(Originally published on June 11, 2018 by Amazing Stories.)
My personal blog has caused quite the tiny stir the past few days. It just celebrated its two-week anniversary (the longest I have made any blog of mine last) and already had 500 followers in those two weeks. It is not a couple days later and that number is nearing 600, with over 400 views and 200 visitors each day. I’ve been getting numerous emails and comments from followers and other blog peepers asking me to share my “secrets” about how my blog is growing so rapidly. I’m not going to, because I think they already know what they need to do; they’re just not doing it. I am, however, going to talk a little bit about something many of them ARE NOT doing right (in my humble opinion) that not only applies to blogs, but writing in general.
I’m talking about titles. To me, the title is the most important part of any work because it is the first words the reader gets to read. It tells them what it is about, sets the overall tone of the book, and ignites a spark in their mind that will help their imaginations to wild once they get into the story or poem itself. For a blog, it’s an entrance into the blogosphere. You want the title to be good otherwise who is going to want to read it? The title not only speaks for the work or blog itself, but for the author. It gives you a little peek inside their mind and whether or not they are worthy of being read or not. To paint a little picture of what I mean, let me use a few of my now-defunct blog titles as examples.
I have started and quit so many little blogs over the years I can’t even remember them all, but the earliest that I do remember was called Idkhowtowrite. I think I was 23 or 24 when I had that one going. I wish I could go back in time and ask the previous incarnation of myself what the hell I was doing running a blog if he didn’t know how to write. Who in their right mind would want to visit a site with a title like that? He deserves a big slap on the head for that one.
The next blog I created a couple of years later somehow got the name The Novice Student of Writing. Never mind that “novice” and “student” mean exactly the same thing, but isn’t that the lamest title you’ve ever heard in your life? It practically screams “I don’t know what I’m doing.” I like to joke that I must have been drunk when I came up with that name, but the truth is I probably thought I was being clever and creative. Oh what I would do to that version of myself if I had the ability of time travel…
After a month or so I stopped blogging again but left The Novice Student of Writing up on the intrawebs, in case I ever decided to come back to it. To my credit that is one thing I did right blogging-wise, because at the end of May 2018 I chose to take it up again. Struggling to keep from barfing when I remembered what I had named it, the first thing I did before my first post was change it’s name to CrapPile. There. FINALLY something catchy. Two words combined into one with the visual aid of a second capital letter halfway through it, it was catchy. It drags people in and gets them interested because it doesn’t give much away. It’s not too presumptuous. I actually get quite a bit of praise about the blog’s name, and sadly I wish I could say that I pay the same compliments back to people. But I can’t.
Let me reiterate; the title is the most important part of a story or blog. If you want your work to be successful, the first step is giving it a good title. That’s why neither Idkhowtowrite, it’s predecessors, or it’s successor The Novice Student of Writing earned a single follower. It’s also part of the reason CrapPile is doing so well as it is in such a short period of time. In contrast, one of my loyal followers has had his blog for over five years and has yet to reach 200 followers. I’m not going to embarrass him, so let me call him D.D. His blog is simply “D D’s Blog”. First thing the reader says is, “Who is D.D.?” But my pondering is not really enough to make me want to visit the site. Now if it were called “Stephen King’s Blog” that’d be a whole different story. We alone know who Stephen King is and how great a writer his is, so it’s a given his blog is going to be great. But we don’t know who D.D. is; his name does it lend his blog title any credence.
The same can be said about fiction. Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is as plain and unoriginal a title as any in literary history, and doesn’t want me to rush as the book in the way that Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” does. You can almost literally feel the emotion and horror reaching out to you from that title. “The Road” does absolutely nothing for you. It is just too simple and common. IT might be the exception to the rule, though; it is already being hailed as a classic, though at the same time there is a growing movement of backlash towards the book, one that the title will do nothing to protect against. Nevertheless, the books that already have withstood the rest of time and have become classics have all had great titles.
I will be the first to admit from my own personal experience that a few words at the top of the page, website, or on the cover of a book are not solely responsible for any kindness of failure or success that comes after them, but it is a start. Just like the hook at the beginning of an essay drawing the reader in, so does the title act as the first splash of the bobble, drawing in the first attention. The better the bobble, the better the catch.
The better the title, the better the audience.