A few things YA author Maggie Stiefvater taught me THROUGH THE POWER OF LITERATURE. (Also posted on Tumblr, where, incidentally, it got reblogged by Maggie Stiefvater! Yay!)
1. Write About What You Love.
Maggie’s love of vintage cars serves to transport us into Gansey’s Camaro. Her love of horses translates to knowing exactly how Puck’s pony behaves. I read Scorpio Races years ago and one thing that still sticks in my memory is when Puck’s pony bends around to scratch its ear with a hind leg like a dog. I have seen a pony do this, and it’s adorable. It takes knowledge of horses to know that this behaviour is (1) odd but possible, and (2) embarrassing if your horse does that while you’re on his back.
Writing about what you love adds richness to the story through vibrant details.
Passion in the writer also translates to passion in the reader. I don’t give two craps about cars, but when I read the Raven Cycle series, I cared deeply about that Camaro.
2. Create Unique, Relatable Metaphors.
“A laugh like sucking the whipped cream off of hot chocolate.” “Friendly in the sort of way that an electron is friendly with a nucleus.”
I had not heard these ones before. Not only are they effective descriptions, but they’re also fun to read. Small phrases like these make the whole book stand out.
3. Focus On The Characters.
All of Maggie’s stories centre around intriguing characters with distinct personalities.
“When Gansey was polite, it made him powerful. When Adam was polite, he was giving power away.”
Characters are the most important part of a story. You can argue with me, but I will argue back. The best moments are the ones centred around interpersonal conflict. A character’s stakes, emotional journey, quirks, and unique view are what pull a reader into a book. Even rip-roarin’ action scenes can be improved with relatable emotions and internal struggles.
4. Write With Confidence.
I attended a panel in which representatives from a publishing house said one of the main things they look for in a manuscript is an “it” factor—a quality of writing that differentiates a professional novel from an amateur one.
Maggie, of course, has it. She writes with calm command. I don’t sense any fear of rejection or hesitation in her style. Instead, I sense, “Yes, I am a writer, and this is my story, and if you don’t like it, go read something else.”
You, too, can do this. Write unapologetically. Own the page.
5. Be You.
If you follow Maggie on social media, you know she injects her personality fearlessly into everything she does. Your writing and your author platform are unique. Anyone can make a story, but only you can write your story.
There’s a reason this quote is so overused: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Well, write your story. You’re the only person in the world who can bring all of your quirks, obsessions, experiences, and general weirdness together into one identity—your authorial masterpiece.