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Pros: Creativity and writing skills get addressed and get teens thinking about what makes a book a good read.
Cons: Feedback is dependent on peers, who may have good suggestions but don't always have the maturity to be constructive.
Bottom Line: Figment allows teens to write, connect with peers who share their interests, and read and comment on others' writing.
The Educators section allows teachers to set up virtual and private writers' workshops in the classroom or beyond. A moderator lurks nearby as a check on the rules, which include the usual prohibitions on language, spam, and privacy measures.
Editor's Note: Figment shut down on Dcember 31, 2017. They recommend users move over to the Underlined platform.
For budding teen authors interested in the writing process, Figment is a one-stop shop. Teens can post their written work to a classroom if their school or teacher has signed on, and they can opt to read others' work and comment on it, as well as search through hundreds of user groups with varied interests.
Figment is open to anyone over 13 with an email account and login. Teens access all the interactive features with a pseudonym or real name. They can join a forum to discuss writing, books, and other related topics (as well as many non-related ones of interest to teens). They read and rate works posted by others and add comments.
As far as their own work, they can get started on writing a book or story by using the built-in word processor or copying and pasting from another document. They can post drafts of all or parts of their work, and get peer feedback and encouragement along the way by asking other members for suggestions. Once they're ready to "publish," the site guides them through selecting or creating a cover, identifying the appropriate genres, and creating a tag line. The site then displays the work so it's open for rating from other users.
The underlying idea of Figment is to provide support for teens who want to write. The site creates the space for them to experiment and get feedback as well as the satisfaction of contributing to others and completing their own process. All the steps are a scaled-down version of the real editing and publishing process and offer an experience kids won't easily get elsewhere. What they need and don't get, however, is feedback and vetting from teachers or professionals, who might be more constructive guides in helping kids develop story ideas and hone writing skills. To that end, teacher involvement is more likely to help develop lasting benefits, but kids who work independently will still enjoy the process and make progress. At best, they'll become motivated to follow through, an important skill in itself.