Recently, I was talking to an author who was working to finish her manuscript, and I mentioned that I wrote fan fiction. She said that she doesn’t read the stuff, and that she tries to stay away from it because she doesn’t want to write crap.
Such a statement has a load of assumptions built into it. First, it says that all fan fiction is crap. Second, it says that my writing is, by definition, crap as well. All of this without having read a single word of the stuff. Although I may have felt a wee bit offended by the statement, I have to admit that her viewpoint is not unique. Many people assume that anything derivative must be bad. It must be laziness that makes a person rely on someone else’s characters and settings. Those who write everything original, those are the true writers. Even some fan fiction writers themselves believe that their own writing is crap, and it doesn’t matter how many people say “I loved your work” or “You changed my life” the author doesn’t believe it because ‘All fan fiction is crap’.
The difference between a published author and a fan fiction writer is like the difference between a Chef and a cook. A Chef has more training, and he has a nice certificate on the wall that says that he has proven this to others. The cook has no such certificate, and they often end up making meals from recipes that others have used before. But when you sit down at that table, what is important is not the credentials of the person who cooked the meal, but what it tastes like.
Writing is writing. Some of it is good, some of it is less good, but in the end, there is one question and only one that determines if you are a writer and that is the following:
“Do you write?”