If I have not been given a title by the publisher who has commissioned the book, I often start by giving my books a working title just so I can have something written on the page. A blank page is daunting and I always write something to start myself off even if I go back and change it later.
It is better not to get too attached to your working title as publishers often want to change them anyway. I learnt this the hard way and it was definitely a case of killing your darlings. Nowadays I never expect the same title to be on the finished published article, short story or book. I have written quite a few short stories for a variety of national women’s magazines and most of them were published under different titles.
However, it never hurts to give the title of your stories, features and books some serious consideration as this will be the first words the editors and publishers read when looking at your submission, whether it has been commissioned, or not. First impressions are important. A title that stimulates interest or intrigue stands out more amongst the competition, especially if it is on the slush pile.
A good working title will open up the meaning of the story, revealing layers of character, theme and subtext that goes beyond the actual plot. It will also give the editors and publishers an idea of what the book is about and the tone of the book.
A working title should inspire you to write, fill you with confidence and help you to get your words onto paper because it focuses you on the story. This will give you the momentum to move forward.
When I first started out writing for children I took my first three chapters to a critique group meeting and they got so hung up on the working title even though I explained it was just a way to focus me on the themes of the book, they did not really give me any advice on the essential first three chapters.