The Insecure Writer's Support Group - June Edition

The Insecure Writer's Support Group in a once-monthly blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. The idea is to provide authors with an avenue to share their doubts and concerns, and to offer one another encouragement and guidance. Every first Wednesday of the month we gather to connect with one another and share our insecurities.

My insecurity this month is entirely a vanity issue, but it does have far-reaching implications . . . and they are what, all too often, distract me from actually writing. It's all about names - real names, nicknames, and pen-names.

Under which name do I submit my manuscript?

To what name do I want to assign a legacy . . . be it good or bad?

Does the comfort of anonymity outweigh the pride of recognition?

Is it better to be freed from my inhibitions, or restrained within my better judgement?

Like I said, it's completely a vanity issue, but the implications and repercussions are forever. Part of me wants to publish under my real name and let friends, colleagues, family members do a double-take when they see the name on the shelves. I want them to wonder if it's really me, to buy it just in case it is, and then to reach out and let me know what they think. I want that recognition, that validation, and that acclaim.

On the other hand, part of me worries about what people might think. I wonder if they're going to read too much into the story or the characters and make assumptions about me. I don't want to have to face the awkward questions about why I wrote a character a certain way, why I adopted a certain theme . . . or just what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that!

For me, writing is an exercise in imagination, a complete and utter break from reality where I can tell whatever story I want, about whatever characters I want. I've written protagonists I would never want to meet in real life, and I've written villains that I take a guilty pleasure in admiring. I've written relationships that have completely shocked me, and I've written scenes that please me every time I reread them.

Yet, whenever I start thinking of the name issue, I find myself either becoming uncomfortably restrained, afraid to express what the story needs, or gleefully crossing all lines of good taste and propriety, simply because I can.

I keep telling myself to just finish the damn manuscript and think names later, but that little nagging doubt, that unanswerable question, seems to raise its head at the worst possible moments. One day I'm sure I'll get past it, make a decision, and then laugh at myself for every being so insecure . . . at least, I hope so. :)


  1. I know several writers who have struggled with the same issue. It always baffles me. I guess because I've gotten to the point in my life or a certain age where I don't really care what others think. The only opinion that matters is mine and my husband's. Surely my in-laws will read some steamy love scenes and judge me for it, but so what. People who know me will wonder why I made a particular character black or white and what does it really mean. Once again, so what. It has no bearing on who I am as a person, a writer, a wife or my happiness.

    I do wonder if I fail under my real name, will I have to take a pen name? Now that worries me.

    Until you hit the top of the NYT bestseller list and your book is made into a movie or TV show, most people in your life will only know you were even published is if you tell them. Unless they're like my brother-in-law who googles everyone in the family regularly :).

  2. For me it's a philosophical and practical decision. I don't care enough about my real name to suffer for not using it as my author name. Also, my real name is so common that it would get lost in the sea of others with my name.

    I have told everyone I know about my book and used strong arm tactics to get them to buy it. They didn't really have a choice in the matter.

  3. I agree with LC, I would tell everyone I know when my book is published. So I might as well use my real name.

  4. Hi :)

    Just popping in from the IWSG.

    I too have name issues lol. There is already an author who's name is the same as mine (the full version) and if I use the shortened version I share that with a very famous murder victim! Lol

    I would LOVE to use my real name, but, it's not gunna be possible really. Having said that, I quite like the fact of keeping the 2 parts of my life separate ;)

    Good luck xx

  5. Goodness, I don't think I ever thought of using a pen name. Interesting dilemma. I guess I'm with Isis, at my age, it doesn't matter so much what others think.

  6. I've though about this, and in the end decided if I am going to put my heart and soul into something, I might as well stamp my name on it. Pen names seem like a hassle, anyway.

    Allison (Geek Banter)

  7. I guess it depends on what type of book you are writing. Of course, if you use a pen name, your family and friends will know anyway because you'll want to tell them!

  8. I use a pen name for practicality. My real name is very common. One of the first things I did was search my name on Amazon, and there were lots of people published under my name already. Most everyone who knows me in real life knows that I'm also J.W. Alden though.

    In whatever you decide, good luck!

    J.W., stopping in for the IWSG


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