One of the few constant things in my creative development is that, since I was about thirteen, I always signed my stories as “C.A.Brown” rather than using my full name.
Although my main reasons for doing this have changed slightly over time, it’s been something I’ve done ever since I seriously got into writing (and, more recently, art too).
Anyway, I thought that I’d give you three reasons why initials are better than full names when it comes to signing your work.
Before I go any further, I should probably point out that using initials works a lot better if you have a middle name. But, if you don’t, then you can always use a pseudonym which has a middle name or you can just add a fictitious middle initial to your name.
1) Prestige: This was probably why I first started using initials rather than my full name when I started writing. It might sound slightly formal and old-fashioned but, well, initials make you sound like a prestigious and experienced writer.
Just think about it – which sounds more writerly? John Tolkien or J.R.R. Tolkien? Joanne Rowling or J.K. Rowling? Howard Lovecraft or H.P.Lovecraft? I’m sure you get the idea.
Yes, some may say that using initials is old-fashioned and pretentious. I don’t know if they’re right or not and, quite honestly, I don’t care. The most important thing is whether you think that initials sound more writerly and (more importantly) whether they make you feel like you are a writer.
At the end of the day, if you feel like you’re a writer, then you’re probably going to produce better writing than if you can’t quite bring yourself to even think of yourself as a “writer”. And, if initials help you to do this, then use them.
2) Gender Neutrality: One of the beautiful things about initials is that they are completely and totally gender-neutral. This can be useful for female writers in male-dominated genres and vice versa.
Yes, there is probably a lot of controversy and political debate surrounding the subject of gender and initials (and, in an ideal world, using initials should always be an optional choice for everyone rather than a practical necessity for some writers).
But, even so, taking your gender out of the equation entirely allows your work to be judged purely on it’s own merits rather than on some of your readers’ pre-conceived ideas about what a horror author, a sci-fi author, a fantasy author, a romance author, a comedy author, a thriller author etc… “should” be like.
Plus, if a narrow-minded reader really likes your story (or your art) and then later discovers that you are a different gender to the one that they assumed you to be, then they’re going to have a much harder time thinking or saying blatantly untrue things like “women can’t write horror” or “men can’t write romance”.
In addition to all of this, gender -neutral initials can also be absolutely invaluable if you are transgender in any way too (and are at least partially in the closet about it in one way or another).
If you’re a transgender writer or artist who can’t openly be who you really are for whatever reason – then one of the great things about using initials is that they are a fairly subtle way of ensuring that your name is on whatever you create (especially if your chosen name has the same initials as your inaccurate birth name) without giving the false impression that you fully belong to the gender that most people automatically expect you to belong to based on the configuration of your physical body.
But,at the same time, using initials also doesn’t reveal that you are transgender (and, if anyone gets suspicious and asks you why you always use initials, just quote one of the other points on this list. Trust me, it works every time.)
3) Privacy: One of the other beautiful things about using initials is that, to some degree, it grants you some of the privacy and anonymity of using a pseuodonym (which is often essential for shy and/or controversial writers) whilst also giving you the authenticity of using a name that actually represents you.
In other words, initials are a good middle-ground between using the name you use for yourself in everyday life (and/or the name that everyone else uses for you) and using an anonymous pseudonym which doesn’t allow you to easily take credit for what you’ve written.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂