I can’t remember the exact title, but there’s an episode of Doctor Who where Tom Baker’s Doctor, and Romana are discussing life on Gallifrey, their home planet. The Doctor likes painting, but Romana thinks that’s archaic, as in her mind, computers do art. And while that was science fiction in the 1970s, today we’ve got AI tools that do art, and writing!
Every author business podcast I’ve listened to recently, and a lot of book-ish social media groups, are furiously discussing the impact of modern AI tools on publishing. There’s a mix of speculation, gossip and fearmongering.
- Publishers with low-effort, AI-churned out books will swamp the market place! No one will touch self-published books again!
- Readers won’t love us writers anymore as they can walk up to a computer, enter some prompts, and receive a perfectly tailored story to their tastes and preferences.
- Canny publishers will use AI to increase their output and draw readers’ attention away from my stuff!
There are arguments on both sides. A lot of this appears to be FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – the fear that the AI assisted texts will make certain writers more productive and take the readers away from discovering other writers! I don’t think it quite works like that. Sure, I’d love it if my favorite authors were more productive, but I’ve also stopped reading a series where the latest volume loses that spark and feels ‘churned out’. And even if everyone flocks to mass-produced texts, there will still be people who prefer hand-crafted stories. Maybe it will become like craft beer—there’ll be always an audience for those who want the more interesting beverages on the side.
What makes a good story? Intriguing characters, pacing, the ability to evoke emotion, perhaps. How do you bottle this and create a reliable, reproducible formula for making engaging stories consistently? People have been to figure this out for years. There’s so many courses out there that tell writers about how to write unputdownable stories, or what the best formulas. I’ve found some stuff useful (structuring and pacing techniques) and others less so.
There’s also been heartwarming stories of people with disabilities who can now express themselves better using AI technology. People with language issues or Long COVID brain fog can now complete stories with AI assistance. This is how I’d like it to be used. I’ve got some issues myself, which makes it hard for me to engage in social media. I have trouble writing random social media posts about blah life stuff without wanting to sit and think deeply about out it for ages, but if I bothered, I could go to the ChatGPT and have it write my social updates for me!
I haven’t mucked around with AI yet. Actually, I tell a lie—I use souped-up grammar checker Pro-Writing Aid to clear up my text. I’m a messy first drafter with lots of dropped words, speling errors that are fixed down the pipeline. I use some of its suggestions, but not all. Lately it’s got this AI feature that rephrases sentences. Some of it sounds better, some of it’s bland. Mostly I ignore it. But the tool is there as an option. Anyway, more options are good.
At this stage, I’m not going to engage AI (apart from PWA’s grammar/reporting checks). I’m still working on my craft, trying to capture that magic of making a great story, or at least, improve of what I’ve done in the past. For example, when I wrote Final Night, it was the best thing I’d written and completed, and now I’m going to improve on that with the next book. When I think I’ve gotten my craft to a certain level, I might check out AI tools more deeply, but for now it’s fingers to keyboard.