First of all, let me say that aside from excerpts, I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey. And the excerpts I’ve looked at read like fanfiction. Which is fine, except this is a best selling book and a kick right to the nuts of my ego.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a knock on fanfiction. I like fanfiction. I wrote A LOT of fanfiction (well over 100 stories in at least 10 different fandoms, if not more; I can’t really remember). For me it was a great training ground. You’ve got to write a lot to learn how to be a better writer and I put in my time doing fanfiction. With characters and worlds ready-made, it was very easy to drop a story down on it and see what I could do with it. And I did a lot.
To this day, I feel my greatest fanfiction accomplishment was writing a story for a fandom that I knew little about. I mean I hadn’t even seen the movie the fandom was based around. My friend challenged me, told me some key details, and then let me go. Somehow, I was able to write a story deemed accurate and very in-canon. I’m still very pleased that I could do that.
However, in terms of popularity, nothing can compare to a story I wrote years ago. I’m not going to name the story, or hell, even the fandom because the Internet is forever and I don’t want anyone looking it up. I HATED that story. I hated it when I wrote it and I still hate it now. It was supposed to be a little one shot fic, but so many people clamored for more than I caved in and wrote more. To date, it probably eclipses everything I’ve ever written, original and fanfiction, in terms of popularity.
I’ve read it a couple of times since it was originally posted over a decade ago and while I still hate it, I also see how far I’ve come as a writer since. I still hate that story, but now I hate it on different levels, from the bones on up.
When 50 Shades of Grey first came out and its Twilight fanfic origins revealed, I gave a passing thought about giving my popular fanfic story the same treatment. Just find/replace the names and post it to see if anyone would still think it was so great.
With my luck, they would. People would clamor over it now like they did back then and some publisher would want to buy it and then I’d have to go stick my head in the washing machine because it’s old enough that it’ll run the spin cycle without the lead closed. I couldn’t imagine being forever tied to that story, to have my success based on that story. It’s garbage and I know it and the fact that people would be willing to ignore the garbage-ness of it would make me wonder why I ever bothered to get better as a writer at all.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m working on novel manuscripts, making a concerted effort to get better as a writer, and a piece of renamed fanfiction hits the best seller list. Jealous? Of course. Disappointed? Absolutely.
It makes me wonder why I’m wasting my time.
Maybe I should have stuck to fanfiction.