When I first started writing I wondered whether or not I had to pick a pen name. I asked for advice on a writers forum and did some reading on the subject. I found out the use of pseudonyms by authors is quite common. Did you know that Voltaire, Mark Twain, George Orwell and Stan Lee are all pen names? I didn’t and I very much enjoyed reading the stories of why they chose to write under another name.
Common reasons to write under a “nom de plume” are for example:
- To disguise your gender or ancestry
- To distance yourself from previous work
- To avoid retribution
- To combine multiple writers under one name
These are just a few of the reasons people give for taking on a pen name. Of course there are many more reasons authors can have for choosing a pseudonym. The most important thing I learned that the decision of whether or not to take on a pen name is entirely your own.
So suppose you want to write under a pseudonym, how would you pick a fitting name? A much used method is to use an anagram of your own name. For example, Jane Smith becomes James Thin. It can be hard to find a good anagram name, but luckily there’s an online tool you can use to help you. Another way of picking your author name is to take a good look at your family tree. There’s people who use their mother’s maiden name, the names of their grandparents or a name inspired by their forefathers of centuries ago. Of course you can also pick a complete new name, with no ties to yourself or your family. Look for inspiration in the story you plan to write. Where is the story located? Are the landscape elements or city names you can use? And what about the time in which your book takes place? Are the any typical names for that age that you feel drawn to? Somewhere along those answers you should be able to come up with something useful.
My quest for answers regarding pseudonyms resulted in a the choice to write under a pen name; Julia Blackwater. I picked the first name because my given name is Juliët. Julia is similar to that, but easier to spell in several languages. The last name I picked based on the place that inspires me most; Maldon in Essex (the UK). Maldon is a lovely little town, where a lot of my friends happen to live. It is also a town with an interesting history, beautiful scenery and kind locals. I could’ve just picked Maldon as last name, but somehow it didn’t sound right to me. However Maldon is situated on the Blackwater estuary, and Julia Blackwater did have the right ring to it. That is how I picked my name.
Any thoughts on pen names? Leave a comment!