Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – Choosing a Pen Name + ROW80 Check-In

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.

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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:

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)

List of common male first names (USA)

List of common female first names (USA)

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 🙂

Jody Moller

12 responses to “Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – Choosing a Pen Name + ROW80 Check-In

  1. I think *** sounds pretty cool 🙂
    I thought briefly about a pen name at one stage (doesn’t really matter though since I’m nowhre near being published yet), but I decided out of vanity that I would rather have my actual name on my book hehe Then again, I mainly write fantasy (either medieval or steampunk). If I were to write something where I’d feel uncomfortable about people knowing I’d written it, I’d use a pen name, but probably with similar initials to my real name. Likewise, if I get my children’s book published (I have to write one this semester for uni), I may use an alias. Or I might not. I’ll wait and see. I think it is a good way for an author to differentiate their works if they write for different audiences/genres, but then again, in most cases, there probably isn’t the need to do that.

  2. *** sounds great! I use a pen name, but it’s very close to my real name. The first pen name I tried out was from this game we used to play when we were little (it’s not really a game I guess) where you take your middle name for your first name and the street you live on for your last name. My street worked out well but there were always people who lived on, say, first street that weren’t so lucky.

    Good luck submitting your story and Congrats on hitting your goals (and crushing them by the looks of it)! Best of luck with the rest of the week!

  3. I clicked the links out of curiosity. My fav was Spicy Pepper (!!!) from the second site.
    *** sounds ok, and surely better than those generated ones.
    As for your goals congratulations and keep it up. Hope you decide on the pen name soon and also find which POV you like better for the story. 🙂

  4. Oh, I love the name ***! I’ve been contemplating a pen name as well, as I have tale in the work that skews far on the raunchy side… and I would prefer it if my parents/students/colleagues aren’t able to find it with my name stamped on the cover. 😉 I’ve been toying with picking names from my family tree (my great-grandmother was named Viana, and I quite like it), because I like the idea of maintaining a bit of connection with my family history.

    I’m also in the midst of the 1st person vs. 3rd person debate. I was almost convinced that I wanted to switch my fantasy WIP to 1st person… until a few friends read my 3rd person first chapter and raved about it. :/ We’ll see how things go.

    Have a great rest of the week!

  5. I am using a pen name, also, for writing in a genre very different from my normal style. Seems to cause less confusion all around, since people tend to think writers can only be good in one genre. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard “That’s not your normal voice…”

  6. Congratulations on achieving your goals! I know that you will choose a great pen name. 😀 I’m using a pseudo pen name right now while I’m online, mostly because I’m paranoid about my private information, so I’m just barely tweaking my own name…but it’s something you don’t have to be a private detective to figure out. 😉 I will probably start using my real name online soon…

    I know a lot of people take pen names just to make their name more interesting on a book cover, so definitely take the opportunity to grab a really eye-catching name!

  7. I am exactly the same, first thing I do is google things….what did I do before?! Well done on meeting your goals!

    I am semi-anonymous on here (but not really!) just that not many people in my ‘real’ life know about my writing life. A pen name is definately something I will look into at some point. Hope you find one that suits you and you are happy with!

    ps. I also heard another good trick is to use a pen name with the surname having the same first letter as someone well known who writes in that genre so you would end up next to them on a shelf in alphabetical order! e.g. if you were writing chick-lit making your pen name surname start with K could land you next to Marian Keyes!

  8. Amazing word count! I like ***, too. I bet she could take Gladys in a fight. 🙂 I am a little prejudiced, though. All my YA ficiton is set in a mythical town called ***.
    Love the random name generator.

  9. Thank all for your kind words and comments. Unfortunately I am having (huge) computer issues so I can’t reply to you all individually. Hopefully you all have a great week (better than mine so far anyway!)

  10. Jody, what I great discussion on pen names! I have one, although I haven’t rolled it out yet. It is a variation on my name–made from variant names, my maiden name and moved around. It just came to me in a “of course!” moment.

    Thanks for the name generators–I have trouble with character names a lot!

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