Choosing your Author Name aka Pseudonym

One of the perks of being a writer is you get to choose your own name. However, out of the billions of combinations available, how do you pick the right one for you? Hopefully this post will provide a few helpful hints.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Why choose a different name?

Snap 333x500

I’ve recently had to re-invent my author identity. Not because I’ve got mixed up in some international smuggling operation and need to drop off the grid, all Jason Bourne style. Regrettably, the reason is more mundane. I’ve chosen to publish my new novel, SNAP, under a different author name because I’ve advised me to by a literary agent. Her reasoning is that most of my work follows a very different aesthetic from this new series of books.

So why do writers choose to have their work published under a pseudonym?

The motives can be many and varied. The name printed on the front cover of your books is more than a simple identifier. It is an integral part of the writing persona your readers will come to know. In re-naming ourselves, we can capture those aspects of our personality which help shape the stories we write.

lemony

In the case of Lemony Snicket, for example, the author re-creates himself as an integral character in his own story.

What to look for in an author name?

So where should you start? One good place is to find authors who write in a similar genre and see what style of names are already in use. This can help fans of a particular genre identify you with the type of book they like to read.

J R Tolkien had some influence on both J K Rowling and George R R Martin as did Arthur C Clarke on Philip K Dick and Robert A Heinlein.

When making my own choice of an author name for SNAP I looked at writers such as Ally Carter, Sarah Sky and Robin Benway. One look at these authors tells you a lot about SNAP.

Also, in this modern age of social media, it’s helpful to select a name which is unique and as yet unused on Facebook, Twitter and the like. An easy to spell, easily searched for name is also good.

Not all of us have the benefit of Roald Dahl as a given name. Although you might choose to use your own name in a different way – Lorrie Porter, is a shortened version of my middle name together with my last name.

Where to find inspiration for the new you?

Finding your author name can be a similar process to finding a name for one of your characters, and all the usual methods apply:

  • Film credits – I find this one of the best resources for discovering good character names
  • Geography – using countries, regions, cities, towns, villages and rivers worked for the Wombles
  • Name generators – the internet has many name generators be it for characters, babies or hobbits
  • Reverse first and last names – a simple switch of first and last name can work well

However, I found with my own choice I wanted something more personal, a name which belonged to me. So I looked to my family tree.

familytree

I found I had a great-aunt who I’d never been told about. Her name was Lizzie. She was born in the Cardiff workhouse and adopted by an Italian ice-cream maker along with her two brothers. I felt a connection with her and chose Lizzie as my first name.

For my second name, I searched all the family surnames I could find, and finally picked Hexter, borrowed from a young man who married the daughter of another great-aunt.

And so I became Lizzie Hexter, author of SNAP. Now available as an e-book from Amazon, iTunes and Kobo at a very reasonable price. Want to know if I practice what I preach when it comes to writing craft? Read the book and find out. I hope you enjoy it.

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Available from Amazon, iTunes and Kobo

Click here for Amazon.co.uk

You can read my full biography below and please do follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr – just search for Lizzie Hexter.

About the Author

Lizzie Hexter likes to spin a yarn in more ways than one. She has a passion for writing stories and also a love of all things crochet. She grew up in the north west of England with her two sisters, sharing life, laughter and the contents of their wardrobes.

At age twenty, she moved to London where she enjoyed browsing vintage clothes shops and spending her meagre earnings drinking tea in posh hotels.

Lizzie has since moved back to the north west and lives on a canal boat with her cat, her husband and a great number of books.  Her motto is: “Wear what you want, be who you are.”

Snap is Lizzie’s first published novel. She hopes it’s an exciting read, what with the fashion shoots, supermodels, film stars, kidnapping, extortion, stealing huge diamonds and scary gangster overlords, not leaving out the sprinkle of romance and the odd sword fight, of course.

Click here for Amazon.co.uk

 

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Want to Write a Masterpiece? Here’s Some Advice from Writing Mentor Jennie Nash

I haven’t been very proactive on the blog lately, life has been getting in the way. It has a habit of getting in the way of my novel writing too. So I was very glad when Jennie Nash emailed me with some wonderful advice to help get me back on the Write path (excuse the pun). She’s also offering a free trial to This Craft Called Writing readers. Here’s what she has to say:

I’m a book coach who specializes is helping people who are serious about getting their books published, and one of the first things I do with new clients is ask them to fill out a Q&A. I ask, among other things, what is giving the writer joy and what is causing frustration. The answers about joy vary wildly from writer to writer. Some people love research and creating worlds, others love moving words around the page like a puzzle, and still others love the solitude of devoting themselves to their passion. What causes frustration, however, is almost always exactly the same two things: procrastination and doubt. As we head into the New Year, I thought I would share some strategies I’ve found that are effective for dealing with both.

The problem of procrastination.

One of the realities of being a writer is that writing is done alone in a room. There is no way to get around that fact – well, except for coffee shops, but even then, it is still you sitting there, alone with your thoughts. It is you, sitting there, knowing that there are dishes to be done, dinner to be made, the demands of a job, the responsibilities of a family, the stuff of life. Every moment you write is a moment you aren’t doing something you are “supposed to do.” It’s so easy to put off writing and chose more pressing concerns, because no asked you to write. And so you put off writing one day, then two, then a week, then a month until you are just someone who merely talks about wanting to write rather than someone who actually does it.

Accountability is a powerful antidote to procrastination.

One of the reasons writers under contract tend to finish their books is because they have an editor who is waiting for the manuscript, and deadlines are fantastic motivators. Until you get to that point in your career, it can be enormously helpful to develop some other method of accountability. This could be a friend, a writers’ group, a co-worker who is also secretly writing a novel, a paid editor, or a writing coach. Make a plan for when you will turn in your work, then put it in your calendar and consider it a binding a promise. Give the person permission to ask for your pages if you don’t turn them in – to nag you, to push you – and give yourself permission to take the work as seriously as anything else in your life. Accountability breeds action, and action defeats procrastination.

The problem of doubt.

Doubt eats at every writer, no matter how accomplished, no matter how seasoned, no matter how famous. It’s a central part of the creative process, and it’s not going to go away. It’s just not. You will wonder if your idea is any good, if you are worthy to speak your voice, if anyone will eventually care, and you will wonder if you should start your story on Page 9 or Page 39, if you should have gone with a first person narrator, if that scene you wrote packs the emotional punch you thought it did. Even if you hit the jackpot and write a book people adore, doubt will find you. You will wonder if it was a fluke and whether or not you can do it again.

Specific, detailed feedback is a powerful antidote to doubt.

Instead of free-form worry about your work, arm yourself with knowledge. You can start that process by simply reading the work of writers you admire, and studying how they did it. Are your scene endings that strong? Are your character descriptions that powerful? Are your character motivations that clear?

You can continue that discernment process by taking classes and workshop, or by following blogs that teach you how to build your writing muscle and your writing skills.

A big step for any writer is to seek feedback from the outside world. Try submitting work for review at writing conferences. It’s a one-off fairly low risk way to test your work. Make sure you really listen to what the editor is saying. If you get a lukewarm response, ask for one thing you can work on to improve your work. If you get an enthusiastic response, a bit of encouragement, or an invitation to submit, ask the editor to articulate exactly what they are responding to in your work.

I’m obviously biased, but I believe one of the best forms of feedback comes from a trained editor or book coach. Working with a coach for even a short period of time can help you learn exactly where your writing is strong, and where it is weak. You can gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time – which not only improves your work, but helps to eradicate doubt. Instead of wondering about your work in vague and unproductive ways, you know. And if the news is not good, at least you know what to fix so you can get back to the joy of writing.

Jennie Nash is the creator of the Author Accelerator, a weekly accountability and feedback program designed to help writers complete a rough draft of their book in six months. She is offering a free weekly trial to all readers of This Craft Called Writing. Learn more at jennienash.com.

Stimulus and Response: Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

cute fluffy cat kitten string playing adorable pet animal fun

In fiction, stimulus and response work like a ping-pong game. They make you look at the line-by-line progression of a story.

Stimulus is external, and so is response, and as such they must be shown on the page. Action and dialogue are key. However, action can include a character interacting with the setting, showing an emotional response, or describing a sensory input. So long as these are ‘shown’, not told.

Character thoughts do not create an external stimulus or response.

So let’s have a closer look. The first stimulus might be an event or action which affects Character A. Character A responds. Their response creates a stimulus for Character B. Character B responds, which in turn becomes a new stimulus for Character A.

For example we could take the following initial stimulus:

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Tricks for Creating A Strong Character Voice in Dialogue

Making dialogue sound genuine is an art in itself. Creating a distinctive voice for every character in a story is no easy task.

Below are a couple of things which may help you write dialogue for each of your characters which steps off the page in a unique and individual way.

A Rainbow of Shoes and Legs for Breuninger by John Breed (1)

Vowel changes

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Writing Advice From Acclaimed Author Marcus Sedgwick

I first came across Marcus Sedgwick when I read his YA novel, My Sword Hand is Singing, and have been a fan ever since. His 2011 novel, Midwinterblood, was shortlisted for this year’s Carnegie Medal, and having read it I can see why. So when I heard he was about to release a new book, I asked him if he might share with us a little of the secret of his success.  Here’s what he had to say:

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3 Things Every Scene Must Have

When writing fiction, there is lots of advice out there in books and on the internet. One of the most important pieces of advice you can take on board is understanding that story is made up of four elements: Continue reading

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty of Writing

Dissecting your wrirting

I love it when writers get down to the nitty gritty of their writing, dissecting it sentence by sentence and seeing what makes it tick. There’s a perfect example of this over at On Becoming a Wordsmith.

Picture c/o hovercraft doggy.