I've read a few different blog posts that discussed the idea of fanfiction, and with Amazon's recent Kindle Worlds unveiling, I decided I would put my own two cents in.
I am a huge supporter of fanfiction. When I was a freshman in high school I was distraught that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was taking so long (indeed, it didn't even have a release date or title at that time) and was craving something to read that was Potter related. My friend Kim introduced me to fanfiction.net, and I was in heaven. There were five or six different full-length Harry Potter Book Fives on there, and I reveled in the exploration of different themes and characters who weren't the central heroes of Rowling's work.
Needless to say, I am a writer, and quickly found myself spinning my own Potter stories. I learned a ton about writing from beginning to end, as that was how I uploaded so quickly. I started planning ahead a few chapters at a time, and found myself up to 40,000 words within a year. Better than that, I got regular feedback from a handful of fanfiction readers (I've never met any of you in person, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your criticisms and your encouragement! I hope you're all doing well and still writing your own stories!). I also joined fanfiction.net around the time that the "hits" data was being tested. I could see how many people were looking at my work daily, from which country, and which stories were most popular. What a revelation! Imagine the encouragement that people from across the ocean were reading something that I wrote. It was powerful.
As writers, we all want our words to reach many people around the world. Will my novel entertain someone riding a subway car in the UK? I certainly hope so! Will someone in Los Angeles be checking out my books while they wait in rush-hour traffic? That would be fantastic. These goals would have seemed unthinkable if I hadn't started out writing fanfiction. Exploring the craft within the confines of a pre-existing world was a great learning tool for me, and a lot of the terminology that the website used ended up priming me for a future in digital publishing. I encourage anyone in school to check out all the fantastic work on fanfiction.net and elsewhere around the net.
But, what do I think about Amazon's Kindle Worlds? I'm a little lukewarm on the idea. So far none of the franchises that are involved are ones that I am into. Vampire Diaries? Meh. They're all a little too CW for my taste. Now, if they were going to start allowing people to write Smallville fanfiction, I would jump all over that! It's a neat idea, but until they broaden their scope, I'd much rather write fanfiction for a website and learn about the craft of storytelling while getting some feedback on my writing style. Even if I'm not making money from writing or reading fanfiction, I am getting something else out of it creatively, and that's providing entertainment until a new season of American Horror Story or Downton Abbey comes out!