11/23/2010 01:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Making of a Novel: Polling the Experts

Last week, I did a book signing at a Holiday Gift fair at a local school. A local bookseller had a table of great gift-giving books laid out, and I sat in front of a stack of my three novels, ready to personalize them for anyone who wanted one. We had a blast. The bookseller got to talk about her favorite books of the year, and I had a steady stream of customers, including at least three buyers who said they always give their grown children signed books for the holidays.I personalized books for daughters and daughters-in-law, and also sisters and moms, and wondered why I had never come up with this tradition in my own home. It's such a sweet idea.

I had with me a single piece of paper on which I had listed some of the title candidates for my novel-in-progress. Whenever I got into a conversation with a book buyer of a book browser, I asked them if they'd like to vote on the titles. Every single person who I asked wanted in on the action. I had a very short synopsis of the book, which some wanted to read first, while others wanted to pick the title blind.

Some of the title candidates included:

  • The Lipstick Secret
  • Blood Red Lipstick
  • Perfect Red
  • A Perfect Secret
  • The Lipstick Story
  • Lipstick Wars
  • The Secretary's First Story
  • The Secretary's Own Story
  • The Secretary's Story
  • The Typist's Story
  • Someone Else's Story

It was that last one -- Someone Else's Story -- which was the hands-down winner. And so when I sat down to write this morning, I changed the filename on my novel-in-progress. This small act helps me focus my work and hone in on what it's really about. I wrote for an hour and a half under this new banner, and it felt good. It felt right.

I'm doing another holiday book signing in a few weeks, and I may come up with a whole new list of titles just to see if this one still prevails.