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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.

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