Writing under a pseudonym: why or why not?

So. I never did find my broom yesterday. 🙂

I also noticed my comments were off on my witch selfie post…WP does have a mind of its own some days it seems…

This is me today:

This is a person who writes during NaNoWriMo 🙃

With the advent of National Novel Writing Month beginning today I have a few questions for you.

(Ha…did you see what I did there with the advent thing? Don’t even get me started with Christmas…) 😲

Question 1: Do you, or have you ever, or would you consider writing under a pseudonym, or pen name?

Question 2: Is there an advantage or disadvantage to writing under a name that is not your own?

Question 3: Do you know anyone who writes using a pen name and hasn’t been publicly outed? (You don’t have to name them, I’m just curious if you know people in real life, personally, who write under a pseudonym.)

Question 4: If you do write something using a pen name, and you end up being publicly outed, would this bother you? How?

I have my own answers to these questions, but I’m curious to hear yours.

There are a lot of famous authors that have written using pen names, and some have done so initially because they wanted to maintain privacy.

One of the earliest bloggers that had a not-so-happy outing was Catherine Sanderson. She blogged under the pseudonym Petite Anglaise and was outed by the press. You can read her story (written in her own words) here if you want more information.

Other examples are, of course, the Fifty Shades of Gray author E.L. James, which was her pen name (real name Erika Mitchell) and Harry Potter’s author Joanne Rowling who writes under two pen names, J.K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.

As we all know, privacy in the internet is a very controversial, highly debated topic. I am fascinated and intrigued by the whole idea of pseudonyms and pen names.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

35 thoughts on “Writing under a pseudonym: why or why not?

  1. Great topic and one that I have been planning an article on for ages, so I will link to this discussion. Yes I write under an alias and I will explore in my article those reasons in depth, and the reasons mentioned by other dating/sex and relationships bloggers I know – but here’s a taster: As a woman writing about these topics I feel a whole lot safer knowing that I can say what I really mean or feel without fear of repercussions. I know that it’s possible to make those connections if you have the knowledge, but really, it’s a lot of effort to go to and 95% of people don’t have that expertise. Anyway, other thing is that I work as a writer/editor in a smallish city in Au, which is a small-ish place population-wise. The 7 degrees of separation thing is sometimes only 1 degree in my town! So, a separation between hobby/personal and work. Simple for me, but I also agree with the genre idea. I like the thought that you can invent a persona and explore that without cross-infection (or cross-pollination on the positive side) with your other projects. Glad to have found your blog, as I have been appreciating your comments on mine and others we both follow 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I write elsewhere now on topics that I don’t feel comfortable writing here. It’s been incredibly freeing.

      I love your blog! I may not be in your demographic but I certainly can take all kinds of wisdom from your words.

      And I have more to say but not here and not now. 😉

      Like

  2. To start with your seconds question: The only real advantage (to me) of using a pseudonym would be if I was going to try to do something very different to my normal blogging. Your mention of JK Rowling is relevant here — when she writes as Robert Galbraith, she is wring crime fiction and the pseudonym serves to let readers know that they shouldn’t expect to find any references to Harry Potter.

    I don’t think that using a pseudonym to stay anonymous is a good idea. Information has a habit of leaking and it’s generally better to avoid saying anything that you wouldn’t want coming back to you. Obviously, plenty of people have plenty of perfectly valid reasons for wanting to remain anonymous but, for these people, a pseudonym alone probably isn’t enough and they would have to think a lot harder about the amount of potentially identifying information they publish.

    With that in mind, no, I have never used a pseudonym and I don’t see myself needing to use one.

    That said, If I did use a pseudonym and ended up being identified because the pseudonym would only exist to indicate that whatever I was posting is substantially different to what I already post.

    Good luck with NaNoWriMo 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. There are many who share this view, including me to a degree. But I have other things to say about this which may warrant another blog post on this topic at some point.

      I agree with one thing: pen name or not, if you publish on the internet you need to stand by your words because if it does leak, you have to be prepared for it. I keep this in mind whenever the subject comes up.

      In terms of some authors choosing to write a different genre using a pen name…I wonder if some of it is mental? If you’re type cast as a certain type of genre writer you may want freedom to write as a ‘different’ person, strictly for personal and practical reasons. There’s a certain freedom to assuming the crime writer personality that has nothing to do with fantasy writing, for instance.

      Actors sometimes get this way where you recognize someone as the one character they’ve been for a long time (Seinfeld, Friends, Cheers, etc) and you always call them by that name despite them having changed to a new show and character.

      Anyway, it’s a tricky situation and like I said, I have more to draw from here with all these comments.

      Always nice to hear from Belgium, thank you for contributing! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Personally I’d always write using my real name, but I totally understand why some people choose to go with a nom de plume. I’ve always been an open book (pun intended), which should be pretty obvious based on my avatar alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, open book. Me too. But there are sides to people that sometimes, they don’t want to share with those who read them. Sides that they want to retain as private, or as part of a lifestyle that may seem a little unconventional to the rest.

      It’s an interesting topic, isn’t it. 🙂

      Like

  4. I think I would write under a pen name. I think people make assumptions about fiction writers, that what they write is based on their own lives. I just don’t want the scrutiny

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a thought that has entered my mind too. Some people might use their own experiences and inject them into their stories, some people might make them up or change the outcomes to their liking. Did the 50 Shades author go through all the bdsm stuff she writes about? Somehow I doubt it (but I don’t know…)

      The nice thing about the pen name is that you can be freer to write what you want because of the lack of scrutiny. You’re still you, but you are not ‘known’ by those who know you as you…(if that makes sense).

      But perhaps you always have to understand on some level that this freedom, this privacy, may not last forever. If your aim is to be famous for your books or stories the real you will be discovered at some point.

      I have more, but I’ll save it for another post.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes I understand.

      I have researched some famous authors and some of them get ‘type cast’ for a type of genre. Then they decide they want to try a different genre and write under a pseudonym to see how it would be received. That’s one reason why someone might choose to write under a different name. But, as you can see in the comments, there are plenty of viewpoints. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I haven’t written under a pen name and have no plans to do so. Since I’m a former teacher and I write for children, it’s important that they can find me. I had families who preordered my book on Amazon so they could have it the day it was released and that’s hugely gratifying.

    I have a friend who is still teaching and writes YA and adult books under a pen name so her students’ parents don’t find her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some published authors write a type of genre and then, years later, may consider a different type. Perhaps they don’t want to overlap the two. That could be one reason why someone would choose to write under a pseudonym.

      But yes I understand your point. If I want to find material from you I want to google your name and come up with a handy list, not go digging around the bowls of the internet.

      🙂

      Like

  6. 1) I have not written under a pen name, 2) I would consider it because it would be nice to speak the truth without fear of hurting anyone whom I love or was trying their best at the time. 3) I don’t know of anyone who writes with a pen name that I know. 4) I guess it would depend on whether it was helping or hurting ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To speak the truth, i.e. to write freely without fear of judgement or some other action/reaction by the people in your circle of life, that seems to be a main point for many who say yes to writing with a pen name.

      There are a lot of interesting comments coming in to this conversation, thank you for sharing your view point!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I write under a pseudonym always. Mainly because I am a swinger, I write about sex and I am a high school teacher. People get very funny about who is in charge of their kids. It would be nice to think that my teaching and professional conduct would mean that people respect my privacy and life choices but sadly that is not the world we live in. To illustrate. I also pole dance as a hobby. When I first started teaching I had an image on my Facebook of myself performing at a student night at my studio. The image was one I was very proud of. I looked strong and was doing something that had, and still does, terrified me. A student stalked my Facebook and took a screen shot of the image and shared it with their friends at school. I got reprimanded, it is worth noting that the student did NOT get reprimanded for invading MY privacy.
    So I can’t even BEGIN to imagine if my students got hold of some of the material I have put on my blogs over the years.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I understand what you mean. I checked your blog to see if you have a contact option, so I can email you. You don’t (or I didn’t see it). I would like to ask you a couple more questions privately, would you be comfortable with me emailing you? I have a contact spot on my blog if you want to reach me that way.

      Like

  8. I actually think writing under a pseudonym is a fine idea, perhaps even more so for women. I didn’t think of it when I started and perhaps it should be something WordPress points out as a choice when setting up the post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A friend employed in IT says there is no anonymity or complete privacy on the internet. If someone wants to find out who you are, they can.

      At the same time, most people are self absorbed and don’t want to go to the trouble. When someone gets publicly outed it seems they’re either celebrities, rich (or both, likely) or have suddenly become financially famous due to a successful book launch or blog or what do I know…then, suddenly, it becomes crucial to find out who the real author is and people who know how start to dig in the bowels of the internet…

      It’s a tricky situation. But the comments here coming in are quite eye-opening. 🙂

      Thank you for taking the time to contribute to the conversation.

      Like

  9. I use a pen name(s) for everything I write on the internet. On one side, it’s freeing and you don’t really have to conform to anything you already are. And on the other side, it can get lonely sometimes not having anyone you can talk to as yourself and you can’t really share your real life.

    I know some authors who use pen names, but mostly everyone knows them anyways. lol

    I don’t think I would be upset (depending on how others reacted) and it never really bothered me. When I started blogging almost 3 years ago, I told myself it would happen in about 5 years or so. And I would re-introduce myself when I felt comfortable with my own name, which has not happened yet. *sigh*

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There’s a lot here I agree with. My first blog was under a pseudonym. It took me years to get comfortable using my name…or posting selfies.

      I will refer to this comment in a follow-up post. Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Intriguing post, Claudette. Glad you’ve decided to jump into NaNoWriMo …

    Question 1: No, and I probably never would write under a pseudonym. I have no reason. I respect all those whom feel they need to protect their identity, whatever the reason. I believe in transparent ownership and accountability over the domain of everything I do and say.

    Question 2: As above, protecting identity of self, family, etc.

    Question 3: No. Though who can say for sure if anyone is really who they say they are …

    Question 4: Not in the slightest. I find it amusing writers actually go to this extent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This NaNo thing is certainly working my brain! 🙂

      Thank you for commenting Michael, I know a lot of people who feel the way you do. When I first started blogging as a mom with two tiny infants, I wrote under a pseudonym (different blog).

      Interesting you choose the word ‘amusing’… if you read some of the reasons why people do write under a pseudonym here in the comments, it may shed a new perspective.

      I find the entire thing fascinating even more so now that before, based on the comments that have come in and continue to come in. I’m glad I brought this topic up!

      As always, good to hear from you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t realize the commitment to anonymity was so deep with many practitioners, especially for concerns of privacy.

        Again, all the respect to those who choose to do so.

        As a side, my surname – Kuch – isn’t my natural father’s, so I’ve never placed much stock in its relevance or value beyond 4 letters.

        Lastly, I’m a passive, amateur hack at writing. Writing is an enjoyable, but immersive daily pastime to get lost in for a few hours a day.

        And, also, nothing to protect.

        Keep grinding at NaNoWriMo, Claudette.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Question 1: Do you, or have you ever, or would you consider writing under a pseudonym, or pen name?

    We write for different reasons but I don’t ever see a time where I would write under my own name.

    Question 2: Is there an advantage or disadvantage to writing under a name that is not your own?

    The only disadvantage I can see is that you won’t get the publicity and fame of having your name be public. Obviously some folks would like the fame and notoriety. I’d hate it. I don’t want to be “known,” by anyone. But I’m awfully “Bah Humbug,” sometimes.

    Question 3: Do you know anyone who writes using a pen name and hasn’t been publicly outed? (You don’t have to name them, I’m just curious if you know people in real life, personally, who write under a pseudonym.)

    I’m not que’d in to a group of writers, so the answer is “no.”

    Question 4: If you do write something using a pen name, and you end up being publicly outed, would this bother you? How?

    Yes. Because I write about private issues I would not be happy about them being available publicly. I would feel as if I had to hedge my words and not talk about certain topics only because they’d be associated with me. I intend to eventually branch out from my current topic once that isn’t occupying much of my thoughts…or at least….when I don’t have to find an outlet.

    Ultimately, I’m writing for me and nobody else. I expose myself and share vulnerabilities that don’t align with my public face. I don’t ever foresee a time that I’m not going under a Nom de Plume.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly for reading and commenting. I have much to contribute to these answers and will at a later date. I agree and identify with much of what you say. Thank you for your candid response.

      Like

  12. Question 1: Do you, or have you ever, or would you consider writing under a pseudonym, or pen name?

    Yes, I would consider using Steven King but I think that’s already been taken. I think I’d use the name Ozzie Foznofski instead.

    Question 2: Is there an advantage or disadvantage to writing under a name that is not your own?

    Definitely an advantage cuz no one would know it was me and I could join others with criticizing any work that was El Stinko to read.

    Question 3: Do you know anyone who writes using a pen name and hasn’t been publicly outed? (You don’t have to name them, I’m just curious if you know people in real life, personally, who write under a pseudonym.).

    Nah. I’m not good at keeping secrets so they haven’t told me for some strange reason.

    Question 4: If you do write something using a pen name, and you end up being publicly outed, would this bother you? How?

    Nah. I’d just use some sort of plausible deniability to confuse everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. If I were a good enough writer that I thought I could write something people would want to read, I absolutely use a pen name. Only because I’m someone who find a lot of value in privacy and I think if the book/newspaper column/whatever it ended up being were to have any sort of success, I’d lose that privacy.

    Advantages – Did your kids ever watch Hannah Montana? There’s a song on that show about her leading a double life and getting to have the best of both worlds. I would say that’s the advantage – you get the accolades without actually having privacy infringement. Downside I guess could be that if you were a good writer after your death people would never really know what you were truly capable of?

    One of my exes, his parents owned a publishing company (this is ten years ago now) and they told me that people writing under pen names is actually a lot more common of a practice then we’d think. And it’s just so people can go to book signings and do all the things and then at the end of the day go home to their family on their quiet streets and not have to worry about anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I stumbled on a whole blogging community recently that writes under pen names. For all the obvious reasons, and then some.

      I think there are two types of people who write using a pen names – those who want to write books and hope for fame and celebrity status at which point they realize (and possibly don’t care) that they will be outed.

      The other type want to maintain privacy to protect someone or themselves for professional or family reasons. They are not in it for the fame, the thousands of hits, the financial gain. They want to write freely without the fear of judgement coming from people in their real life.

      At least this is what some of the comments are alluding to.

      Thank you for contributing to this conversation V, always nice to see you here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Everything I do on the internet and how I published is under TJ Fox which is a pen name. I chose to do this in part for privacy reasons, especially for my kids. It is just this extra layer of padding, just in case. It is also in part because I have NEVER felt like my given name fit me. It is this weird thing for me when I hear it and someone is talking to me. It’s always felt a bit like I’m walking around in someone else’s worn out shoes. My pen name actually feels more me than my given name. Anyone that knows me IRL knows I wrote under a pen name, so it isn’t a huge secret and isn’t really a big deal. It is more of a personal thing for me. A few more people from IRL are now aware of my blog because of my book, though, which has been… interesting.

    I used to wonder why authors bothered to write under different names, but I really get it. It is an easy way for readers to identify a book just by seeing their name. If an author chooses to write in a different genre it creates a separation so that fans are hugely disappointed when their favorite hard core detective mystery writer suddenly publishes a book that is an epic fantasy. Things like that could very easily lead to some nasty ratings. You come to expect certain things and when you write in a different genre you may not have those same things show up.

    Liked by 1 person

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