in trying to apply a narrative structure and meaning to events that lacked such structure and meaning – as well as trying to add a touch of the fantastic.  Still, despite the problems this story faces, I’m determined to finish it.

And…. way, way, way, way on the back-burner, we have these:

The Book of A:  Intended to be the first in a five-part epic… we’ll just have to see how that plays out and whether I still have the interest to pursue this one.   The Book of A is an epic space opera that owes more to the traditions of fantasy than it does to the traditions of sci-fi – though it is set in the distant future of our universe as opposed to an alternate fantasy universe.  It would definitely qualify as sci-fi, but it’s not hard sci-fi, by any means, and woven through it is a touch of the fantastic.

The Book of C:  Conceived of as the first in a trilogy, the Book of C is a full-on genre romp – at least in its intent its a mash-up of different genres and bending conventions.  It centers on three ostensibly unlikely characters who are brought together in spite of themselves, and find they must rely on each other if they’re each to come out alive.  The precise nature of the plot and setting are broad strokes and a bit blurry, this one is really all about the characters and the genres each is trying to break out from.

The R Serial:  If, and that’s a big if, I ever have an opportunity to retrace my steps, I may attempt a rewrite of this.  When I was in High School I wrote a “serialized” short story.  At various times I’d intended to transform it into a novel, but I think the serial structure may be better-suited for it.  Thematically, “R” is a crazy near-future sci-fi mashup that, by its end, has strayed far from the strictures of sci-fi and into some really bizarre territory (or at least… bizarre for the time, which originally was the mid-to-late nineties).  I’d thought about trying my hand at it and updating it (the time period in which I originally set the tale has recently passed), pushing it a little farther out into the future – but the subject matter and plot are such that I actually find this rather daunting.  In fact, I don’t know for sure that this tale, originally conceived in my youth, can be told in satisfying way, or done well at all.

Other Short Stories:  I’ve got several other short story and novelette-length ideas that I’d like to pursue… but other stories are currently higher-priority.  Several are based on stories I’ve posted here – ideas that I thought were well-worth a second glance and more depth and breadth.  Time will tell if I have the opportunity to work with them.  I also have it in mind to set some short stories in the world of Project SOA, but I’ve yet to get to a point in the project where that’s feasible.

Other Vague Possibly Novel-length Ideas:  I’ve got one or two sparks that may or may not be something that can, in time, mature into other novel-length story ideas.  Only time will tell.

And that’s all for now.  I will admit to having a bit of book envy for those who seem to have dozens of novel-length story ideas they want to work on whereas I have only a few.  But if each of these or even if any of these were to be published, I cannot lie: I’d be thrilled.

At any rate, you know have a set of convenient monikers that will hopefully be easier to recall whenever I refer back to them in future posts.

Today’s question for you other writer-bloggers out there: how do you handle referring to the work you’re doing and the titles of your stories on your blog?  Do you use code-names?  Do you freely post your working titles?  Do you obfuscate, reveal only that a book may or may not exist, or conceal it entirely?  Do you work on multiple projects at once?

Happy writing.

41 thoughts on “A Note on Novel Nomenclature

  1. I work on a few projects at a time and refer to them by their working titles. Right now I’ve got a novel: “Goodbye Grammarian”, a webserial: “Just Enough Power”, that novel-I-keep-meaning-to-rewrite: “Warm Waters” and a yet-to-be-named short fiction anthology tentatively called “Short Fiction Anthology”.

    • I’ve gone back-and-forth about whether to use my actual working titles or the code-names. Obviously I settled on code-names. Mostly that’s because “PFTETD” has a title which, once known, reveals much about what the nature of the story. If you’ve got enough short fiction for an anthology, actually, I’m impressed. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking, of course, but writing enough short fiction to fill an anthology is a different kind of challenge…

  2. That’s a lot of projects, and actually I’m envious of you! I’ve only got 2 other novel length ideas in mind so far. I’m more of a one track mind kind of gal. I’ll obsess over one thing, and right now it’s my novel, whom I affectionately refer to as ‘the beast’. I don’t talk about it much at all, I think, except to mention that I have a WIP.

    You know, the book of M sounds sounds AWESOME. I would read that right now if I could. I hope you write it!

    • If I can manage it, the Book of M will be awesome. Though that comes down to my skill. I think I’ve got what it takes, but we’ll have to see. 🙂 I’ll be starting work on it hopefully this summer – really not long, now! (Graduation’s only a few months away, now.)

  3. I know several people who come up with ideas all the time and never get them written. Or they start writing them and then get a BETTER idea and switch to writing that and never return to finish any of the projects they’ve started. I think it is wonderful that you have lots of ideas. I hope you can finish your projects.

    • I’ve been there, before, in my youth. I like to think I have more focus now to finish one thing without abandoning it. I don’t mind taking side-trips to other tales to refresh myself creatively… but I think by-and-large I’ll stick to doing that with short fiction over long fiction. I may have several novel ideas queued up, but it will probably be my short fiction queue that refreshes at a faster rate. And thanks for the well-wishes. I have high hopes as well!

  4. I’m inclined to sharing on my blog. I tend to let other writers know what’s going on, such as when I was working on my Nano last November, and of course my allusions to my Grand Novel, which is Because of the Blue Bloods.

    Short fiction is just something i can’t wrap my brain around. Maybe it’s my draw towards grandeur. Maybe I think I’m “Beyond” short stories. Maybe I just don’t like the idea of having an end come so soon. Maybe, maybe I could write one if I sat down to it. But I just don’t want to sit down to it. 🙂

    Hmmm…the book of A sounds a bit like my Radio-Glory genre: Sci-Fi elements in the surroundings, but not limiting my narrative to said elements, and a more homey oak-and-stone feel to it than sci-fi cold metal. If you followed that.

    • Not every author is cut out for Short Fiction – some are just better at novels and are terrible at short stories. Others are the vice versa. Still others have equal facility with both. Likewise with readers – some enjoy short fiction, some enjoy long, some enjoy both. I think, as a writer, you just have to do what you feel comfortable doing.

      As for Book of A… it’s not homey oak-and-stone flavored sci fi. It’s more like Star Wars/Space Opera-y… only a little darker and grittier (not too much darker, but a little darker) and with an added layer of fantasy-style mythology thrown in (I know Star Wars is heavily layered with mythology, but I mean it in a different direction).

    • J.P I have a hard time writing short fiction too. Every time I sit down to write a short story my idea grows and I have a novella on my hands! If you ever tackle short fiction and succeed let me know how you did it.

      • It’s a difficult skill to master, I think. I’ve found my short stories tend to run on the long side. Even when I was participating in weekly flash stories (and I may yet do that again) I found my flash fiction tended toward the long side – usually just a hair over flash length and sometimes more than a hair. It’s hard to tell a complete story in a limited word space.

  5. I quite like “the novel that I’ve been working on since forever”. Mine is “the novel that isn’t” — which is actually rapidly becoming an ‘is’, having passed 60k in the past couple of days — though I don’t really talk about that online anywhere. I tend to post short stories, so the discussion in the comments above about some writers preferring long fiction and others short stories (and some being able to do both) caught my attention. I hope I manage to pull both off. I’d love to produce a short story anthology one day in addition to the Novel That Isn’t, but I suspect I may keep shooting myself in the foot by posting short-story snippets on my blog. Whoops. Maybe I should start keeping some bits back for polishing and later publication…

    Anyhow, apologies for the fly-by comment; I found your blog a few days ago and have been watching with interest since. This is the first time I’ve commented, but I’m looking forward to reading future entries. 🙂

    • I actively don’t discourage (=encourage?) fly-by comments (although, of course, I prefer repeat offenders ;)).

      But yes, “the novel that I’ve been working on since forever” does sort of have a lyrical, epithetic quality to it – maybe even, dare I suggest, “Homerian”? Actually, I think “the novel that isn’t” hits that mark a little better. I’m just adding this new pseudo-title for clarity’s sake, so I don’t leave too many scratching their heads when I talk about whichever novel I’m working on – especially as I transition from “Project SOA#1/the novel that I’ve been working on since forever” over to “Book of M” when I gear up my writing this summer.

      I think there are many writers who are able to effectively handle both short- and long-form fiction with equal facility. I couldn’t say with any factual certainty, but I’d be comfortable asserting that the number of writers for whom their relative strengths and weaknesses in short- and long-form are so over-riding that they effectively cannot write in the opposite style is probably in the minority. Still, I don’t doubt it’s a sizeable minority. I know there are a lot of novelists who’ve never touched the short-story format, and there are some short-story writers who genuinely uninterested in writing novels. As someone who enjoys reading and writing both (howbeit that my “short” stories tend toward the long side), I don’t necessarily grok either mindset, but I understand they exist and I appreciate their efforts in their chosen form.

      • Um, I know this is a little late, but was browsing round the archives and found this…

        The Novel I’ve Been Working On Since Forever does have a nice ring to it, and as far as clarity goes, I know just what you’re talking about—the epic fantasy novel that you can’t seem to find the time to write.

        And by-the-bye, if we want to get all technical, Working On Since Forever would be kind of like saying Working On Since For Seven Days, grammatically speaking.

        What a random comment.

        Me stop now. 😀

      • Hey, that’s what archives are for! “Working on since forever” may or may not be technically be grammatically incorrect, but it has a certain lyrical quality. And when something has a lyrical quality… the grammatical correctness of it is of secondary importance. 🙂 But as for it not getting finished right now, as you’ll see in more recent posts, it’s about more than just not finding the time to write it. At least, it i s now. I still don’t have time to write what I will write instead, but there you go…

    • Another, unrelated observation: Your link suggests your blog is at “tiercel.wordpress.com”, whereas if I click your gravatar I’ll discover “lexfalcon.wordpress.com”. The former leads me to a message from WordPress that the blog was deleted, whereas the latter leads to an actively updated blog. I’m wondering if in the WordPress settings you’ve still got “tiercel…” listed as your primary blog, even though it’s been deleted?

      • Hey, thanks for that. I appreciate the heads-up.

        I’ve had a poke around my settings and there was still a link set to “tiercel”, though “lexfalcon” is my current blog. Hopefully the problem will be solved now — I hadn’t noticed it myself, so cheers for clueing me in! I’m still fairly new to actually actively using WordPress, though I’ve been playing around for a while (as the tiercel link demonstrates), so there are probably a few little niggles like that I should fix. Thanks again. 🙂

      • No problem. I wouldn’t want other readers to happen through here and get interested in what you have to say only to follow your link to a dead page – and so I thought you should know. 🙂

  6. I tend to use very short two-word titles as acting titles that get changed when I submit short stories to markets or finalize the stories. This means that my novel idea is called Mount Huashen because that is a setting in the novel; yet, outside of it providing a little of a hint of place it doesn’t reveal anything about the story. It’s also unlikely to be the actual name of the novel. I have another novel idea that uses a particular piece of mythology that I’d rather not reveal and so although I tell my sambo it’s the X story, I tell other is the Sands of Al-Haasra story (the latter is more likely the name than X though).

    In general, I tend not to blog too much about my short stories and novels. Ok, maybe you could just say I’m a poor blogger 😉 However, it has the benefit that I don’t have to worry about the name.

    You have a great list of potential ideas you are working on. They sound great.

    • See, I’m a weirdly title-focused sort of guy. I always start with a title – even if I end up changing it later, selecting a good, evocative title for my work gives me some thematic focus. Sometimes, like in the story I was working on this time last year (“PFTETD”, the one that earned my “Honorable Mention” in the “WOTF” contest), the title gives away something important about the story (not so that reading the title would ruin the story, but reading the title sets up your expectations for the story). So, if I want to maintain a little discretion (like you get by not blogging about your projects at all), I have to go through this exercise of coming up with code-titles. Now, hopefully, the finished execution on these projects can be half as great as the ideas themselves. Also, FYI, “Sands of Al-Haasra” sounds intriguing, for sure.

  7. I’m working on multiple projects right now (a graphic novel, an historical novel and gathering notes for future publications). And when I have a title, I usually do post it (Books of the Immortals). I even had a couple of polls to help me choose the title of the historical novel! 😉 Titles in general either come immediately to me, or I struggle and change them many times (see historical novel) – usually the first, though: working title is usual the final title! 🙂

    • I used to think my first title was my final title… but then I realize that over the history of “Project SOA#1” it has had no fewer than 3 titles, and the series title has had no fewer than 4… And I further realize that “Book of M” will probably need a different title than the working title I’m currently using. (The working title refers to a place within the story, but I’m not sure if that title is sufficiently evocative of the mood and themes of the work as much as I’d like.) On the other hand, “PFTETD” retained the same title from dreadful first draft to final, more polished draft. In large part the story wsa an outgrowth of that title, and that’s part of why the title works so well for it, IMO…

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