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How to Create a Pen Name

by The Procrastinating Writer on June 15, 2009

By Jennifer Blanchard

Many fiction writers now and in the past have written under a pen name: Sophie Kinsella, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll.

A pen name can be a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd (especially if your real name is something common). It’s also a way to conceal your identity, which is important if you write across different genres or also write non-fiction.

But how do you come up with a pen name? How did these famous writers create their names?

Well…I don’t have an exact answer for that, per se. But I do have a bunch of ideas on how you can create a pen name for yourself:

  • Use a nickname you’ve had forever
  • Pick your favorite girl/boy name
  • Use your middle name
  • Use your sibling’s middle name
  • Use a last name you wish was really yours
  • Pick a name that is easy to write in cursive over and over again (making those book signings much easier, of course!)
  • Randomly open the dictionary and pick a word off that page to use
  • Use the name of your street as part of your name
  • Use the name of your favorite childhood toy
  • Use your mom’s maiden name
  • Use your best friend’s first or last name
  • Open the phonebook to a random page and pick a name
  • Use your initials (ex: J.L. Blanchard)
  • Use initials only for your first name (ex: H. Christina Lindley)
  • Use your favorite food (ex: Alexander Pickle)
  • Pick something that rhymes
  • Use your last name as a first name…and maybe also your first as a last (ex: Smith Jarrod)
  • Ask your friends/family to think of something
  • Buy a book of baby names and look through it ’til you find something good

Yes, these may all seem like goofy options (in a way, they are). But that’s the idea.

A pen name should be something that is extremely memorable. Otherwise you won’t stand out from the crowd (which is pretty important if you plan to make any money as a fiction writer).

Use these suggestions as a jumping off point for creating your pen name.

And remember, you can mix-and-match the suggestions, as well (for example, use your sibling’s middle name and part of your street name).

Do you have a pen name? How did you come up with it? Or if you don’t have one, do you now have some ideas for how to create one?

NOW AVAILABLE–Pen Name: How To Create Yours, an eGuide that will take you through the process of finding and creating your pen name.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer May 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm

A DBA stands for “Doing Business As”. It’s a form people have to file when they are doing business under a name other than their own or their registered company name. I am not sure on the age thing, but my guess is you have to be 18 to file one.

2 Tiffani June 26, 2012 at 12:41 am

I have 15 Ideas but I want feedback on them. Can you help put the number(s) you like best and 1 that you don’t like (ONLY 1)

1. Elizaren Kae
2. Brynn Leigh
3. Ashtyn Nicole
4. Rhyder Amelia
5. Krista Cheyenne
6. Evangeline Scott
7. Lyric Kelly
8. Hayden Mariah
9. Paisley Mariah
10. Kennedy Reagan (or Reagan Kennedy)
11. Ellery Amaya
12. Chassidy Hope
13. Genesis Rylee
14. Brooklyn Noelle
15. Evelyn Claire

Please give CONSTRUCTIVE critism

3 Jennifer June 26, 2012 at 7:33 am

Hi Tiffani, I personally like Genesis Rylee. Have you considered the Pen Namd eGuide? It has worksheets in there to help you do exactly this–evaluate your list of pen names to see which one will work best for you. It has important, need-to-know info for anyone considering a pen name. Shoot me an email at: jennifer@procrastinatingwriters.com if you want a $5 off code.

4 Ryan July 18, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thanks, I am in a band, and I want to keep a pseudonym for myself, I like ‘Synyster Gates’ type of names. My initials are R and B, and I play guitar for my band. Click my name to go to our website. Email me at fantomindia@gmail.com for name suggestions. Whoever helps… thanks a lot!

5 Madeleine Rose September 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

I have a pen name for myself, Mia Hollands. At first it wasn’t supposed to be a pen name. My friend Leela has an obsession with a country music star and she wanted to stalk him over Twitter. So, we both created fake accounts and nobody knew it was us. We came to know the girls we created. We made whole new lives for them. They were completly different people. After that we decided to play a prank on one of our friends, pretending we were them. We knew we needed to practice calling each other our fake names so we decided that we would use them in public, where no one knew us. We are both average 13 year old girls and we do embarassing stuff so every time we were shy or embarassed we used our fake names instead. To get ready for the prank we wrote down everything there was to know about these girls. We even had different accents! I write a lot of stories on a site called Wattpad and our alter egos were going to be the perfect main characters for my story. I then created a story about their lives. It was perfect. It helped me with my writing and now it’s one of my most popular books! It also helped me analyze these people like never before. It soon became that Mia was one of my closest friends and I had known her my entire life. She is me. She is the person I strive to be. She is what I aim for. She is the better part of me. Leela and I just go around calling each other these names and so they have just become part of us. I don’t mind using my real name for writing on Wattpad but one day, I want to publish a few books. And when I do, that’s the name I’m going to use.

Here are our real names and our pen names (well only a pen name for me, for Leela, it’s a stalking name).

Madeleine Rose Friesen~ Mia Ivy Hollands
Leela Sandra Nemeth~ Lauren Evans

6 liz October 26, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I need opinions from you creative people out there. Tell me which one if any at all. I write fiction based on my life with adventure and thrills added.
Pinkney Atherstone
A.E. Atherstone
Pinkney Mccrackin
Kalie McCrackin
Blue Ventura

7 Dr.Carrol October 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

What about S.T Hepsworth? I am a writer who has just finished a book and is waiting to see my pubisher but first I need to come up with a name! I am writing Science fiction by the way.
Thanks x

8 Alexis November 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I need some help with a pen name. I’m considering Lexi Rose.
Lexi is my nick name and Rose is my middle. Good idea?

9 jennifer blanchard December 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

I just wanted to let you know that from today until December 8, 2012, you can download my Pen Name eGuide for FREE!! Get your copy now: http://www.amazon.com/Pen-Name-Create-Yours-ebook/dp/B009W7GPSI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354637699&sr=8-1&keywords=pen+name

10 a wanna be mrs.bieber March 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I have myself a pen-name….Lilly Hopkinz. I think it sounds cool – flows well. 🙂

11 pen name March 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm

i cant think of a good pen name.. so far i have the following:
B.J. Woods
Claire Woods
Cecilia Blake
C.J. Woods

btw im a girl.
thanks, G

12 Savannah April 15, 2013 at 10:40 pm

I was thinking Lupus Casino. A)lupus can be taken as a boy or girl name.b) lpus isolating for wolf, and the story I am currently working on is a werewolf book,(not your typical werewolf story). What do you think? Thanks everyone who gives feedback(:

13 Jennifer April 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm

@Savannah What’s the reason you want a pen name? Is it because you want to disguise your sex due to the genre you write in? I think Savannah Casino is a really cool name already!

14 Naia Harrison April 20, 2013 at 2:20 am

Great article! I am just embarking on my first writng blog and will be using a pen name for sure. So thank you for this, was super helpful.

I wanted to ask Liz who wrote a comment on October 26, 2012 – do you have a blog up and running? I’m also going to be writing fiction based on my life and would love to follow your writings as well! Would be great for some support and to start creating my community! Please let me know if you’re online anywhere! I’d love to connect. And as for your pen name – I love A.E Atherstone! What did you ultimately choose?

Hopefully this will get to you and best of luck everyone with creating your pen names!

15 Judy April 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Wow…It is hard coming up with a pen name. However, I have used this name: Ona Wilson, on my writings (Not published).
Now after all these years and grown up, I want to change it. So here are a few:

1. Judith Wilson
2. Judith Winterstorm
3. Judith Noel Paul

If you have other suggestions, please suggest away! I do prefer to use a pen name.

Thank you

16 Trojan Wohlf September 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm

This is my pen name. I am a female, and I am an author who has yet to be published. I suggest these pen names:

Rose Narromore
Anna Winfrey
Jodi Osborne
Dina Howard
Diana Roy-smith

I hope that these are helpful:)

17 Tracey Thompson May 28, 2014 at 3:23 pm

As a librarian who has to often help readers remember author names, please make it something they can spell:)

18 Bernwilke June 6, 2014 at 10:53 pm

Pen Name G
G, I too write fictitious adventure stories, and pen names can really be the snake the falling victim grabs when he/she reaches for a vine! Try this: The month you were born for a Last name. Your grandmother’s middle name for the Middle name,
and The Second letter of the name of your favorite color for the Middle initial. EG:
August R. (for the second letter of the color Green) and Granny’s Middle name: Madeline. Now: Scramble: R-Madeline August. Or: Roselle A. Madeline. Good luck!

19 Jennifer July 6, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for the cool suggestions!

20 Jo October 4, 2014 at 9:33 pm

I created mine from All My Children. Kendall was my favorite character on that Soap. She was strong an independent. Definitely not afraid to be a bitch when she had to be I didn’t know how to spell it correctly when I was fourteen so to this day I spell it Kenndal. Rosemary comes from the classic film Rosemary’s baby. I just loved the name.

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