Last month was generally known to the aspiring and seasoned writers of the world as NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It’s a collective call to action for anyone, anywhere to stop saying “Someday, I’m gonna write a novel” and actually do it. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it brings together a vast community of people, all enjoying (and at times, suffering) the process of writing a novel. In other words, what is generally the mostly solitary and isolating act of writing becomes a social process.
If you missed out on NaNoWriMo, take heart! There are a lot of fun ways that Kickstarter can also be used to build an audience for your writing, motivate yourself to keep going, and turn the often scary prospect of writing a novel into something you can’t wait to do.
Jonathon Burgess’s “Travelogue of a Fantastic Journey,” is one great example of how a Kickstarter project can be a fertile ground to experiment with your ideas. While many publishing projects have come to Kickstarter to fund the printing and distribution of finished books, Jonathon proposed a unique writing project that really didn’t need any funds at all. When I asked Jonathon about what prompted him to come to Kickstarter, he pointed to those social elements that are crucial in helping any writer move forward:
This is actually a way to help support a novel I am working on, to help flesh out all the other little places that I haven’t had the time to work out, and to try and stretch my skills in a direction I’ve never tried (It’s good to try new things, keeps me from getting stale). I had the idea a few months ago at a novel writing seminar, and happened across Kickstarter while I was mulling over how to implement it. A happy coincidence :)
Jonathon set a modest funding goal of $200, and implemented a series of rewards all aimed at helping move his story forward. At varying levels, backers could choose names for characters, name a place/setting within the story, and even receive a custom sketch of their character.
After reaching his goal, Jonathon began writing his story — a prose comic set in a Victorian-steampunk world. Every week he publishes a new installment via his blog, complete with illustrations, where backers (and anyone) can go to follow along in the journey. Here’s an illustration of Jonathon’s protagonist, the hapless Hiram Copperworth, from his very first entry:
As one of Jonathon’s $5 backers, I got to name a character in the story and chose “June Sheppard.” While Jonathon’s whole project struck me as infinitely cool from the get-go, the feeling of being a co-conspirator in his novel was absolutely exhilarating! I read the ninth installment and found my June running about being as badass as I imagined she would be:
Her name was June. June Sheppard, a woman rough of feature, wearing the battered leathers of a King’s Scout. Like many a gentleman of good breeding I’ve always held some reserve about that organization. The fairer sex should not be relegated to such harsh and dangerous work. Though I was quickly reworking my opinion as she pulled my attention from you, Journal, by throwing pebbles at me.
Jonathon’s serialized tale is not only a clever way to approach a writing project on Kickstarter, but also a delightful experience for backers who each week get to discover how their ideas have been integrated into the plot.
It has indeed been a fantastic journey.