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How to Choose an Awesome Pen Name

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K S Lane enjoys reading, writing, and Oxford commas. She penned her first novel at the age of 12 and has been writing ever since.

This article lists four methods to help you pick the perfect pen name.

This article lists four methods to help you pick the perfect pen name.

Get Off on the Write Foot

When starting out, many writers and authors chose to use a pen name. This could be because they want to protect their identity, because their real name is difficult to pronounce, because they're writing graphic romance novels that they don't want their family and friends finding out about, or simply because they've fantasized all their life about having a secret identity and a pen name is the closest they're ever going to get.

Regardless of the reason, choosing a pen name can be difficult. Do you go with some kind of variation of your real name, or do you mix it up altogether? How do you get that perfect mix of exotic and unique but easy to remember and pronounce? This article details four fool-proof ways to come up with an awesome pen name that will kick your writing career off on the right (or should I say write) foot.

1. The Street Name Formula

This is probably the easiest way to come up with a pen name, although it's not guaranteed to be a super spectacular one. The idea is to use the street you live on as a last name, and then put your two first initials before it. For example, if your name is Michael Alexander and you live on Opal Street, then your pen name would be M. A. Opal. Not fantastic, but certainly passable. For privacy reasons, people often substitute the name of the street they currently live on with one that they lived on when they were a kid, or maybe the street that their best friend lived on or a street that they just like the name of. Simple, right?

2. Name Generators

Using a name generator is probably the second easiest way of coming up with a pen name. A quick Google search for 'name generator' is all you need to do. Some generators like this one will have different categories of names that you can generate. Try picking the category that most fits your genre of writing. For example, if you write fantasy, try generating a fantasy-like name. This will give readers a subtle hint about what kind of writer you are before they've even cracked open one of your books. For example, can you even imagine someone called J. R. R. Tolkien writing anything but whimsical epic fantasy? I know that I definitely can't.


3. Make it Up

Making up a pen name requires both creativity and skill. But hey, you're a writer, right? Your creativity and skill are second to none! No matter what genre you write, you've probably had to name a character before. Think of making up your own pen name as something similar, except the character in need of a name is you. As I mentioned before, when creating your new name try to stick within the boundaries of your genre. A sci-fi writer called Thorovus Al’Lem probably will raise a few eyebrows, while one called C. G. Novastellar would fit in perfectly. Also, it probably goes without saying, but don't go over the top. Admiral John Diamond Gold the Superior and Fantastic probably isn't the right choice, even if you are superior and fantastic. Try and stick with something simple that sounds decently professional and won't overshadow your writing.

4. Use a Combination

If none of these strategies are working for you, why not try a combination of all three? Use a made-up first name and then your street name, or generate a last name and use your initials in front of it. My pen name, K. S. Lane, came from a combination of these strategies. Your imagination is the only limit!

Famous Pen NameReal Name

J. K. Rowling

Joanna Rowling

George Orwell

Eric Blair

Mark Twain

Samuel Clemens

Mix It Up!

Many professional authors and amateur writers use pen names. It can be difficult to come up with a good one, but between using the street name formula, Googling a name generator, making it up, or using a combination of all three, you'll have a unique, genre-specific and professional pen name in no time!

© 2018 K S Lane


PoetikalyAnointed on April 08, 2019:

Hello K.S. Lane,

Awesome Hub with cool ideas. Making up names is always fun for me.

Thanks for sharing.

K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on December 05, 2018:

Hi Poppy! I can't really tell you what to decide, because what you chose will depend on a lot of different factors. When you say the publishing house was incompetent, do you mean that they didn't publish the books at all or that the quality just wasn't up to your usual standards? If they're really a "stain" like you say then distancing yourself from them by using a pen name is probably a good idea. However, it's a widely known fact that writers tend to be harsh on themselves. Are they really that bad? Did anyone buy/review them? Even having books that aren't so great out there might generate more interest in books you publish in the future, ie. if someone happened upon one of your old books they might be curious to see if you've got any current works. Also, do you have social media accounts linked to your real name that would be useful in promoting your new books? You can obviously still use social media accounts linked to your real name if you write under a pen name, but it can confuse some people if they're trying to find you online, which might be a motivation to stick with your real name when publishing. Whatever decision you make, I hope it works out for you!

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on December 04, 2018:

I started a forum thread about this a few days ago but no one replied. I had books published a few years ago but the publishing house was incompetent so it didn't work out. In the future, should I use a pen name to avoid having the "stain" of the old books on my "record," as it were?

K S Lane (author) from Melbourne, Australia on December 04, 2018:

Thanks for your comment Pamela! You're absolutely right- the reason I had to pick a pen name in the first place was because someone was already publishing under my real name.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 04, 2018:

These sound like good suggestions, and there are so many authors that you do have to be creative.