My first attempt was a Margarete Henry pastiche. I didn't use her characters but mine were very like hers in all but name.
As a young mother I wrote personalized works for my daughter to explain things like why I had to go away and that I would come back. I wrote moral fables favoring diversity (The Puce Elephant) and self-reliance (I don't remember any titles if they even had any). I thought this would be the direction of my writing career, and was not fan fiction unless you consider Dr. Seuss.
Then Star Trek came along. And I wrote some of the worst Star Trek FIC ever. I found it embarrassing, so I destroyed it. Not just the sex, but the inability to make characters work, and my misunderstanding of the science involved.
When I found Wild Wild West, I discovered it was easier to slip myself into that world. That doesn't mean the writing was any better. The late 1800s spoke to me in a way that the future didn't. I think that maybe Emily started as WWW fan fiction.
Fan Fiction (FIC) taught me how to put a sentence together in a real written story, how to make characters do what I wanted them to do, how to plan a story arc. It also taught me to sit and write. I was writing long hand on legal pads at that point, and hand writing was about as fast as my mind worked, so it suited me well. I still have all the handwritten bits of my first and unpublished novel, A Pleasant Place to Die.
A week or so ago my daughter handed me a text book, yes a real text for a collage class, called FIC, by Anne Jamison. She treats fan fiction as though it were real literature, and a proper subject for a college level class.
The book stands at the very edge of my familiarity. There were words I don't understand, mostly related to writing for the internet. Concepts that are still beyond me. But they seem authentic and I will continue to struggle with them. Slasher, wank, and verse, for example. I have meanings for them but they aren't the ones in the FIC vocabulary.
We all started at the very edge of the writing worked and wormed our way in by sticking to the craft and improving our use of it. Many of us began with fan fiction as I did.
Yesterday at a book signing a woman read me a passage, a bit of FIC she had written that was very lush and descriptive. I have forgotten what she told me the subject was, but I remember some of the phrases. I encouraged her to write more and find herself a safe writing community.
Writing is writing and people who do it are writers. Everybody has to start somewhere.