When Jacob Lewis helped create the beta version of the web site Figment with Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at the New Yorker, Mr. Lewis envisioned it as a sort of literary Facebook for the teenage set.
“I really went into it and thought, ‘We’ll be the social network for young-adult fiction,’ ” said Mr. Lewis, a former managing editor of The New Yorker. “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.”
Figment.com will be unveiled on Monday as an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones, reports the New York Times. 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. The idea for Figment emerged from a very 21st-century invention, the cellphone novel, which arrived in the United States around 2008. That December, Ms. Goodyear wrote a 6,000-word article for the New Yorker about young Japanese women who had been busy composing fiction on their mobile phones. In the article she declared it “the first literary genre to emerge from the cellular age.”
Figment is an attempt to import that idea to the United States and expand on it. Mr. Lewis, who was out of a job after Portfolio, the Condé Nast magazine, was shuttered last year, teamed up with Ms. Goodyear, and the two worked with schools, libraries and literary organizations across the country to recruit several hundred teenagers who were willing to participate in a prototype, which went online in a test version in June…