I am 30-something and recently finished my Master's degree. Fan Fiction was my preferred method of procrastination while trying to write papers. I discovered the series during Christmas 2008 and read it in a week! I only read the whole thing once but sometimes, I go back and read my favorite scenes. I've discovered that after reading certain fan fiction, I can never go back to the original saga. I am not a writer (except of term papers) and I am constantly on the lookout for great quality fan fic. Being a student however, I probably spent way too much time on this site but I have found some great stories that have provided study breaks and rainy day reading. Here are some of my top picks which I have listed in chronological order according to the canon timeline (links are below). The authors of these provide much better summaries than I do but I hope others will give these stories a chance.
My top authors (alphabetical order)
Mei Li Young
Favorite Pre-Twilight - Waning Moon: Carlisle's Story by YborJen
This one won my heart immediately since not only do you get Carlisle's full backstory, you also meet all the major players! It was beautifully done and you can tell that Jen did her research (both characters and history). It does go beyond Breaking Dawn and the ending is what it should be (though bittersweet).
Favorite Twilight AU - The Decision by windchymes
There is a reason why windchymes is one of my top authors and her stories are consistently of high quality. She explores alternative scenarios while at the same time staying in cannon. What I enjoy most about her stories is that both Edward and Bella grow as individuals and ultimately become better for one another. The big "what if" here is what would have happened if Edward had stayed away from Bella after that day in biology. The answer and the changes to Edward's character are amazing and worth exploring. This is shaping to be much shorter that other stories by windchymes but the quality of the writing more than makes up for the length.
Favorite Alternative New Moon - Distractions by windchymes
Here is another story of personal growth and as a bonus, we get a Bella who is one I would have been proud to have been a fan of in the original saga. Windchymes explores the scenario of what would have happened if Bella had found the gifts Edward had hidden after he left at the beginning of NM. The result is an amazing journey of Bella's personal growth and strength as well as the reunion you all know will come eventually. This is not a prequel to her story Bloodlines which is another amazing work I talk about later.
Favorite post-Eclipse AU - A Brave New World by Mei Li Young
This one is my latest obsession. It starts after the newborn battle and leads you on many unexpected turns. Others have pointed out how the first few chapters are a little slow but believe me, once the story picks up, you will not be able to stop! This is an Edward and Bella story and the obstacles they face in finding their way back to each other. What I like best is just how the author seems to maintain the characters in cannon. I think that's the best measure of a great writer. This story needs more love!
Favorite Alternative Eclipse ending - Drastic Measures by blondie AKA robin
This is a great one-shot that showed greater potential as an alternative post-Eclipse. Bella's choice was clear but was re-iterated in a rather strong fashion. Fate sometimes interfers but it leads you to where you need to be. I am not Team Jacob mainly b/c if Bella had chosen him, it would not truly be "Twilight" in my opinion. I hope blondie considers expanding this someday since it would be interesting to see what happens to the Cullens and the wolves afterwards.
Favorite Dark Story #1 - Falling Beyond Redemption by Aleeab4u
WARNING: This is a post-Eclipse AU with an OOC Jacob. Definitely not a Team Jacob story but explores the darker side of his insistence with Bella. Even while reading Eclipse, I didn't like how Jacob never backed off in his quest to "win" Bella and I actually like how Aleea has explored this difficult scenario. She gives appropriate warnings and Author Notes so don't say she didn't give you an inkling of what was going to happen. She handles the material in a sensitve way though. Basically, this explores the consequences of the wolves trying to interfere with Bella's destiny as Edward's mate.
Favorite Alternative Breaking Dawn - Bloodlines by Windchymes
This is the Edward and Bella relationship in BD I had always wanted to see. The beginning of this story will surprise you but it is so worth it in the end. Edward and Bella grow closer than ever and truly become life partners. Even Jacob gets a nice resolution (not the one in BD). I loved this because the BxE relationship grows, evolves, and strengthens over time. Its such a lovely story.
Favorite Post-Breaking Dawn - Harvest Moon by content1
I enjoyed reading about what happens after the Volturi in this one. You see more insight into Edward (his POV) and how the rest of the family comes together in both times of joy and sorrow. Also check out the outtakes, "Harvest Moons" and "Family Tradition" for further insight on the Cullens as well as more background into this original story. The sequel, "Full Moon Rising" is now up and is also looking amazing.
Favorite non-canon Couple - Remember When It Rained by idealskeptic
I had never favorited a Jasper story or one that featured a non-canon couple (that would explain my lack of Jacob/Bella favorites) but I had to include this one because it was just so moving. Imagine Jasper trying to live without Alice and imagine him becoming a primary caregiver for Nessie after losing Edward and Bella too. Its hard to imagine but here is a story where he rebuilds his life and his ability to love again. This is actually a sequel to another story, When It Rains, though I actually read this one first and then went back. I think I was an ideal skeptic before reading it but I am a believer now :-)
Favorite Dark Story #2 - Downward Spiral by crmcneil
It just so happens that the author is beta to another of my top authors, content1. I think his profile is worth a look especially among all aspiring Twilight FF authors. This story looks at Edward's capture by the Volturi after BD and some evil plans. After his rescue, the story is about Edward's healing. After an extended hiatus, the author recently announced that the story will be completed and I can't wait to get to the ending.
Favorite Imprint Story - The Westermarck Effect by nosleep3
I was never satisfied with SM's explanations for pairing Jacob with Nessie. I didn't realize there was another reason why this could not make sense until I read this story. I think even Jake/Nessie fans should give this a chance because it gives you another perspective on the imprint phenomenon. You may be surprised. Jacob does some major growing up her and you may enjoy the man he becomes.
Favorite Rated M - The List by Laura Cullen
The first fanfic I read and damn! Lots of lemons and lots of romance. You knew BxE relationship had to evolve that way too ;-).
Favorite One-Shot - Emmett Cullen: Wedding Planner by Forever Without Him
I have to admit that Emmett is my favorite Cullen. He's the antithesis of Edward and I love the humor he brought into the original saga as well as some of the interpretations of his character in other fan fics. This is my top pick b/c it just seems so spot on! I laugh every time I read it. Its good to have some light moments ever once in awhile.