THE BLOG
02/02/2011 04:35 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Pen Name Is Mightier Than the Sword Name

Congratulations, you've decided to completely devote yourself to the endless, droning monotony that is professional writing. On the world's stage, you'll join such luminaries as J.M. "Freaky" Lifer, Jerry M. Fleafik, and Jamie Frelkfry. If you've never heard of those people, it's because they all use pen names in their publishing pursuits. Any one of those people could be a Steve King, a Mark Twain, or even a Charlotte Bronte, and you wouldn't even know it. Why, all three names could even be piss-poor anagrams of Jeffrey R. Klima! Don't go back to try and solve the mystery... we have much more pressing matters with which to concern ourselves, namely: What should your pen name be?

Now you might be thinking you've got yourself a pretty good name already. Maybe you kind of think that your parents did you a favor in naming you, and that with such a lofty moniker bestowed upon you at birth, really, writing chose you! Hogwash. Your birth name is shit. And if it isn't, it ought to be.

You need something dynamic, something that zings, something that makes people say, "Hell, I'll throw thirty dollars down for a half-assed 're-imagining' of White Fang, because this jackass has an interesting name!" And trust me, it happens all the time. If you're still not convinced, let me tell you the story of a simple grocery clerk named Curtis. Curtis had tried for years to get his novel published, and like most of you, he had no success whatsoever. Sure a couple of agents asked for sample chapters, and even an independent publisher out of Oregon offered to buy it on consignment, but nothing ever came of any of it. Curtis was about to give up on his "writing career" and go play professional football, but a small voice deep within told him to change his name to something more exciting and try one more time. Curtis listened. Maybe today you know ol' Curtis Von Danger better as "Michael Crichton," and that book as frigging Jurassic Park. If you're still not convinced, well, I'll be honest... you just don't have what it takes to be a professional writer, everyone says so... and when you're in the bathroom, they all make fun of you.

For the rest of you: Congratulations, you've decided to completely devote yourself to the endless, droning monotony that is professional writing. Now, about that pen name... Choosing a pen name is a lot like choosing a new puppy. If you choose the wrong one, it will maul your children and piss in your sneakers. Metaphorically speaking, of course. The best way to ensure that you've got yourself a great name with which to pump out rote mystery thrillers, limp romance novels, or tired children's adventure serials, is to get yourself two hats (no, not a metaphor this time). Make sure they are really nice, elegant hats... this is only the most important process in your goddamned writing career, after all. Next, denote each hat with a letter (i.e. Hat A & Hat B... I suspect you think of yourself as a "free spirit" and far too avant garde to hamstring yourself with "conventional letters" though, so go nuts, slugger). In Hat A, place scraps of paper with words on them that sound poetic or beautiful... Whistle, Oak, Morning, Bongo, Zen, Daffodil, Periwinkle, Raindrop, etc... you should be really creative here (after all, creativity is a component of writing [albeit a small component]). In Hat B, place scraps of paper that contain "tough words," words that showcase your determination and resolve, i.e. Blade, Gun, Iron, Shark, Kill, Titanium, Dagger, etc.... Then, you select one scrap of paper from each hat and combine the two words. Feel free to add an "e" at the end-- this makes it sound snooty and English (always a plus when attempting to crap a masterpiece). PRESTO! You should now be staring at a pen name so ruggedly dewy and jaggedly blissful, it should make you want to do the opposite of mauling your children and pissing in your sneakers (whatever that may be).

Because I do not trust you to achieve this rudimentary task on your own though, I am going to go to the trouble of selecting my pen name first, so that you can follow in my footsteps (as usual). SOUNDS OF ANNOYED, OVERWEIGHT MAN PURCHASING TWO TOP-HATS, AND CUTTING UP PAPER INTO SMALL STRIPS.

Okay, let's see... SOUND OF ANNOYED, OVERWEIGHT MAN RUMMAGING IN TOP-HAT MARKED WITH A "Q" AND THEN IN ONE MARKED WITH AN "&" (ampersand)... hmm, okay... my pen name shall here-to-forth be: Dawn Steele. Not bad, Jeff Klima, not bad. Oh, and for the record, Tom Wolfe is also taken.