Title Or Story: Which Should You Write First? | Writer’s Relief

Aug 23, 2023 | Writing Tips

Title Or Story: Which Should You Write First? | Writer’s Relief

The title of your story should immediately grab your audience’s attention: If it’s a dud, no one will read the story. But how can you create a great title if you haven’t yet written the story? On the other hand, how will you write a strong, cohesive narrative if you don’t have the guidance of a title to keep you on track? Which should you write first: the title or the story? The experts at Writer’s Relief have some writing tips and advice to help you solve this “which comes first, the chicken or the egg” conundrum.

Title First Or Story First? Here’s How To Decide

The Title: Your Story’s First Impression. Most people will use the title to decide whether or not they want to read your story. This makes your title one of the most important marketing tactics you can employ, so it shouldn’t be something you slap on as an afterthought once you’ve finished writing the narrative.

Your story’s title should be something short, unique, and memorable. “A Walk” probably won’t grab your readers’ attention, but “A Walk to Remember” or “The Long Walk” are more intriguing options that will make your audience pause and wonder what the story might be about.

An intriguing title can help inspire what your story is about and where it goes. Starting with an unusual title like “The Veldt” may help you make connections, create descriptions, and discover plot twists that wouldn’t appear in a story with a different title.

If you use your title to guide your writing, you’ll create a story that’s focused and keeps your readers engaged. It will also be easier to stay within the publishing industry’s preferred word count of 3,500 words or fewer, since you’ll be less likely to deviate from the main plot or action.

The Story: The Focus Of Your Title. Sometimes, your inspiration is a great plot twist or storyline, rather than a title. You start putting together the setting, themes, and main characters without any concrete idea for the story’s title. As the story develops, you may also get ideas about possible titles.

Many authors use a working title or temporary name for the story. It’s very common that, as the story progresses, you discover a title that works better than your original idea. For example, Jane Austen’s original title for Pride and Prejudice was First Impressions, and Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace was originally entitled All’s Well That Ends Well. So feel free to change the title of your story as often as it takes to land on the one that works best.

The Title Or The Story: You Decide. Ultimately, the choice is yours. Whether you start with the story first or the title, go with what works for you and your writing style. You might even create a story map and use a combination of the title and story elements to guide you.

Once your story is proofread, polished, and finished, the research experts at Writer’s Relief can help you with your next decision: Where should you submit your story or book? We can help target the best markets and boost your odds of getting an acceptance or an agent request. Learn more about our services, and submit your writing sample to our Review Board today!


Question: Do you usually start with the title or the story when you write?