When I first started on my first stories in fanfiction, I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't outline, provide any development for my characters, or even planned it any further than the beginning line and basic idea. If my book was my first attempt at a story, it would hardly be readable. I would not have had any experience enough to write a successful story, but that was all right in fanfiction. Horrible fanfiction is common, and mine was just that. It was free for me to write and free for me to post.
Learning how to write my fanfiction was only part of the experience. I would not have learned to correct any of my mistakes and become better if it weren't for the reviews I got on my stories. Yes, I had some "flame" reviews, or reviews filled with unhelpful rage telling me how stupid the story was. I also had the opposite problem where a reader would tell me it was great or just ok without any other comment. Among those, I found a few reviews that changed me into who I am today. They pointed out what they liked, what they disliked, and what would have made it better. Those writers ,in particular, started me on my journey of researching what makes a story good and got me invested in the art.
In exchange, I tried to do the same thing for others with their stories. I've read amazing fanfiction and terrible ones alike, but as I continued to read stories of all sorts, I always had one question in my head. If it was a decent fanfiction, I would ask, "Why does this work so well?" And if it was a bad one, then what was it missing? These thoughts encouraged me to explore the tiny details in writing. Over the years, I tried many different things and discovered how to structure my stories quite well. Thanks to my reviewers.
The "flame" reviews hurt for a little while, but this was yet another benefit to using fanfiction as a chance to grow. This may be one of the most important things to learn even outside of writing. I learned how to handle criticism. My regulars gave me the most helpful forms of criticism, and I learned not to take them personally or to become upset over them. I went from being scared of feedback to looking forward to hearing how to make my artwork even better. I had a lot of respect for these readers who not only read my story but who gave me a lot of potential to become a better writer. As for the useless "flame" reviews, I knew the difference between helpful advice and angry readers just looking to vent out on someone.
Without these experiences, I wouldn't have the ability (or desire,) to write A Rokian's Curse. Even if I did write it, it would be nothing but trash. It would have been just like my first fanfic, dry, no character development, no meaning or messages. Any reader would give it up after the first few pages. I know I would.
So my advice to you is if you're looking to build your writing skills, write some fanfiction. Just pick your favorite franchise and have some fun with it! And I strongly recommend posting it online somewhere. Even if you don't have as many helpful regulars like I did, (Though it's pretty easy to build a helpful team if you review each other's fanfics.) you'll learn how to handle criticism and find out what tends to stand out in your writing. Don't just write either! Read all different genres and authors, because you can learn the difference between a good fanfic and a bad one.
Do you agree? Maybe you have something to add to this list. Let me know in the comments!