The New Site Figment Asks Users to "Write Yourself In"

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I wasn't the kid in the class who said they were going to be a writer when they grew up. I'm sure I said it once or twice. I probably also said I was going to be a doctor, nurse or teacher. When I was a few years out of university and my official job title was "writer," I was perhaps more surprised than anyone. As a kid and teen I liked to write but I did not like to show my work to anyone and I didn't want anyone to find it.

I stopped writing out of the fear that someone would find it. It took the explosion of the Internet and blogs to really get me to start working with words again. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had the Internet been more accessible when I was in high school; if the online communities I see out there now had been around -- online communities such as Figment.com, the literary community for young adults. Would I have been less afraid to write?

Figment got off to roaring start when the New York Times wrote about it back in December. The idea for Figment was born out of an article in the New Yorker about Japanese women writing literature on their cellphones. Jacob Lewis, one of the creators of Figment, wanted to take that idea and apply it American youth but they also didn't want to create another Facebook.

“But it became clear early on that people didn’t want a new Facebook.” The young people on the site weren’t much interested in “friending” one another. What they did want, he said, “was to read and write and discover new content, but around the content itself.”

Young and Writerly agrees that she doesn't need Figment to be another Facebook.

Meeting fellow writers is great, but I don’t want to go on another site to just talk. I can do that with my own friends on Facebook. What I don’t have on Facebook is access to people who enjoy literature the same way I do.

I'm not the target audience for Figment. I can no longer be considered a young adult, and while I read a fair bit of it, I don't write young adult literature. When I signed into Figment for the first time I was hopeful. I hoping that I'd find the kind of community my teenage self would have appreciated. I wasn't disappointed. The teens and young adults on Figment are smart, funny and engaged people. They are also braver than I was at that age.

I don't write fiction. I can't quite say that I've haven't written a word of fiction since high school. Every now and then I'll jot down an idea, maybe scribble down a paragraph or a page. Then I leave it and don't come back to it. I can blog my heart out but write and share fiction? I think I'd rather eat dirt. When I go to Figment I see all these kids who are so much braver than I am. They are out there sharing their stories and asking for constructive feedback. There are rewards for the readers as well, beyond those of just getting to read great stories. I agree with The Lariat's assessment that it's a friendly atmosphere.

Writers can choose from multiple genres to represent their work, making it easier to find the specific piece you’re in the mood to read. The system of leaving comments and reviews has separate sections for short comments or in-depth critiques. The badges on the site are also really helpful; writers can earn certain badges for accomplishments, such as “Junior Editor” for leaving two or more reviews or “Cardiologist” for receiving five hearts. Members can give a “heart” to a story they really enjoyed, as well as chose emotions it brought about. The stories with the most hearts are featured on the homepage.

There are also the forums where you can do everything from sending out a request for a critiquing partner to search the recommended reading forum for book suggestions. (My library request list took a hit after that.)

In addition to the user-generated content of stories and forum posts, Figment is providing some great content for all writers, regardless of age. Author Kathryn Erskine wrote a guest-post on how to get into character while Jennifer Echols wrote a post on the importance of chemistry. Authors such as Sarah Ryan and Blake Nelson (yes Sassy readers, that Blake Nelson) have been interviewed. They've hosted writing contests.

Figment is quite simple a really fun place to be as both a reader and the writer. I really wish it had been around when I was younger. I'm just left wondering which of these Figment contributors will someday be lining my bookshelves.

Contributing Editor Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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