Author has written 21 stories for Xena: Warrior Princess, and Robin Hood BBC.
I am a professional writer/journalist who has been writing Xena: Warrior Princess fan fiction since 2001, mostly with a focus on the Xena/Ares relationship. In July 2009 I also started writing in the Robin Hood BBC fandom, where my principal interest is the character of Guy of Gisborne (and Guy/Marian shipping).
In addition to fanfic, I also co-moderate a Xena fan board, Xena Online Community, and Robin Hood board, The Robin Hood Fan Community. My professional work (articles and two books) can be found on my website, The Y-Files.
I am always on the lookout for good fanfiction in both my fandoms, and will occasionally read good fanfic -- especially by authors I know from Xena or Robin Hood -- in fandoms of which I am not a part.
What I like in fanfic:
Believable characterization. I know we all have our vision of the characters, but I need to be able to recognize the characters I know from the show (obviously with variations depending on the author's vision). For instance, Xena should not be insecure; Guy, under most circumstances, should be. Marian should not a weepy, passive damsel and Ares should not be a Sensitive New Age Male. The characters can evolve in a direction that makes them different from canon, but we need to see and understand how they get there.
Good writing and style. Generally, a story should have enough description to give the reader the visual/sensory feel of a scene without being overwritten and overflowing with details. And yes, good spelling and grammar are important.
A plot that holds one's attention (unless the story is a vignette).
A good story with a heart. I know it when I see it.
Fanfic pet peeves:
The trashing of characters and pairings the author dislikes (canon be damned). I will on occasion read a good Xena/Gabrielle or Robin/Marian story, but not if the author turns Ares or Guy into a one-dimensionally evil slimeball for whom Xena or Marian, respectively, feels nothing but contempt. However, I also don't like the trashing of characters and pairings that are not my favorites. I don't care for Xena/Ares stories in which Xena regards Gabrielle as a pesky annoyance or Guy/Marian stories in which Robin is completely despicable and Marian's feelings for him are quickly dispensed with.
The author's favorite character(s) getting a pass for their bad actions. Case in point: Guy/Marian fanfics that emphasize Marian's deceptions/manipulations toward Guy (and sympathize with his anger about them), but barely mention his not-so-noble actions toward her, especially in Season 1 and early Season 2 (trying to coerce her into marriage, threatening her father, burning down her house). Don't get me wrong, I adore Guy, but he is not exactly an innocent party here, and a reconciliation between them should require considerable remorse on his side too (even without the stabbing). The same thing happens in some Xena/Ares fanfics in which Ares is all too readily excused for his bad acts toward Xena while her manipulation of him is condemned.
A meandering, convoluted plot harder to follow than a labyrinth, or a plot that the author is clearly making up as they go along. Obviously an author can change their mind about certain plot elements, but when you start a story you should, as a rule, have a fairly clear idea of what's going to happen. (It takes very good writing, characterization, and dialogue for me to be willing to overlook an admission by the author that they have no idea what's going to happen next.)
In Robin Hood fanfic, serious anachronisms. Yes, the show was anachronistic in some ways, but it is still set in a somewhat recognizable 12th Century England. The characters should not be drinking tea, which did not appear in England until some 500 years later, or talking about Renaissance art, which is about 300 years away. Nor should they be referencing things like Marian's subconscious or Guy of Gisborne's inferiority complex, because Siegmund Freud (who would have had a field day with Guy!) will not create these concepts until the 20th Century. Also, Kimberly, Ashley, and Brandi are not medieval English female names.
Sloppy writing (abundant typos or missing words/punctuation marks, repetitive wording -- e.g., several uses of "she smiled" in close proximity to each other). Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but please edit before you post, folks! Or better yet, get a beta-reader. Most of us can benefit from one (I never post without a beta).
Poor spelling/grammar/punctuation. "It's/its," "they're/their/there," "your/you're" mix-ups are especially aggravating. Another common error that sometimes shows up in otherwise good writing is incorrect punctuation for dialogue. Remember, a dialogue tag ("he said," "she whispered," "he shouted," etc.) should not be capitalized. For instance: "Get lost!" she shouted. Or, "What's going on?" he asked. When the line of dialogue would normally end in a period, that is changed to a comma when followed by a dialogue tag. For instance: "Hello, Ares," Xena said. Or, "I've missed you, Xena," he said. When the dialogue tag precedes the line of dialogue, it ends in a comma, e.g.: She shouted, "Give me a sword!" When the dialogue tag is in the middle of the dialogue, it ends with a comma if it is in the middle of a sentence (e.g., "That," Robin said, "is up to you.") It ends with a period if it appears between two sentences: "I'm going to marry Robin Hood," Marian said. "I love Robin Hood." (Sorry about the evil example there!) One exception to this rule is when the author's text before or after the line of dialogue is not just a tag, but a sentence that can stand on its own without dialogue. For instance: "You're going to pay for this, Gisborne." Robin glared angrily at Guy. Or: Xena squeezed Gabrielle's hand. "Let's go."
Sorry if that sounds nitpicky. I just hate to see my enjoyment of a good story spoiled by problems that could be easily fixed.