Saturday 8 February 2014

Twice Upon A Time

I have just met the deadline to send the completed first draft of That Book to a friend and colleague for preliminary reading and editing by the end of January, so am in a reflective space (whilst awaiting, with some trepidation, his comments).

One thing I have realised is that the working title I had adopted some years ago now seems rather tired to me.  That could be projection, of course!

I had been calling it: Freeing People to Perform - How changing their stories can transform people

However, over dinner with some canny folk from Cardiff University, I mentioned that, and it fell rather flat, so I also admitted that I was beginning to wonder if a better title might be Twice Upon a Time. They thought that was a much more interesting title, and so do I. So  I am toying with Twice Upon a Time: The Art of Multistory Development.  (However, a quick google search for images to illustrate this post suggests that the title has twice been used already, so I may have to re-think!) Thrice Upon a Time would also work for my purposes, yet some how feels less satisfying. (It has been used by Odette England as the title for an artwork, but not, as far as I can see, as a book title.)

I would, of course, be grateful for any feedback on that.

I have also been reflecting on the multiple, and competing, stories I have about myself as a writer, which in many ways exemplify some of the main ideas of the book.

Some of these stories are:

The Aspiring Writer
The Self-deluding Pretend Writer
The Successful Writer

These vie for dominance in my thinking, as I variously work on the book, procrastinate, and get positive feedback from others on drafts.

But also, I can choose to attend more to one (say the last) than the others, and seek out evidence to strengthen that story in my mind, and commit to delivering more evidence of its truth: and that is helpful.

That is also, in essence, what the book is about.


In discussion with my wife and co-Director, we have arrived at another possibility:

Twice Upon A Time: How Multistory Development can improve organisational performance.

That is designed to make it clear this is a work-related book.  Feedback welcome!


  1. "Twice Upon a Time: The Art of Multistory Development." I like, but why does it have to be twice, or even thrice? However, I also believe that something should say what it does on the tin, in which case "Freeing People to Perform - How changing their stories can transform people" does the job. Sorry, I guess that doesn't really help!

  2. Thanks Nick: you have articulated my dilemma very well!

  3. BTW Nick, did you post your comment before the Update: which tries to address some of that problem?

  4. Andy, I like the idea of "Twice Upon a Time" with a subheading that shows it's work-related, as you (and your co-director!) conclude. You'd have to revise it for American readers, though. Not only does "organisational" look odd with the "s" in the middle, but also in American English there's no distinction between "story" and "storey", so "multistory development" would definitely conjure up the image of a housing estate...!

  5. I'm agreeing with Nick somewhat here - in the age of 'Search', what will people be looking for? I'm amazed that Twice upon a Time has been used elsewhere as it's not a phrase that's in my vocabulary (and I have had a lot of self-improvement books in my time!). Maybe 'freeing people to perform - How Multistory Development can improve organisational performance.'?

  6. Hmm not sure I'm going to help much but here we go. I actually like your first original title - says what the book is about but I guess the alliteration of people twice is not good in the same title. I agree the Twice upon a Time is natty and it will stick in people's minds but it does need to be followed by something that makes sense of what the phrase means otherwise its confusing because its not something we use commonly. 'Multistory' is a term that I associate with car parks more than multiple stories or life scripts (not sure which one your proposing or indeed whether you see a difference?) but his could just be me. I dont know if this helps but how about "Twice Upon a Time: The Development of Different (or Multiple?) Life Stories to Improve Personal and Organizational Performance". Twice upon a time becomes a metaphor for the changing life story/script and the dual outcome for self and organization?

  7. Thanks for all these interesting and useful comments.

    Some good ideas, which have also helped me clarify what I want to get across:

    1) This is interesting and different
    2) It is about stories, but not like those other books about stories
    3) It is a business book
    4) It offers business benefits
    5) If possible something about the fact that it explores the multiple stories we construct to make sense of reality, and how we can strengthen the positive ones, and disempower or even de-construct the negative ones, for ourselves and for others.

    How's that for a catchy title?!

    Liz: good point about the American Market: if they can't cope with the word Philosopher in the first Harry Potter title, I clearly need to take professional advice.

    Bex: thanks for comment on Google search. Clearly, I need to think about search optimisation.

    Teena (and LIz): I quite like multi story, but maybe you are right and it simply conjours up the wrong image. It is not about the over-arching life stories, so much as all the day to day ones; and team/organisational [organizational] stories, too...

    Clearly more work to be done here.

  8. The suggestion that caught my eye the most was Nick's: "Freeing People to Perform - How changing their stories can transform people".

    I also have someone in mind who I think would benefit hugely from reading your book - when is it due out?!

    1. Thanks Marion; though of course, I think everyone would benefit hugely from reading my book! I hope it will be out this year, but there's some way to go.

  9. Hi Andrew
    Just picked this up in Torino! I like the original title and would consider adding "understanding and" to changing their stories can transform people. Really like the concept of multiple stories although the term multistory does conjure up car parks for me. Well done for getting this project so far and I look forward to the launch of your publication.
    Best, Jo