I've started reading erotic fan fiction again.
This isn't the first time I've gotten into this habit, and it won't be the last. I won't tell you what fandom, but if you read my blog at all you'll probably be able to figure it out.
When I was in junior high, I used to read fan fiction all the time. I could spend hours reading about various Mary Sues falling for Justin Timberlake or Leonardo DiCaprio or Orlando Bloom. I kept reading into my teens, but the well-written and engaging stories became harder and harder to find; most just seemed like self-insertion fluff. Even the enjoyable ones were mostly...well, self-insertion fluff. I eventually stopped altogether, then briefly picked it back up again a few years later. It seems like every time I avoid it, every time I convince myself that it's a waste of time, I come back to it. Sort of like a bad boyfriend or triple chocolate ice cream.
This looks much more appealing than Scott Disick. (source)
A lot of writers start out in fan fiction. It's a great way to practice your craft if you're not ready to create fully developed worlds or characters on your own. It's always had a bad reputation in the same way self-publishing has -- because there's so much bad stuff out there, there's a really good chance that your work will be bad, and it's often stereotyped as bad with no fair chance. And there is a lot of really bad fan fiction out there, but I've also seen some that was really well-written, from writers who have gone on to publish well-written original fiction.
And if you think about it, fan fiction almost always does what any good story should do: It keeps the reader turning the pages. Or, in the case of stories posted online (which most of them are), it keeps the reader clicking the links to the next chapter. Most of the characters are either people the reader already knows and loves or people they can easily identify with. And is that really such a bad thing?