It starts with a school assignment.
They get an English substitute teacher, and she throws aside the age old tradition of busy work and makes them write short stories in class. One per day, starting from the beginning of class to the end. The stories, she tells them, can be about anything, but they have to have a plot and they have to be done by the time the bell rings. It’s good practice, she says, for college. Time limits can push you like nothing else.
Stiles has never considered himself a writer. His creativity is reserved for lies and adventures and ploys. Currently, dealing with werewolves is about all his inventive side can handle. But an assignment is an assignment, so.
His first story is lazy. He writes a boring little tale about a boy sneaking out at night to go to a party and evading his policeman father and getting caught anyway. It’s painfully transparent, but whatever, it fulfills the requirements. He hands it into the sub and doesn’t give it another thought.
The next day, the sub hands it back. She’s actually graded the damn things, and Stiles takes a moment to admire her tenacity. Seriously, most substitute teachers just sit at the desk and tell the students not to get too loud. She’s giving them actual work and then grading it. That takes guts.
Then he reads his grade. And the comment she left at the end.
There’s a big fat C at the top, and it’s the lowest grade he’s ever gotten on anything all year, even with the supernatural bullshit invading his life. At the bottom of the page, scrawled crookedly across the ruled lines, is Next time, actually try.
It makes Stiles...angry.
Not angry-angry, like that time Jackson almost broke Scott’s arm in practice, or rage-angry, like that time the douchey chem teacher failed him for missing a test because his dad was in the hospital. No, this anger is a bit more...insulted.
He’s Stiles Stilinski, and he can weave words like no one’s business. Ask anybody.
So on the second day, he writes a fantasy story, about a boy and his best friend going on a quest and saving the town and no one realizing that the main character is the one saving the day. He barely finishes before the bell, and he hands it in by slamming it on the teacher’s desk.
Wounded pride gives him a bit more bite than he usually has.
But the following day, his paper as a B- at the top. The substitute quirks her eyebrow at him as she gives it to him. Stiles has been brushing up on body language, since that’s now apparently important to his continued survival, so he knows a challenge when he sees one.
(Her comment at the end says, It’s a little clichéd, don’t you think?)
So Stiles writes a different story, one that subverts and inverts and twists every trope he can jam into it, and when he hands it in, he knows that it’s terrible. He lost sight of his narrative, never had one to begin with. It’s all he can do to not snatch it back and hide his shame, even as he places it on the desk and flees.
The fourth and final day of substitute limbo, he gets a C- and another snide comment. (Not the direction you want to move in, it says, and it’s so true it stings.)
That final day, he throws caution to the wind and writes about a girl whose best friend is bitten by a werewolf, who blames herself for it, and who has to now stop her best friend from going moon-crazy and killing her boyfriend. The Rule 63 aspect makes it almost easy to see the threads that hold the thing together, to see the path Stiles and Scott stumbled over and across and around during the actual events. Stiles is Steph, and Scott is Shay, and Allison is Allan.
He feels guilty for using Scott’s tragedy as writing fodder, but he also really wants to show this lady that he can write. He needs it, somehow. Stiles has always been like that, though: Desperate for approval, for recognition. Now he just has a new method and a new target.
He’s thought so much about this that it only takes him about forty minutes to pour unto the paper, and when he’s done feels more accomplished than he has in a while. And there isn’t even any (real) blood involved this time.
He hands it in with a smile and a wink.
It starts with an assignment, but it doesn’t end there.
That Friday, the class’s actual teacher is back. She eyes the lot of them suspiciously when she opens the envelope full of their graded stories, but she hands them back all the same. Stiles looks at the A circled over his name, and the comment of the end says, I hope that you don’t mind; I’ve photocopied this for myself. Solid work.
It feels amazing. Like, almost as amazing as putting together the mystery of the local murders or figuring out what Kate Argent was up to. Only, this time it’s without the sick uncertainty of possible dismemberment and death, without the earnest struggle to balance his normal human life with his new werewolf pack membership card and all the time-consuming problems that come with it.
Stiles tucks the little stabled bundle of papers safely into his backpack and turns to taunt Jackson about his A.
(Apparently Jackson wrote some kind of four-part treatise into the tortured mind of Beacon Hills’ adopted rich boy, which their substitute had no qualms about crushing with agonizing precision. Stiles steals the papers and flips through them; he’s awed by the detailed ass-kicking she gives him. And also the amount of actual advice she managed to fit in. Jackson acts like it bugs him, but Stiles sees him fold all four of his stories up and put them in his pocket for safekeeping.)
That night, once Derek’s little pack meeting is over, Stiles goes home and sits in front of his computer. Typing the words instead of scribbling them feels strange, so he transcribes his werewolf one instead of starting anything new. He finds himself adjusting things as he goes along, tweaking word choices and steading his pace. Steph is given a bit more backstory, Shay acts a little less douchey, and Allan finds a new personality, one that doesn’t quite line up with Allison’s, but, as Stiles realizes, it doesn’t need to.
This is fiction. No one needs to know that it’s a thinly disguised autobiography. In fact, maybe it’s better that he’s changing things. Maybe putting some distance between what happened and what he’s writing is exactly what he needs.
So it goes like that, until four hours have past, and Stiles finds himself typing things naturally, pounding out a broader story as it comes to him. It’s the weekend, so it doesn’t matter that Stiles has passed midnight and flown headfirst into Saturday. He just keeps going until he literally falls asleep over his keyboard.
So, yeah. Stiles is Steph, and Scott is Shay, and Allison is Allan.
Derek is Darcy. Jackson is Jenny. Danny is Danielle. Lydia is Luke, and so on. Stiles keeps his dad as his dad, though, because he can’t bear to write a world where his mom lives or where his dad isn’t his dad. It’s stupid, but it’s a distinction Stiles can’t stand not to make.
Stiles honestly doesn’t know what he’s doing really, but that doesn’t stop him from popping open some Red Bull he covertly bought at the gas station across town. (The whole county knows that the sheriff’s son isn’t allowed, but Phil at the QuikTrip has always pretended not to recognize him when he wears Scott’s baseball cap.) By Sunday night, he has twenty thousand words and hands that won’t stop shaking.
It’s not just names that Stiles changes. It’s not just Allan’s (Allison’s) personality. Some backstory gets shifted around. Some adjustments are made to everyone’s ages. The state is switched to Ohio, and then to Washington state, and then back to Ohio, and then, briefly, to Arizona before he comes to his senses two seconds later. He settles on Georgia because it’s foresty, and he gets to make the local sheriff’s department wonder if all the dead bodies are because of a wild pack of coyotes. That’s funny; it’s kind of an inside joke with himself.
He spends almost three days reading up on Georgia before switching it back to northern California.
By the end of the next week, he has sixty thousand words typed up neatly on his computer and no idea what to do with them. Phil the gas station attendant has stopped selling him Red Bull and Monster and all of the other horrible energy drinks, and his father has removed the coffee pot from the house entirely.
“Dude, what the hell?” Scott asks, when Stiles shows up for the Friday pack meeting with his laptop and a folder full of notes. He ignores Scott and sets himself up in the corner, so he can type without anybody looking over his shoulder. He’s the human in the pack; it’s not like he actually needs to pay attention for most of this stuff.
Derek looks at him balefully, but Stiles has long perfected the art of the Blank Teenage Stare. Derek blinks first, and Stiles goes back to crafting a bizarrely homoerotic scene between Darcy the fugitive (the police, and possibly the audience, think she poisoned her brother and then set a pack of dogs on him) and Steph the hapless high school student.
Someone was always going to find out. Stiles just didn’t anticipate that it would be Lydia. He thought for sure that it would be Derek, creeping through his stuff as usual, or Scott, who had no definition of personal space even before he became a werewolf. But it’s Lydia who snatches his notebook from him during lacrosse practice and retreats to the top of the bleachers.
“So this is what you’ve been up to,” she says after using her genius powers to flip through the entire thing in seconds. Stiles scowls at her and takes it back. She lets him.
“Are you going to tell Derek?” he asks. He’s pretty sure Derek would forbid him from doing this, whatever this is. Writing down pack secrets and pretending it’s fiction.
“Are you kidding me?” Lydia asks, looking at him like he’s six kinds of stupid. “I’m going to help you get published.”
Stiles finishes what he figures is the rough draft of his freakin’ novel that Sunday. From start to finish, it took him about two weeks to do. Sleep is for the weak. Lydia makes him share the GDoc with her, and then she murders it with edits and notes and red text everywhere. She beats back every wild run-on sentence, every spilt infinitive, every vague descriptor and uneven characterization. Stiles nearly weeps when he opens the document on Monday morning and sees it. He’s both incredibly turned on and deeply despairing.
How she manages both in one night is not a mystery; she’s Lydia freakin' Martin — she can do anything.
As fast as it took Stiles to pound the novel out, it takes him twice as long to get it where Lydia likes it. They don’t let anyone else in the pack know what they’re up to. Stiles doesn’t even know what they’re up to, not really. Lydia has taken over and is now running this operation, whatever it is.
Once it’s finished, or as finished as it’ll ever be, Lydia makes three copies of it at the local print shop. One she gives to him, one she keeps for herself, and the other one goes in the mail, off to God knows where. Neither of them knew what to title it, so Lydia just slapped on some bullshit about moons and left it at that.
Stiles keeps writing, but there’s not the mad rush that he felt with his first one. (He hesitates to call it a novel, even to himself. Even if it’s long enough to deserve the name.) This one is less autobiographical, and the words don’t come as easily, but Stiles pushes on anyway. From what he’s read (battered college guides and a secondhand copy of Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings, which is surprisingly inspiring and more helpful than he expected it to be) the second book is the hardest and usually terrible.
Stiles wants to avoid that. Not that he thinks his first book will be published. Or that he should even call it a book. Yet.
Time passes. The pack gets bigger. Derek bites some actual adults, who are only a little annoyed at having to submit to the teenagers who outrank them. Stiles gets a kick out of apparently being one of those teenagers.
Stiles almost forgets that being published is even a possibility until Lydia storms into his third period math class, drags him out of his seat by the collar of his shirt, and kisses him right on the lips. It’s a non-sexual expression of joy, and he barely even registers it because she’s shouting that they’re being published, he’s being published, somebody bought his book.
It takes a minute to sink in, but once it does—
He’s being published.
They tell the pack. Stiles looks at his battered sneakers and scuffs up Derek’s new tiles in his new kitchen in his newly rebuilt house. Lydia finishes explaining what they’ve done and the lengths they went to hide everyone’s identities, ending it in the number of rejection letters she carefully kept away from Stiles by having them sent to her house instead. Stiles would rather have lived in ignorance of that part, to be honest.
“There was really a publishing house that wanted you to change everyone’s gender?” Allison asks after a pregnant pause. “Like, they wanted Scott to be a guy?”
“Yeah,” Lydia says, wrinkling her nose. “Apparently they thought having so many female action heroes would be, what did they call it? Unrealistic?”
“Dude,” Jackson growls. “You wrote a book about us?! Without our permission?”
Stiles winces. It was pretty shitty of him, he knows. “Is not really about you,” he tries to explain. “I mean, it started out that way, but it’s not? It’s really not.”
Jackson turns to Derek, clearly expecting him to step in and tell Stiles to scrap the book. To stop writing. To undo everything he’s done.
“Whatever,” he says, like it’s not a big deal. He surprises them because, well, it's Derek.
“Whatever?” Jackson repeats incredulously. “Whatever?”
“Everyone’s going to think it’s fiction, dumbass,” Derek says, rolling his eyes. He sighs, clearly wondering once again how he got saddled with a bunch of teenage babies. "Plus, it's more money for the pack."
“Werewolves are all the rage,” Erica says thoughtfully.
“I hate all of you,” Jackson huffs, but everyone ignores him.
Lydia generously gives him the majority of the advance, only taking ten percent as her agent fee. Because she’s apparently elected herself his agent. He lets her, because he knows that he couldn’t find anyone in the world better suited for it. Lydia is going to run the world someday, and until then, he’s willing to let her run his life.
Just a little.
They publish the book under the pseudonym of G.S. Slane, and the publishing house keeps the godawful title Lydia slapped on it. Howling at the Moon, it’s called, and Stiles almost can’t bring himself to care. His father is so ridiculously proud of him, it would be embarassing if Stiles weren't so pleased. He holds a solid hardcopy of his book, and he doesn’t even care that the cover makes it look like a Twilight ripoff or that Lydia is never naming anything ever, ever again.
G.S. Slane is a published author. People are going to read his book. They are going to purchase his book, they are going to take it home or onto an airplane or on a bus, and they are going to read it.
People are going to read his words.
It’s thrilling and scary as hell.
Lydia hands him her copy, and when he doesn’t get it, she rolls her eyes and flips over to the dedication page and thrusts a pen at him. “Sign it,” she commands.
Stiles takes a moment to read quick list of names he wrote shortly after Lydia barged into his math class.
This book wouldn’t have happened without Derek, who is terrifying, Lydia, who is more terrifying, or a certain substitute teacher who shall remain nameless, who is scarier than the both of them.
He signs his name underneath and adds the biggest, most obnoxious smiley face he can manage. There are party hats involved.