I can’t quite believe…

I can't quite believe how close I am to the end of the YA fantasy novel. It's kind of scary, actually. When it's still being written, I can pretend that it can be everything I want it to be. It exists in some sort of Platonic ideal of the book in my head, as well as the thing on the page. When it's done -- well, then it's just the thing on the page, and must rise or fall on its own merits. Scary.

I'm aiming for 20 chapters + epilogue. I'm in the midst of chapter 20 now, and have part of the epilogue written too. If Kevin can give me a little time to work this weekend, it's entirely reasonable that I will finish this draft this weekend -- which means I will have actually accomplished my goal of writing the book this summer. School starts on Monday.

Of course, it's not really done. I think this first draft is going to end up around 50,000 words, which is short even for a YA. I think the finished version will be closer to 70-80K; in the next draft, I plan to go through and add a lot more texture to the story. Lots more backstory and other incidents to illustrate character, let you understand what shaped these people and led them to make the choices they made. But I actually think the plot of the story, the bones of its structure, are pretty well set. I like it. I like it a lot. I hope my agent does too, and then a publisher, and then lots and lots and lots of readers. Eep.

I'm a little sick of calling it the YA fantasy novel, but I haven't settled on a title yet. New working title, The Lost Princess: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book I. What do you think? Would you pick that up? Originally it had a Tamil word for the title, either "Arasi" or "Rasathi" (queen / princess), but I don't know whether those would just seem obscure. Of course, there was "Eragon," but on the other hand, that book had a big old dragon on the cover. Opinions?

Or, looking at this chart of popular fantasy titles, I could name it DRAGON SHADOW MAGIC and just ignore the fact that there are no dragons in it. There are garudas -- that's close enough, right?

Update: My friend from high school, Katy Everett, is a schoolteacher, and pointed out that her boys wouldn't be caught dead reading a book with princess in the title. Oops. Okay, so that has to go, because there are two great viewpoint guys in this book, and I definitely want boys to read it. Some other possibilities that are reasonably resonant / appropriate for the book:

  • Arasi: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • Rasathi: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • The Lost Ones: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • Powers: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • The Thousand-Year War: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • Flame and Shadow: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
  • Palace on the Mountain: The Mahdava Trilogy, Book One
Ugh. Now I dislike them all. I hate titling.

11 thoughts on “I can’t quite believe…”

  1. Just from having worked in a library, I can tell you that an interesting/ethnic title isn’t going to put teens off…I like your working title with the Tamil in it….

  2. I like your working title, especially with the subtitle. I’d pick it up.

    I might be wrong but I think garuda is a word that’s about to cross over. Don’t know how central they are to the book, but if you called it something with garuda — the garuda chronicles? — then you could follow the Eragon model and have a picture of a big ol’ garuda on the cover. If it were my book, I’d worry that The Lost Princess would be just begging for an overly exoticized Indian princess cover.

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Hmm…not really central, I’m afraid. They won’t be in book two or three much at all, unless something changes, so they wouldn’t work for a subtitle.

    But there’s actually a reasonable argument for them being a metaphor for all the action in the first book. Hmm.. So I guess this would be a possibility:

    Garuda: The Mahdava Chronicles, Book One

    I dunno, though. Too much ethnic stuff in one title?

    Now I want to put an exclamation point on it.


  4. Really, really like the titles with the Tamil/Tamizh words! The Thousand-Year War is also pleasantly thrilling.

    Need to ask: Is “Mahdava” a Sinhala word? The form I know from Sanskrit–“Madhava” has intensely religious connotations.

  5. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Hmm…I honestly don’t know about Mahdava — I think I got it from a Tamil name list, meaning vernal or springtime. What are the religious connotations? I might want to avoid those and choose a different name for the island nation.

  6. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Also, I spelled all those wrong because I was typing fast — I checked in the book, and it is in fact Madhava. Sigh. Which, now that I look at it, Americans will likely pronounce like ‘mad’ and ‘hava’, accent on the second syllable, which would drive me crazy. Argh.

  7. I may have exaggerated with the “intensely religious” bit. It certainly crops us in a lot of vaishnavite-bridal mysticism as a name for Vishnu. It could indeed mean springtime in Tamil.

    And the idea of a kingdom named for spring is absolutely lovely. There’s also Vasantha (Sanskrit) Vasantham (Tamil) for spring. Would those less likely to be mispronounced?

    Mah-dava, the way you spelled it, has a good sound too–it’s vaguely reminiscent of the Mahabharata.

  8. I’m very bad at titling and I haven’t read your book yet, so I’ll abstain from a vote. (Although the Tamil, I think—PASTY WHITE PERSON WITH NO FOREIGN LANGUAGES SPEAKING–is distracting. One word is interesting (“I wonder what Mahdava means?”), two is sort of distancing (“This book must be for someone else.”) I kind of like “Powers.” Simple, intriguing. I guess if you know what the other two books are about, you might consider how the titles of all three would work together.

    Or is your next book Dragon Shadow Magic?

  9. One thing to consider: fantasy novels (especially epic fantasy novels, especially series names) have a long tradition of using unfamiliar words in the titles. It’s not just Eragon, and it’s not just dragons. Consider:

    The Hobbit
    The Sword of Shannara
    The Silmarillion
    The Chronicles of Prydain
    Kushiel’s Dart
    Elric of Melnibone
    The Belgariad (though the individual titles did use entirely English words)
    The Malloreon (including King of the Murgos, Demon Lord of Karanda, Sorceress of Darshive, and The Seeress of Kell)

    So I suspect that most white readers who’ve read a fair bit of fantasy who see Tamil words in your title wouldn’t say “Oh, weird, this story is in Tamil or something”; they would say “Oh, okay, this is an epic fantasy trilogy featuring made-up place- and person-names from the fictional world.”

    I’m just guessing here. I admit that one reason it took me ten years to read Tigana was that I was put off by the title. (In retrospect it’s the perfect title for the book, but it didn’t give me anything to hold onto.) Then again, I’m not really an epic fantasy reader.

    …Lori may well have a point about multiple non-English words in a given title, though. Still, I think in most contexts the series name and the volume title don’t have equal prominence on covers and in marketing; my gut feeling (for which I have no evidence) is that in most cases, the books are either known by their individual titles or by the series title, but that most people most of the time don’t think of a book’s title as also including the series title.

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