Picking Your Professional Name

Manuscript news: I’m gonna be honest. I have been a pretty lazy writer this week. I joked after NaNo that I was gonna take a week off. At least, at the time I thought it was a joke, but it has turned out to be more prophetic than I would like.

Truthfully, I was really worried this would happen. My hobbies tend to be cyclical, and after a period of hitting one hard I usually circle around to something else for a while. Writing was a hobby for such a long time, and I’m only just now trying to transition it into more of a second job. And if it were a job, I’d have called out a lot this week and on the cusp of getting fired.

Since NaNo has ended I’ve only added about 3000 words. It’s not writer’s block. I’m in the middle of a really good scene that I’m (for once) really excited to write. It’s just… burn out, maybe? I gave myself a goal of being done with the manuscript by the end of January, with a daily word count target of 1000-1200. I’m not hitting that, not even close. I don’t know what I need to do to get myself back in the groove, but I’ve got to figure it out soon, while the story still has the capability of engaging me.

The Weekly Struggle: My latest struggle (apart from the above) has revolved around my professional name. Or lack of one, really. When I decided to go on this journey, choosing a name to write under was something pretty far down on my priorities list, somewhere between writing my query letter and writing my actual novel. I knew I would use my real first name (Kerry, in case you forgot, pleased to meet you), but I had concerns about going all in with my legal last name as well. However, I didn’t want to wait until I made a potentially long-term decision like that to get started on my blogging, my twittering, and my connecting with fellow writers.

So I opted to simply use Just Another Struggling Writer as my public façade, or Kerry for short, and went about my business.

But, lately I’ve felt a little naked as just a first name.

I know it’s still pretty early to think about. Especially considering my current difficulties getting words on the page and the non-zero possibility that I could flame out now and never finish this (or any) manuscript, picking a professional name seems like pretty small peanuts.

A lovely follower on Twitter (Miss K) pointed out that it would be prudent to pick a name, so a website domain could be registered before it’s snapped up by someone else, and I think there’s wisdom to that (although I had always intended on using the JASW — what’s the word? Brand? That feels unearned at this point but I can’t think of any other way to describe it — as my public persona, but that’s a bridge for Future Kerry to cross).

My focus needs to be writing. Finishing a book. But, I still can’t help but wonder if I should be getting my name out there in the community.

Originally, when I first planned this post, I was going to ask for advice on how to pick what professional name to use. Legal name? Maiden name? Pen name, and if a pen name how do you choose? But the more I thought about it, the more I started wondering if my name is a cart rumbling down the road miles ahead of the horse.

For the record, I feel pretty settled on a pen name. It rhymes with my real, legal, difficult to spell and therefore frequently mispronounced last name. It also shares a common first letter, and since my actual signature is a scribble in which only the initials are somewhat legible, I wouldn’t have to change anything (now that really is putting the cart in front of the horse, but sue me, I have a lot of time to mull about these things at the day job).

Which means, if I have chosen what I want to go by, then why wait? Why not just go ahead and change all my screen names, and register the domain, and make a small announcement that Just Another Struggling Writer will henceforth be known as Kerry….

Honestly, I don’t know.

I had sort of envisioned always being Just Another Struggling Writer. A person other writers in the early stages of their careers could see and relate to. Someone who is going through what they are going through right now. I sort of feel by stepping away from that I’ll be abandoning a community I dreamed of building, before it even has a chance to lay a foundation.

Is it self-centered of me to still want that?

What I’m Reading This Week: Shadow of the Raven by Millie Thom. After Outlander, I thought I might like a Viking story, but with more fantasy elements (since Outlander was lacking in that area, for my taste). My search led me to this series. I’m literally only just getting started on it, but I’m looking forward to it.


How Do You Brainstorm?

Let’s get it out of the way: I DEFEATED NANOWRIMO 2018. I say defeated instead of won, because it really did feel like a battle at the end. Those last two days I had to put out 7000 words if I wanted to win. I got half on Thursday, and I felt good about it. Then Friday came and I remembered that… those 3500 on Thursday were hand written and would need to be transcribed.

So, after getting home from the day job, I had about five hours to transcribe and get 3500 additional words. I was sweating it, but I put on my favorite jammies, got in bed, and pounded the keyboard.

In the end, I hit 50,020 words at 11:20 PM Central Standard Time. It was an ass kicking, but I did it.

I celebrated by spending two glorious days not thinking about my manuscript. I finished the book I was reading, I played some video games with my partner, I DID THE DISHES.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am to be done with November. Though I only made it to what I’m guessing is about the 40% mark of the total novel, I still gave myself a really good push. I now know I can make the commitment to write every day, even if it is only 500-600 words. I’m fine with that. I’m better than fine with it.

Anyway, if I’m sick of talking about NaNo, y’all must be equally sick of reading about it, so! Back to your regularly scheduled blog posts!

One of my most annoying writing habits is the very particular way I brainstorm. My partner gets ideas in the shower (or after a minor head injury, like in the cartoons, but that’s a story for another day). Some people get them in the car. Others from really carefully poring over the work they’ve already done.

Me? When I’m feeling stuck for any reason, I’ve found that, for me, the best way to really visualize a scene is to get in bed and pretend to go to sleep.

I’ve been a night owl my whole life and have suffered insomnia when trying to fit into “normal”  sleeping schedule. In my early twenties I discovered the best way to put myself to sleep when I was struggling was to write scenes in my head, down to the very smallest details. It certainly helped get me to sleep faster, but I think I inadvertently formed a Pavlovian response for my creative process.

I’m certainly not the only one who frantically taps out notes on their phone or on a bedside notebook before sleep takes me and the ideas are lost. I know I’m hardly alone in that my creative synapses get firing right before I fall asleep, but sometimes I’m left feeling that they only get firing when my head is on the pillow.

The circumstances necessary to find my creative sweet spot are annoyingly specific, too. I can’t just be laying down. I can’t just have my eyes closed in a quiet space. I have to be laying down, in my bed, with no light and no noise, with my eyes closed, and I have to be telling myself that the reason I am doing this is because I am going to sleep now and I need to do the thing that makes me to go to sleep.

Problem with all that being… I often fall asleep. That and it’s hard to carve out time for a creative juice refilling nap. That’s true for pretty much every adult.

But still, it’s my process and I’m at least thankful I know how to tap into that creative well if I feel my conscious brain is running out of steam.

So, that’s me and that’s my weirdest writing habit. What’s yours?

What I’m Reading This Week: Nothing! I finished Outlander as a reward to myself for surviving NaNo. I thought about maybe continuing the series, but what I really need to be doing, I realized, is starting to do some reading that is closer to my own genre. I have some fantasy series on my kindle from the Unlimited library, but I’ve been a little hesitant to crack into them as I’ve had been fairly dissatisfied with some of my previous Unlimited forays.

So, I’m writing new adult fantasy with a little romance. Who’s got recs for me?