Should Writers Abbreviate Their Names?

J.K. Rowling

This post is more accurately titled “Should Female Writers Abbreviate Their Names?”, since they are, it seems, the writers who most commonly do so.

The short and simply answer to the question is, of course, “They should do whatever they want.”  For I’m not here to dictate otherwise, especially given the numerous different reasons a female writer would choose to use her initials instead of her full name:

  • She had a given name that’s difficult to pronounce or spell
  • To create a new identify for writing in a different genre
  • To maintain a measure of distance from her non-writing life
  • Because another author has her exact same name
  • Because she dislikes for her given name
  • To emulate classical male writers who used abbreviations, such as C.S. Forrester, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.D. Salinger

Just to name a few.

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Who’s Gonna Read Your Book II: On genre conventions / unconventional genres

One of the most important and oft-cited tenets of marketing is to identify your target audience.

When it comes to books, an easy was to start doing this is through identifying your novel’s genre, thereby making your target audience the readers of said genre.

Many writers descry genre.  I’ve hear it stated that genre conventions impose limits to creativity and the possibilities a writer can introduce into a story.

Some also claim that genre is a means by which the traditional publishing industry pigeonholes the market by only publishing stories adhering to this or the other trend, which ultimately comes to define various genres as a whole (e.g. the dystopian trend in YA).

Yet, whether one agrees with the above statements or not, genre is the means by which readers have been trained to locate books within the publishing landscape.  Whether a book is traditionally published or self-published, it’s the GPS that helps lead readers to the promised land of similar content and fulfilled expectations.

According to bestselling sci-fi author Hugh Howey,

[W]riting within a genre is a huge first step in becoming discovered. No one is looking for you or your particular book. You are both unknown unknowns. So you better write a book that’s near a specific book….  Random fantasy books sell better than random randomness.

But what happens when your book doesn’t quite fulfill those expectations?  What happens when it meets some of the conventions of its genre, yet blithely disregards others?

What happens if your book is like my book?

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On Validation, and why it’s okay for writers to want it

"I've wanted more than anything to have your respect....  And I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!" (from actress Sally Field's 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech)

“I’ve wanted more than anything to have your respect…. And I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” (from actress Sally Field’s 1985 Academy Award acceptance speech).

 

This issue of validation keeps coming up within the traditional vs. self-publishing debate.

For some time now, I’ve been reading various blog posts and articles discussing the merits of one form of publishing compared to the other, particularly as related to the aspirations of unpublished writers.

This debate is nothing new – indeed, it’s been going for so long now as to be almost institutionalized, complete with its own special vocabulary: “gatekeepers”, “credibility”, “the gauntlet”, “vetting process”, “the old guard”, “the new order”, “the publishing revolution”, “the Big 6, 5, 4, etc.”

However, over the past two weeks, a new vocabulary word has appeared on the scene, predominantly in disparaging reference to writers seeking a deal with a traditional publisher:

Validation.

Or better put: the desire for acceptance by and praise from the agents and editors of traditional publishing as opposed to the potentially greater monetary rewards of self-publishing.

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Blogger/Author 2.0

Historically, my track record for blogging is not that good.

My old, now defunct was called Through the Keyhole.  It was all about my writing life while I was hard at work on a novel back in 2006.  I actually did fairly well with that blog: I posted to it every other day; I assembled a decent blogroll, and received comments regularly from other writers whose blogs I followed.

But Through the Keyhole only survived four months.  I just couldn’t keep up the pace of posting “every other day” on top of writing, and job searching (I was unemployed at the time, and living back at home), and trying to hold together my relationship with my mother that the stress of a year-and-a-half of joblessness and my return to the once-empty nest had frayed almost to the breaking point.

Just when all hope seemed lost, I finally landed a job.  I moved four hours away to a rural community where my residence had no internet connection.  So, I quit blogging, and quit writing altogether for the whole year-and-a-half I held that job, and the four-and-a-half years, two provinces, and three jobs that followed.

And now I’m back.

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