Three of Jane Austen’s novels were originally called First Impressions, Elinor and Marianne and Susan. Even if one didn’t know this before now, it’s not hard to connect the first two titles to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. Northanger Abbey must have been completely rewritten to have been Susan first, unless Mrs. Allen is secretly named Susan and Austen felt compelled to have a working title based on her (which seems unlikely), for there is no Susan in the book.
Jane Austen had working titles, but they weren’t needed in her time. She could keep all of her papers in one location. I imagine them being in a drawer or box. There didn’t need to be a name, until there was more than one novel. She could give something a title after it was completed, which makes it more likely that the title would be the permanent one. After all, it isn’t as if she could just delete the old title and type in a new one. A new title required a new page, ink and time to write it.
With computer files, we need working titles. You can’t save a file without one. I have a file in my computer labeled PP3. Because of the directory it is in, I know it’s something I wrote with my co-author, Summer Hanford. I would have to open the file to see what it is.
Our book Poor Mr. Darcy had a working title of Georgiana Wickham because the reader finds out in the prologue that Wickham’s elopement with Georgiana succeeded. It was never intended to be the title of the book. Poor Mr. Darcy is a better title, partly because some characters felt sorry for him and partly because he was pretending to be relatively poor.
Working titles are particularly necessary when working with a co-author and having more than one book in the works. Until a book receives a final title, we have to talk about it. Since we use email, we need something we can both understand without immediate clarification. Right now, Summer has my draft of something we’re calling Charlotte because Charlotte has a large role in the story. But the book isn’t about her, it’s about Elizabeth and Darcy. I’m working on something called Foiled Elopement as well. Anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice should have a pretty good idea of what the title refers to. Will it be our final title? Well, it is a lot better than Charlotte, so the answer is maybe.
Here is the scene that generated the working title Deathbed Proposal. However, the title you need to use to find it is Her Final Wish. On the day Darcy was planning to propose to Elizabeth, she received a letter saying her mother was very sick. Darcy brought her to Longbourn and came into the house with her.
Her Final Wish Excerpt
“[Jane] couldn’t get Mr. Bingley.” Her mother let out a little sob, tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. “She needs a rich husband who will support all of you. Your father didn’t take care of you. He should have saved. I told him again and again he needed to put aside something for you, but he didn’t.”
Elizabeth clasped her mother’s bony hand in hers, tears wetting her cheeks as well. That wasn’t how she remembered it. There were arguments about money, but always her mother wanted to spend and her father wanted to save. She shook her head, for what did that matter now? “We’ll be well, Mother,” she said, trying to infuse certainty into her tone.
Her mother finally turned to her and Elizabeth suppressed a gasp to see her pupils so large, they seemed to fill her eyes. She dragged her other hand across the sheets, her thin fingers scrambling at Elizabeth’s sleeve. “You must marry. Marry the first rich man you can find who will have you. Mr. Bennet says you’re the clever one. Find a husband and I can die in peace. Marry him as soon as possible. You must do this for me.”
“If I can,” Elizabeth said, squeezing the words past the harsh lump of pain clogging her throat. “I will do it.”
“Promise me you will,” her mother said. “Promise.”
Elizabeth nodded. “I will, Mama, I promise. If I can, I will,” she repeated, for she would have vowed most anything in that moment to bring her mother peace, especially something as unlikely as finding a rich man willing to wed her.
“You won’t,” her mother sobbed. “You won’t. You are contrary. Always contrary. You will see your sisters starve. Oh Lizzy, how can you let me die knowing you and your sisters will starve?” She started coughing, her breath coming in wheezing gasps.
Elizabeth clutched her mother’s hand tighter. How could she reassure her? She must settle her mother back down. Her mother needed to be calm, to rest. It was obvious her strength was nearly gone. In the flickering light, while rending coughs racking her frame, sweat blossomed on her mother’s pale face, mingling with her tears.
“Mama, I will, I will, I promise,” Elizabeth all but chanted. “Please, don’t worry. Please rest.”
With a shudder, her mother fell back against her pillows, so limp Elizabeth feared she was gone. Then she sucked in a shallow, sputtering breath. Wide eyes fixed on Elizabeth’s face once more. “All of my babies are going to die,” her mother sobbed in a small, keening wail.
“No, Mama, Jane will marry a rich man, and I shall try to as well, I swear to you.”
Mutely, her mother shook her head, tears making bright, candlelit trails down her otherwise dull cheeks.
“She will,” a deep, rich male voice said.
Elizabeth swiveled to see Mr. Darcy step away from the wall. He came to stand beside the chair in which she sat. She stared up at him, confused, having forgotten he was even there.
“Who is there? Who is it, Lizzy?”
Elizabeth turned back to find her mother squinting up at them, her ravaged features devoid of recognition, even though the candle now wrapped a small circle of light about the three of them.
Mr. Darcy leaned down, bringing his face alongside Elizabeth’s, so near she could feel the heat of him on her cheek. She was once again enveloped in his warm scent, so peacefully at odds with the purveying odor of her mother’s sickroom.
“It’s Mr. Darcy,” he said. “Elizabeth can marry a wealthy man who will provide for your daughters. I will marry her.”
Elizabeth struggled to control her surprise, focusing on maintaining a soothing facade for her mother. What was he saying? He turned slightly, his breath caressing her cheek, and gave an almost imperceptible nod. Elizabeth blinked, realizing he meant to pretend he would wed her, as a kindness to her mother. She was surprised he was willing to, even under so dire a circumstance. Suppose her mother recovered? It would be very embarrassing for him to explain that it wasn’t a real engagement. He was kinder than she’d imagined.
“Mr. Darcy?” her mother repeated in a whisper. A calmness seemed to settle over her. She sank deeper into the bed, the hand Elizabeth held going limp. “How wonderful. Mr. Darcy. You are going to marry my Lizzy?” Her mother sighed, her eyes fluttering closed. They slid back open a moment later, flickering to Mr. Darcy’s face. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer Jane? She’s prettier. And Lydia is more good-natured. Mary is more accomplished.”
“It is Elizabeth or no one,” Mr. Darcy said, the hint of a smile on his lips.
“And you promise to marry her?” Elizabeth’s mother pressed, her eyes drooping back closed.
“I promise to marry her.”
“And you, Lizzy? Will you be biddable this one time? Will you think of your sisters?”
Elizabeth had to lean forward to catch the words, they were spoken so softly. Fresh tears slid down her cheeks. “I promise to marry Mr. Darcy, Mama.”
“Then I can die. You won’t need me anymore.”
Which title do you think is better, Deathbed Proposal or Her Final Wish?
What are some fun working titles you’ve had that didn’t make it onto the final book?
Now, for the GIVEAWAY! To celebrate Her Final Wish, we’re giving away two Kindle copies!
To enter, just comment below. The GIVEAWAY will end at midnight EST on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017. Winners will be announced on Saturday, the 25th.