A pen name, a pseudonym, a nom de plume. Ever thought of using one? No? Well, it hadn’t ever occured to me either… that is, until last week.
Let me set the scene. I am sitting at my computer typing away at a new short story in a genre that is most definately outside my usual comfort zone (if you’re thinking raunchy then you’re probably heading down the right path) when I am struck by a sudden epiphany – I don’t think I can submit this story! If this story is short-listed in the competition I am submitting to it will be published, and let’s face it I don’t think this kind of story would be very good for my YA writer image. But as I look through the submission criteria, it mentions that pen names are permitted and I realise that’s it! I just need a pen name.
So I set about looking into how to choose a pen name.
Research Step 1: go to google, type in ‘pen names’
Pretty much all that comes up is some links to Random Name Generators. I click on the first few, these are the results:
- Luba Kernagis from http://generator.chucklehound.com/
- Gladys Potter from http://www.poemofquotes.com/tools/pen-name.php
- Jesse Landry from http://online-generator.com/name-generator/fake-name-generator.php
Now as delightful a name as Gladys Potter is – I don’t think it really suits me 🙂 so on I go with my research.
Research Step 2: look at some existing authors (past and present) that have used pen names
Some of the authors just change their birth name slightly to produce their pen name:
Stanley Martin Lieber became Stan Lee
- Joanne Rowling became JK Rowling (I only include this here because the K is fictional – she has no middle name!)
- Theodore Seuss Geisel became Dr Seuss
Some authors come up with a name from goodness knows where and use it for life (for most of these authors their real names are not easily recognisable):
- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is better known as Lewis Carroll
- Eric Arthur Blair is better known as George Orwell
- Samuel Langhorne Clemens is better known as Mark Twain
Some authors choose to use multiple names, some of which are pen names, either because they want to publish in a different genre, or because of publishing companies claiming rights to their name (yes that’s right) they are forced to use a different name if they publish with a different company:
- Stephen King has also published as Richard Bachman
- Robert (Bob) Mayer has also published as Joe Dalton, Robert Doherty, Greg Donegan and Bob McGuire
The list above is by no means definitive (I’m sure you can think of lots more) but at about this time I realised that this what getting me no closer to finding a pen name – so I moved on.
Research Step 3: go about it in the same way I would for generating a character name
I don’t know about you, but when I need to come up with a new name for a character, sometimes the name hits you in the face (for example in my WIP, Soul Hunter, the protag’s name is Zepherina, I never researched her name it just came to me and I love it!) other times however I end up sifting through huge lists of names to find something that feels right. Here are some of the links I find useful:
List of common surnames (USA)http://names.mongabay.com/most_common_surnames.htm
List of common male first names (USA) http://names.mongabay.com/male_names.htm
List of common female first names (USA) http://names.mongabay.com/female_names.htm
I find that when I am picking character names often the first name is already there but the surname is something I need to work at a bit more (hence the lists).
So did this help me with my pen name? Actually it did. Do you use a pen name? How did you come up with it? Would love to hear your thoughts…
This is also the Day 24 Check-In for A Round of Words in 80 Days.
I have managed to keep up my 500+ words a day on Soul Hunter.
DAY 22 – 508 (total 16336)
DAY 23 – 1176 (total 17512)
DAY 24 – 564 (total 18076)
I commented on plenty of other ROW80 blogs. But… I haven’t yet submitted my short story because I have yet to decide upon my pen name and also I am in the process of changing the POV from 3rd to 1st so I can decide which I like better. So goals for the next few days include, keep going with 500+ words a day, comment on at least 10 blogs and finish the short story and come up with a pen name.
I hope everyone is doing well with their goals. Share the ROW80 love 🙂