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Figment
December 5, 2010 2:35 PM   Subscribe

Figment.com is a new, free community and platform for young people to share their fiction writing, "connect with other readers and discover new stories and authors. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site." (Via)
posted by zarq (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not at all a fan of the clause of its Terms of Service which allows Figment.com to "use, copy, sell, distribute, create derivative works, translate, and otherwise fully exploit the Publications in the form of anthologies in any format, including, without limitation, in hardcover, paperback, and electronic form," especially as there is nothing mentioning any compensation for the writers. Even young writers should be compensated for their work, if someone is going to exploit it commercially.
posted by jscalzi at 2:55 PM on December 5, 2010 [17 favorites]


It's got the same problem every other site like this has got. It's impossible to create a meaningful categorization system that somehow labels and identifies the different reasons and motives that writers have, especially not at a young age where the writer him/herself doesn't know.

People have different reasons for writing. Some do it purely as a social thing: They have friends who write and so they want to write also. Or else they're doing it to get laid. (Nearly all young poetry and acoustic guitar music is this.) Some of them fancy commercial success. Some do it for the circlejerkishness of having somebody tell you you're good at something. Other people write because they need to take care of some nasty sticky shit in their lives and art is a great way to try and burn it out of your soul. A very very very slim subset of writers are doing it because they are passionate about the craft itself.

So how do you make a site that somehow is friendly to all of these people? It's fucking hard. If you focus on popularity you're going to lose nearly all of the serious people the instant your method of "liking" things becomes important enough to the site that they call bullshit and leave. If you focus on accurately letting people get feedback, you lose all but the most dedicated writers.

What's more, you're not dealing with mediums like photography (which has some great dedicated community sites) or music (which has some decent sites, but nothing nearly as big as, say, Flickr for photography). You're talking about writing, which has the capacity to be very long, very exhausting, very complex, or very unreadable. I've read 10-line poems that took me an hour to parse. I've read attempts at novels that were hundreds of pages of awful. These are not inherently things young people want to dedicate their time to doing.

I think the solution is localization. Stick to small groups of writers with similar interests. Help them find similar people. Get them bouncing off one another. If you're too large, or too abstract, you'll find that you have only the most frustrating people sticking along to take part. That's what this Figment is from the looks of it, and I bet it doesn't find much success in its present incarnation.

(Disclaimer: Two years ago I worked on a never-launched site that was intended to compete in this space; I am currently involved with the Young Artists Association, which is a similar attempt to somehow make sense of this space.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:02 PM on December 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


https://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/06/books/06figment.html?hp
posted by kuatto at 3:05 PM on December 5, 2010


Maybe time will prove me wrong on this one, but I have a hard time reading sites like this as anything other than efforts to farm the production of some amorphous gunk known as "content" which can then be rendered profitable through various unsavory low-margin processes. To put it another way, that NYT bit suggests they started out trying to make a "literary Facebook", and although they might have changed their minds about the mechanisms of the thing, I don't see much indication that the fundamental motivations are any different.

The Internet is essentially one giant collection of venues and platforms for writing. What problem is being solved here, again?

(Ok, maybe I'm being unfair. Outside of webcomics and fanfiction communities, I guess I don't see a lot of successful channels for written fiction on the web. I suspect though that this comes down to what Rory said above, and the basic problem that most fiction is just really bad.)
posted by brennen at 3:44 PM on December 5, 2010


...and the basic problem that most fiction is just really bad.

For example, the Mr. W at the opera piece on the front page. I put it into Word to try and critique it for fun and... no way.
posted by codacorolla at 4:46 PM on December 5, 2010


That's a selective section of the Terms of Service posted above. That applies only if you enroll in a special promotion. The full section reads:

# By submitting any Publication to us, you represent that (1) the Publication is your original work of authorship and (2) the Publication complies with Figment’s Content Policy which is described below. You are solely responsible for your own Publications and the consequences of posting them on the Website.
# Unless otherwise provided in the terms and conditions of a Special Promotion, you will retain all of your ownership rights in your Publications.


I would have been shocked if the NY'er writer and other journalist who started the site would have created it on such ungenerous terms for writers— and the NYT article should have read more like the NY Mag on James Frey's writing sweatshop if that was the case.
posted by Maias at 5:20 PM on December 5, 2010


maias, thank you for explaining that.
posted by zarq at 6:07 PM on December 5, 2010


Maias, what about the sentences that directly follow your second bullet point?

However, unless otherwise provided in the terms and conditions of a Special Promotion, by submitting a Publication to Figment, you grant Figment a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to (i) use, copy, distribute and display the Publications in connection with the operation and promotion of the Figment Website and (ii) use, copy, sell, distribute, create derivative works, translate, and otherwise fully exploit the Publications in the form of anthologies in any format, including, without limitation, in hardcover, paperback, and electronic form. Figment will use commercially reasonable efforts to notify you prior to using your Publication as described in clause (ii) of the preceding sentence.

I'm not a lawyer, so I acknowledge that I may be misunderstanding this, but the part you quoted in combination with the portion I've quoted sounds to me like they're saying, "The writing you post here is yours and you can do what you want with it - but we can do what we want with it too."
posted by des at 7:22 PM on December 5, 2010


To clarify my point just a bit more, I know jscalzi already posted part of the section I quoted. My intention was to point out that the wording surrounding his quote doesn't seem to only apply to Special Promotions. From my reading, it seems that it would only be through modified terms and conditions for a Special Promotion that the segment he quoted might not apply.
posted by des at 7:35 PM on December 5, 2010


Here are two Canadian sites trying to do similar things. WetInk is specifically for writers aged 13 to 19, and Slingshot Magazine (NSFW) (this link is a bit flaky - you may have to google it and try it from there), which is for a more mature audience.

I'm an editor of a small Canadian literary mag (quarterly, 48 pages) (neither of the two linked above) and we're beginning an experiment in combining web-publishing (we'll publish the good stuff immediately online) and print publication. Rather than publish a print edition quarterly, we're going to print a single "best-of" issue that's more like a book than a magazine.

So far our more regular contributor's seem to like the idea. Our dilemma is that in order to legitimate the online publication we'll need to pay fees to our contributors. We want to do this, but what is online publication worth, compared to print publication? In Canada non-profit arts organizations like ours apply for, and receive, grants to help us keep going. They absolutely expect that we'll pay contributors reasonably well, but we're unclear how they'll value online publication.

I also teach high school English and Figment looks a bit like one of those poetry anthology outfits that will publish your poem in their book for a fee, and then charge you for the book too. I'll show my students this site, but I doubt many of them will use it. Deviantart (despite other concerns about it), on the other hand, works quite well for my student writers group. I don't see Figment giving me, or my students, anything new and interesting except more examples of teen writing (good, banal, and terrible).
posted by kneecapped at 7:57 PM on December 5, 2010


Do young readers really want to read fiction by young writers? Do older readers? Or is this just a thing for people to put their stuff out there?
posted by inturnaround at 10:43 PM on December 5, 2010


I may have missed something, but I looked around the site and found no reference to "young" or other limitation on the writer's age.
posted by aqsakal at 11:33 PM on December 5, 2010


I'm not a lawyer, so I acknowledge that I may be misunderstanding this

You are. Copyright is a figment of the imagination. It's web 2.fuck.u
posted by IvoShandor at 12:38 AM on December 6, 2010


I'm not a lawyer, so I acknowledge that I may be misunderstanding this, but the part you quoted in combination with the portion I've quoted sounds to me like they're saying, "The writing you post here is yours and you can do what you want with it - but we can do what we want with it too."

It's really badly written, but what it means is that you retain all your rights to your work, but Figment has the right to publish your work in an anthology ("Figment's Book of Crap 2010" or whatever); UNLESS there is a "Special Promotion" event of some kind. That will have its own terms and conditions which override the standard T&C so watch out. IAAL but IANYL, this is not legal advice etc etc
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 3:22 AM on December 6, 2010


I may have missed something, but I looked around the site and found no reference to "young" or other limitation on the writer's age.

Mentioned in the linked NYTimes article, and will presumably be marketed to that demographic. Also, their reviews seem to focus on YA fiction.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on December 6, 2010


pfft.

If you want amazing writing with a proper community, just pop over to e2.

FB
posted by fordiebianco at 9:03 AM on December 6, 2010


I haven't used FictionPress in years (literally since it broke off from Fanfiction.net so what, ten years now?) but it still exists and claims to be the largest of its type and as far as I know has no restrictive licensing stuff so I guess I'd rather point people there even with its limitations. That Figment TOS is really a sticking point.
posted by librarylis at 10:00 AM on December 6, 2010


I think Figment looks great. Hope it's ok if I mention Fictionaut, a literary community/crowdsourced litmag I launched last year, after a year in private beta. Fictionaut isn't aimed at young writers, and we have a great community of MFA students, emerging writers, and big shots including Robert Olen Butler, Rick Moody, Mary Gaitskill, Ann Beattie, and Frederick Barthelme. (See Line Breaks on the blog for more work from famous writers.) Fictionaut uses a popularity algorithm to recommend stories on the front page.

The site is still invite-only, but you can request membership here.
posted by muckster at 11:38 AM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW, here's the Projects post I'd made about Fictionaut when we launched...

As far as the ToS is concerned, on Fictionaut, all rights remain with the author, and writers can delete or hide their work at any time.
posted by muckster at 11:47 AM on December 6, 2010


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