It started out innocently enough. I wanted to write a book that would take me on a wild romp of stories I grew up with. "What could be wrong with that?" I thought. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing could go wrong." Somewhere in the back of my mind a little inimical worm sourly whispered words of caution. I ignored him. Smart, very smart. Two drafts into the book by the curious name of CORNERS (the plot revolved around 4 kids turning corners of pages and dropping in and out of 30 books) I have lost my old editor to a year off-work and landed a new editor who immediately made her first significant investment in my glorious writerly future. "Have you checked the copyright?" she asked. I was struck with a hot iron right in my face.
"I haven't," I thought with horror.
I HAVEN'T CHECKED COPYRIGHT OMG WHAT WILL HAPPEN NOW AHHHHH!!!
It took a week for me to recover. I have decided on the course of action. "I will make it into a parody!" thought I. "Ha, I will show them all!" Them being the vague establishments of some nefarious individuals who started the whole copyright affair back in the Publeolithic ages or whatever. "I thought, I will get you, my pretties! I will turn those nine pestilent books that are not in public domain into funny pompous jokes on themselves! There! Eat that!" I even shook a fist at them, I think. I vaguely remember that I did.
So, I have enthusiastically started writing the third draft and somewhere at chapter five I scratched my head in astonishment. There was a new thought, in my head. The title of the book didn't fit anymore. Because I had to switch gears so drastically and up the sarcasm factor a whole notch, the concept of turning corners went out the window, scuttled over the roof, and sat on the grass, where it was eaten by my neighbor's cat.
My cheeks aglow, I started thinking. I started feverishly roaming about my brain, and somehow it all clicked. The new story was born, and with it a new title. Those kids traveling from book to book? Those are bad kids, kids who don't finish reading books, and they are being "punished" (reverse psychology for you here, e.g. parody or satire or whatever) by falling into books. Bad kids. Bad. As I'm rereading LOTR and Moomin books at the moment, the image of little people kicked into gear, and the word bad blended with the idea of an -ing. You know, like a halfling (pun intended). And, voila! After having drilled my son on how he liked it and what would it make him think, the new title came to life.
Do you like it? Do you like it? DO YOU LIKE IT?? Tell me, or I'll die here. On top of this, an entire vocabulary presented itself to my demented mind. I give you a little glimpse (be in cahoot with me here and crack up):
- Badling: A bad child who doesn’t finish reading books and performs any of the following activities: kicks books, rips books, maims books, bends or smudges or in any other way dirties its pages, and in general disrespects books in any similarly terrible fashion.
- Biddy: The Book of Dead Pages. Every page on which a badling has stopped reading a book ends up in Biddy, no matter how much that page or its characters struggle against it.
- Paddy: The Pile of Dead Books. Every book whose author has been dead for less than 70 years ends up here. It’s a strange rule, isn’t it?
- Dumpy: The Dump of Very Dead Books. Every book whose author has been dead for more than 70 years ends up here. Don’t ask how this came about, or your brain might start smoking out of your ears.
- Weepy: Each book from Biddy that very much wanted a mention in this story. As all stories have to end, there simply weren’t enough pages for them, except the last one. For this they are eternally grateful. They have also asked me to tell every badling who has managed to finish reading this book to go back to them and finish reading them as well.
Now, don't get too excited yet, these are subject to change, as this is only Draft 3, and THE BADLINGS will require four drafts. The final draft will be completed just before I take off on my Amtrak adventure and start writing TUBE.
What does this title change means?? Several things.
- This is the first time I had to change the title of the book in the middle of writing it, as the title comes to me together with the key image and always stays the same. Here is a little blog post about naming books. I suppose I will be more careful in the future, making sure nothing prevents me from writing what I want (copyrighting cobwebs, for instance).
- To those of you who have ordered CORNERS, nothing much will change with the premise of the story! It will be funnier and will become a parody on many things. I have changed the title and had to part with the beautiful temporary cover by Eric Wilder, so you will see a hideous one here done by me.
- The term "badling" will now play a crucial role in the book, and I'm thinking...maybe...just maybe, depeding on how you guys like this book, I might write more books about other "badlings" visiting books. Just an idea.
- It means simply that no matter what happens in life, the book and with it the story will keep changing and growing in unexpected ways, and therein lies the fun of writing.
Okay, this is all the news. Tell me your titling stories in the comments, you will each get picked a new name by me, like Sculling Dwindler or The Gobbler of Tiffins, or something.
P.S.: Oh, and if you want to read my daily writing (about a chapter a day or 2K words), I post them for the rich people who have pledged me $1 per month on Patreon. Cough up the dough and marvel at my genius.
P.P.S.: And if any of you are wanting to write in characters from other books into yours, read this very informative article by a lawyer turned writer. By the way, you can use any of my characters anywhere, provided you license your work under Creative Commons just like I do.