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A husband, a father. Short story writing, long story procrastinating. Would really like a piece of me to be on this planet forever.

Hate social media. Love my own company. Need a cave if anyone has one for sale. Or even just a cubby hole.

My Forums
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Hello Townhouse. This post is to highlight the benefits of this community.Firstly, due to my introve…
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  •  · Thanks Helen, I appreciate that. I'm not worried about where I'm placed. The important thing for me …
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Hello residents of Townhouse. In light of recent conversation about feedback being publicly accessib…
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  •  · Cool, thanks, Christa. And welcome.
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This made me chuckle.https://youtu.be/arj7oStGLkUAre you a serial procrastinator? If so, how do you …
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  •  · I like to tell myself that procrastination is part of the creative process and allows my sub-conscio…
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Hello everyone. I've pulled a version of an old story out of the archives to play around with, and w…
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  •  · I guess so. The translator herself won an award for the book. 
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Hello all.I was wondering what other feedback/critique websites people use, if any. I recently looke…
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  •  · Thanks for asking Charlie, I'm going to have a look at both suggestions, thank you too L.  
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Hello wonderful people. Could I please trouble you for feedback on a revised short story I posted a …
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  •  · Thanks for this, Rick. Some great points to work with.
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Hello Townhouse. This post is to highlight the benefits of this community.

Firstly, due to my introverted nature, and my distrust of things internet, I created the Charlie Brown alias. But, 1)I've slowly began to relax my views and 2)Because everyone here has been so kind and helpful over the past however long I've been a member, recently, I've fellt guilty about misleading you.

So this is me.

Secondly, some good news. Some of you know of my recent shortlisted story entry. Limbic Street to Memory Lane. Romance of the Lost Souls, formerly A Never-Ending Love and the Forgotten Ghosts of Jasper's Park, formerly The Unforgotten Ghosts of Jasper's Park.
Well, it came 3rd place in what I think could be a relatively small press. But, after three years of rejections, and me very nearly giving up trying, this success was really needed. The only reasons the success came about is because of the confidence that being among my peers here has given me. This helped me persevere. Also the feedback that was given on this story was paramount, a big thanks to those who contributed. You know who you are.

Lastly, please don't congratulate. Just accept my deepest gratitude and keep doing what you're all doing. Members and staff included. I've poked my head into other communites, but always end up coming here to touch base, even if I don't talk, I watch and learn.

Here's the link if you'd like to have a look. The story is very slightly altered.  https://www.henshawpress.co.uk/september-2020/


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Hello residents of Townhouse. 

In light of recent conversation about feedback being publicly accessible, would anyone be willing to recieve a private message containing a piece for a Novellette-in-Flash competition?

It is of just over 4k words.

The requirement was to create small stand alone stories of no more than 500 words each that all fit into the whole narrative arc.

This was written a good few months ago, but the competition was cancelled and has now reopened. 

It hasn't been touched since, and I'm not even going to look at it prior to sending to any willing participants. I believe (or hope at least) that my writing has evolved a little since then, and don't want to tamper with it yet.

Any feedback would be most welcome. Particularly if you think each stories work as stories within themselves. And I suppose I'm kinda wanting to know if it needs a complete rewrite, and need to ask myself if I'm willing to do it.

Thank you. I'm off to write something else now.

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This made me chuckle.


Are you a serial procrastinator? If so, how do you overcome it? How do you motivate yourself and get those creative juices flowing? Do you wollow in self loathing or accept it?

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Hello everyone. I've pulled a version of an old story out of the archives to play around with, and would appreciate your wise words. If you don't mind.

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Hello all.

I was wondering what other feedback/critique websites people use, if any. I recently looked at Scribophile, but would rather not pay the money if it isn't useful. 

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Hello wonderful people. Could I please trouble you for feedback on a revised short story I posted a few days ago?  ps, If you haven't read the other one, please read this first so that your views aren't influenced. Thanking you.

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Here is a short story that I would love some feedback on. Many thanks in advance. 

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Reposted Ben J Henry's group.

I'm new to Oxford and Jericho Writers, and thought it might be helpful to have a place where we can submit sentences that we would like feedback on, whether we are struggling with them, proud of them, or just testing them out. Critiquing a sentence is certainly less daunting than a paragraph or chapter, encouraging more of us to chip in. While the Elements of Style and Google can answer many of our questions, nothing beats feedback from a fellow writer!

As with the other groups, there's no judgement here; we're all learning.

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Hi all.

Would anyone be interested in receive a private message containing a short story to critique?  The story, which is for a max 5000 limit competition is linked to another one I posted on here a while ago that is to be rewritten in the hope that both will eventually become part of a series.

Of all the writing habits I have, one of the worst – the worst from good financial sense point of view – is that I like writing LONG books.

My first novel was a spine-breaking 180,000 words. Not one of my novels has ever been less than 110,000 words. The first “short story” I wrote was 8,000 words, which is to say miles too long to be an actual short story. Heck, even this email is likely to be far longer than any other email you get in your inbox today.

Ah well. There are some things you can’t fight, and my addiction to length is one of them.

But that also means that when it comes to short-form copy, I’m at a loss.

I’m not especially good at book blurbs, which want to be about 100-120 words (depending a bit on layouts and where you’re expecting them to appear.) Since titles need to be short and punchy, I’m not especially good at those either.

In a word: I’m pretty damn rubbish when it comes to coming up with titles … and this email is going to tell you how to write them.

Which means if you want to ignore the entire contents of what follows, on the basis that I obviously, obviously, obviously don’t know what I’m talking about, then I have to say that the evidence is very much in your favour.

That said, I think it’s clear enough what a title needs to do. It wants to:

  1. Be highly consistent with your genre
  2. Offer some intrigue – for example, launch a question in the mind of the reader
  3. Ideally, it’ll encapsulate “the promise of the premise” in a few very short words, distilling the essence of your idea down to its very purest form.

The genre-consistency is the most essential, and the easiest to achieve. It matters a lot now that so many books are being bought on Amazon, because book covers – at the title selection stage – are no more than thumbnails. A bit bigger than a phone icon, but really not much. So yes, the cover has to work hard and successfully in thumbnail form, but the title has more work to do now than it did before.

Genre consistency is therefore key. Your title has to say to your target readers, “this is the sort of book that readers like you like”. It has to invite the click through to your book page itself. That’s its task.

The intrigue is harder to do, but also kinda obvious. “Gone Girl” works because of the Go Girl / Gone Girl pun, and those double Gs, and the brevity. But it also works because it launches a question in the mind of the reader: Who is this girl and why has she gone? By contrast, “The Girl on the Train” feels a little flat to me. There are lots of women on lots of trains. There’s nothing particularly evocative or intriguing in the image. I don’t as it happens think that book was much good, but I don’t think the title stood out either. (I think the book sold well because of some pale resemblances between the excellent Gone Girl and its lacklustre sister. The trade, desperate for a follow-up hit to Gone Girl, pounced on whatever it had.)

The third element in a successful title – the “promise of the premise” one – is really hard to do. I’ve not often managed it, and I’ve probably had a slightly less successful career as a result.

So what works? Well, here are some examples of titles that do absolutely nail it:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Brilliant! That title didn’t translate the rather dour and serious Swedish original (Man Som Hatar Kvinnor / Men Who Hate Women). Rather it took the brilliance of the central character and captured her in six words. She was a girl (vulnerable), and she had a tattoo (tough and subversive), and the tattoo was of a dragon (exotic and dangerous). That mixture of terms put the promise of the book’s premise right onto the front cover and propelled the book’s explosive success.

Incidentally, you’ll notice that the title also completely excludes mention of Mikael Blomkvist, who is as central to that first book as Salander is. But no one bought the book for Blomkvist and no one remembers the book for Blomkvist either. So the title cut him out, and did the right thing in doing so.

The Da Vinci Code

Brilliant. Dan Brown is fairly limited as a writer, but it was a stroke of genius to glue together the idea of ancient cultural artefacts with some kind of secret code. Stir those two things up with a bit of Holy Grail myth-making and the result (for his audience) was commercial dynamite.

And – boom! – that dynamite was right there in the title too. The Da Vinci part namechecks the world’s most famous artist. The Code part promises that there are secret codes to be unravelled.

Four words delivering the promise of the premise in full.

I let You Go

This was Clare Mackintosh’s breakout hit, about a mother whose young son was killed in a hit-and-run car accident. The promise of the premise is right there in four very short words … and given a first person twist, which just adds a extra bite to the hook in question. A brilliant bit of title-making.


So that’s what a title wants to do. A few last comments to finish off.

One, I think it’s fair to say that it’s quite rare a title alone does much to propel sale success.

Because there are a lot of books out there, and because everyone’s trying to do the same thing, there’s not much chance to be genuinely distinctive. My fifth Fiona Griffiths novel was called The Dead House, but there are at least three other books on Amazon with that title, or something very like it. That didn’t make my title bad, in fact – it did the promise of the premise thing just fine – but I certainly couldn’t say my title was so distinctive it did anything much for sales.

Two, if you’re going for trad publishing, it’s worth remembering that absolutely any title you have in mind at the moment is effectively provisional. If your publishers don’t like it, they’ll ask you to change it. And if they don’t like your title #2, they’ll ask you to come up with some others. In short, if, like me, you’re bad at titles, you just don’t need to worry too much (if you’re going the trad publishing route, that is.) There’s be plenty of opportunity to hone your choice well prior to publication.

Three, you don’t want to think about title in isolation. There should, ideally, be a kind of reverberation between your title and the cover. That reverberation should be oblique rather than direct. Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go had for its cover image a butterfly trapped against a window – a metaphorical reference to the anguish of the book’s premise. If instead it had shown a mother obviously distraught as a car struck her son, the cover – and title – would have seemed painfully clunky and ridiculous.

If you get a great cover image that doesn’t work with your chosen title, then change the title. If you have a superb title and your cover designer’s image is too directly an illustration of it, then change the image. That title/cover pairing is crucial to your sales success, so you can afford no half-measures in getting it right.

That’s all from me.

My kids are making elderflower cordial and singing as they do so. They are also wearing helmets for no reason that I can possibly understand.

Till soon


PS: Want to know what I think of your title? Then I’ll tell you. Just pop your title (plus short description of your book) in the comments below. I’ll tell you what I think.

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