Crap is a sign of life. New bad stories are a sign that this genre — fan fiction, the genre I adore the most - is alive and well. Bad stories mean new people are trying to write in it, and people are trying to do new things with it, and maybe new people are joining the audience, too. When only the best and most popular are writing in a genre, it’s on its deathbed. (See: Westerns and Louis L’Amour.) I want this genre to be here forever, because I want to read it forever. So I’m happy that teenagers are posting Mary Sue stories to the Archive of Our Own.
Does that mean you have to be happy? Nope. I can’t make you do anything. (I can think you’re wrong, but hey, being wrong on the internet is a time-honored tradition among our people.) But when you start making fun of a writer and bullying her in the comments of her story, simply because she’s writing something you think is bad and embarrassing, well, that’s when I say: shut the fuck up or get the fuck out. Because she’s not a problem. She’s just doing what we’re all doing — having fun, playing with words, throwing something out there on the internet to see if other people like it.
But you. You’re trying to stop someone from having fun. You’re trying to shame people into not writing anymore. And that, folks — that is the definition of shitty behavior. (Mary Sue fantasies, on the other hand, are just the definition of human behavior.) It’s bad for people, it’s bad for the future, and it’s bad for the genre. So you’re a problem."
This? Is really, really important (not re: me, as I am old, mean, and soulless, but re: writers who are not old, mean, and soulless), especially when you are talking about public commentary, and especially when you are talking about commentary that is unsolicited.
If you really want to improve the quality of Fic At Large, by all means, strike up relationships where you can have meaningful dialogues with other writers and provide trustworthy and meaningful commentary on their work, and (ideally! mutual beta love is the best love!) where they can do the same for you. In fact, if such a concept tickles your fancy, I know of a writing/making shit club that you might find interesting! But there is a world of difference between participating in a community in which people mutually solicit and provide suggestions for one another to help each other out, and leaving mean, snarky, abusive comments directly on someone else’s fic.
This is extra extra true if you could be construed as being in a position of power relative to them, which, if they are a new writer and you are not, you are.
I do not have enough words or reaction gifs to truly emphasize just how incredibly, incredibly important this is. The culture of mocking fanfiction on the internet (which almost always entails mocking girls when they write, and particularly young girls) is toxic and really sexist at its core, and, in a culture that mocks literally almost anything and everything young girls do, takes away one more space for young girls to do things. And those spaces are really, really important, because they’re places where young girls are creating and sharing things because they want to—they have a vested interest in this thing, and are taking a really big risk by trying something new (writing) and sharing it publicly (AO3, FF.net, wherever) for others to read (who are, more often than not, strangers, even in fandom communities). And mocking that process or leaving vitriolic, spiteful comments, mocks the girl who took that risk. And that’s teaching her to not take risks; to not share her work; to not, in fact, write or create ever again. And that’s the most detrimental thing you can do—to a girl, to a community, to a genre, and to art and creating in general.
A lot of the time this Mary Sue thing gets lumped in with people complaining that AO3 isn’t as “high quality” anymore, basically that they’re letting the riffraff in and turning it into (GASP) another ffn.
Newsflash: AO3 wasn’t created as a showcase for good writers only! It protects fanworks and creators as a space for them and by them. The quality thing was a mostly incidental result of the word-of-mouth circles of the creators (which tend older) and the availability of invites. Now that AO3’s more popular and known, more people come to it earlier, and yes, that means overall quality might go down. It also means that young and beginning writers, people who write Mary Sues and author-inserts and all those other scorned tropes, have somewhere to post their work that’s looking out for them.