Okay, I know Fifty Shades was fanfiction. A lot of people hold it against the series, that it was once a bad knock off of Twilight. Me? I don’t mind, and here’s why.
I have written fanfiction.
Oh, don’t look so shocked. You think I could write porn first time out without some kind of practice? No, I’ve been writing fanfiction for a while, and I still do when I get the chance. Fanfiction is remixing culture to suit our own tastes. Mainstream publishers can’t push boundaries the way fanfiction writers can.
I’ve read things in my preferred random that would set your hair on fire, and I’ve discovered kinks that would scare the hell out of whatshisname from Fifty Shades. But I love it and not once have I ever regretted getting into fanfiction. And I will never, ever think less of a book for its origins as a remixed story.
I will, however, think less of it for being awful, awful prose the like of which needs to be critiqued into the bedrock and then some.
The problem with fanfiction is that it’s done for fun. This is a good thing too, but it means that the author doesn’t get the feedback that would make their work good enough to publish. Many fandoms are a veritable smorgasbord of twee, happy congratulations and smiley joy, where nothing is bad and being able to write your native language competently is enough to gain heaped praise. Authors – actual published authors – don’t need this. They need someone to rip into their work with claws like steak knives. They won’t improve otherwise.
I’m lucky enough to be a part of a particular site, in my fandom, where the gloves are always off. I’ve become a better writer as a result. E.L. James didn’t have this, and here is the result. Take it as a warning, if nothing else – excessive praise doesn’t make for good books.