Eventually, it was less about reading it to my brothers and more about me finishing a gigantic project. I wanted to see if I could do it. I did it.
This all might sound really juvenile, but it was my first foray into noveling, and tracking characters, and working towards plots, and pacing, and all of the things you have to do as an actual writer. And it worked well as a training ground, because a lot of that plot was already in place by Rowling, the characters already existed. My world-building was cut in half because there was the HP Lexicon available in 2003. It took me a year to write Forever Alive, and I came out of it with a way better understanding of how I work, how my writing works, and how to craft a big epic story.
The other thing that came out of it was an audience. I learned how to take criticism. I learned how to work with a dramaturg. I learned how to listen to some comments and let the other comments go. And weirdly enough, I learned how to deal with fan mail. Because yeah, Forever Alive did gather a following. I still get things in the inbox about it, usually every other day. Some of it is great. Like "This really helped me in a bad situation" or "I really hope you're writing professionally now" or "Thank you for this story." And some other ones are creepy, like "Please marry me." And others are weird, like, "Actually, James has five hundred eyebrow hairs, not four hundred and ninety nine."
And the fun thing about it is ... it's low stakes. It was a fanfiction about the Marauders. It meant so much to me to write it, and it's meant a lot to others, but it's not my career. It's not my own world creation. If they don't like the way Remus is treated, welp, that's Rowling's circus, not mine. It was just special enough to keep me invested, and it was just removed enough to not make it personal. I knew it was never going to be for real published. So it was fine. Whatever happened with it was great.
And a lot happened with it. A couple of awards. It spread to a wide audience. Translations. Facebook buttons. Fanart. It was great.
It got me into college, this story. It showed my advisors I could write something long form and keep people invested. That was cool. And there was one kid in my college class who made fun of me for it. But the thing is ... fanfiction has taught a lot of great contemporary writers how to write.
So go out. Write your Supernatural Harry Potter Twilight Percy Jackson Wind in the Willows one shot. Do a crossover between Full House and Fullmetal Alchemist. Play in others' sandboxes in a safe space. And then go out into the world.
Oh, and if you want to read my old high school fanfiction from 2003, here's the link:
Forever Alive by Mordred