The Backstreets of Purgatory

By Helen Taylor

Caravaggio in Glasgow: A Tale of Art, Insanity and Irn Bru

Monday, 1 August 2016

UndistinguiSHED (and otherwise generally rubbish) working titles

Quiz time.

No cheating. Well, you can cheat as much as you like. You are only cheating yourself. See, I missed my calling as a school teacher. No, actually I didn't; I had a short stint subbing and was a disaster due to my inability to keep a straight face. 

Science class. We’re doing respiration worksheets. We’ve been doing respiration worksheets for days. We’ve done aerobic respiration, anaerobic respiration. We’ve done yeast. We’ve done lungs. We’ve done fish. 

Me: So, let’s recap. Boy number 1, can you tell me how gills are adapted for respiration?

Long pause. Genuine confusion on said boy number 1’s face. Brain contortions to dig out some kind of response. 

Eventually, mortified: Dunno, Dr Taylor. Because they have big breasts?

Me: splutters of laughter that spray most of the kids sitting on the front row.

Is it just me, or does girls not have an ‘r’ in the middle?

I digress. 

Quiz time. Rubbish working titles. Can you guess the published version?

  1. The meaningless stock phrase version: All’s Well That Ends Well
  2. The Ronseal version: Strangers from Within
  3. The version exploiting the interesting name of one of your characters: Atticus
  4. The semi-descriptive (until you changed the focus of the book) version: House of Faith
  5. The ‘line out of the text’ title: Tomorrow is Another Day
  6. The version that would have revealed to the world sooner what type of paranoid psychopath you really were if you hadn’t changed it to something less ranting: Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice
  7. The version that is so boring it must have bored itself off the front cover: Something That Happened


Confession time. Rubbish working titles of Backstreets (in the same categories)

  1. The Opposite of Life (The best thing about this title was I could abbreviate it to TOOL. I still affectionately refer to my novel as TOOL with some of my writing friends.)
  2. Caravaggio in Glasgow. Caravaggio in Partick. Caravaggio in the Backstreets of Partick. Yes, all clumsy and unwieldy, although they served as subtitles for some of the more obscure (but utterly hilarious or sublimely poetic) phrases I later chose. However I was told by an agent during a pitching session that under no circumstances should I have a subtitle. Under NO circumstances. Novels these days do NOT have subtitles. But with Unbound I can have Caravaggio in Glasgow as my strap line. Tah-dah. Win win.
  3. The Second Death of Finn J Garvie (don’t worry that isn’t a spoiler; it never made any sense even before I changed the focus of the book). 
  4. A Hint of Rigor Mortis (Was told it sounded like a police procedural so I might write one just so I can use the title).
  5. An Echo of the Sublime (Yeah, okay, but I liked it. Was told that it sounded like the title of a non-fiction book. Why? Haven’t the foggiest. Also told it didn’t give any hints to what the book was about. Hence the SUBTITLE. Obviously.)
  6. I am not a paranoid psychopath. At least not at the moment. Honest.
  7. Something that Happened in Partick. No, I lie. But honestly, Something That Happened? It is so bad, it is absolute genius. Especially as it is fiction. Fiction as in made-up, invented, not based on real events. Surely, it should be Something That Didn’t Happen. Man, I can feel a best seller coming on.

Answers to the quiz and more gems besides to be found in the excellent article from which I nicked the idea.

If you haven’t already, please consider pledging for the magnificently titled The Backstreets of Purgatory. Otherwise I might be forced to write Something That Didn't Happen (in Partick).

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