Grace Helbig And Her Fans Are Letting Their "Freak" Flag Fly In A New Crowdsourced Novella, So Start Writing

You can crowdsource so much these days, from funding for a new technology to ideas for making people feel loved. The possibilities are seemingly endless, even if your aspirations are as lofty as crowdsourcing an entire novella, like vlogger, author, and comedian Grace Helbig. With two nonfiction books to her name, the YouTube star has undertaken the major writing task as part of the new AT&T Hello Lab series.

Helbig kicked off the project by penning the first chapter, and then introducing the novella, Freak Week, on the storytelling app Wattpad. She also launched an eight-part web series, Writing With Grace, and explained the plan: Fans will build on her foundation by writing Chapters 2-7 over a six-week period. Their fearless leader, Helbig will select and unveil winning submissions each Thursday, and then close out Freak Week with its eighth and final chapter.

How does Helbig feel about letting her fans take over? “It’s so different,” she tells Bustle in an email. “The control-freak in me is learning a good lesson.”

The story centers on a high school girl named Lace who is stuck at school with a handful of classmates (including her crush) as the planet’s annual stretch of insane, global warming-induced weather begins. Since Helbig isn’t one to rein in the weird, the first day involves actual cats and dogs falling from the sky — a Shih-Tzu storm, of course.

“I love The Breakfast Club and was watching a lot of Walking Dead AND just heard Leo [DiCaprio]’s Oscars acceptance speech warning us about the dangers of Global Warming,” says Helbig of the novella's inspiration. “Put that all together and you have Freak Week.”

With the foundation of the story written, its trajectory is now being steered by the masses. The entertainer revealed in Episode 2 of Writing With Grace that she’d received over 250 submissions the first week alone, from people representing every continent except Antarctica. So far, she’s been impressed with her options.

“My expectations have been blown out of the water,” says Helbig. “The quality of the submissions we’ve been receiving is incredible. People are extremely talented.”

While only one contributor’s work is selected each week, any may get a shout-out on episodes of Writing With Grace. The vlogger comments on her favorites, plus highlights common trends (like mentioning helium), themes, and authors. She also offers writing tips and provides quirky prompts for the upcoming chapter, such as strange phrases that must be incorporated.

With the novella evolving drastically each week, Helbig is coming up with prompts as the story unfolds. “It takes me back to my improv roots a little bit,” she says. “We’re creating something in real time. Anything can happen.”

It sounds like Helbig is having fun with the crowdsourcing process. Not only does she describe it as being “very cool,” she says, “I always love trying something new when it comes to content. It’s what makes the internet so great, the innovation of creativity.”

Freak Week hasn’t quite reached the halfway point, but grand plans are in place for the completed novella. Helbig and some of her influencer friends — whose identities she won’t yet reveal — will read the finished product at VidCon 2016. The annual gathering of online video creators, viewers, and industry reps will take place from June 23 through June 25 in Anaheim, California.

In the meantime, the project clearly has Helbig focused on fiction, and the genre seems to agree with her. She says she would “definitely” be interested in writing a novel, so we may be able to look forward to more hilariously strange work from her soon.

For now, the Writing With Grace adventure continues in Episode 3 below.

Grace Helbig on YouTube

Images: Courtesy of AT&T Hello Lab (3)