Is AI Coming For Your Book?
AI or artificial intelligence is all the rage right now in various industries and is making its mark in the realm of literature as well. Authors, dating as far back as Samuel Butler's 1872 novel, Erewhon, have written about machines or robots with humanlike intelligence. Some utopian novels praise the accolades of such devices while dystopian novels show the inherent dangers through well-written storylines.
An app that can help draft a novel? I ask. Woo-hoo, you answer, I’m in, sign me up. Slow down buckaroo. Let’s dissect this before we rush into letting a computer-generated app do the heavy lifting for our novel, novella, or short story. Any passage, really. Authors are usually passionate people who are called to write a book. Thoughts swirling around their heads need an outlet. That passion translates to the written word as they pour their soul and everything but the kitchen sink into their manuscript. Artificial intelligence, while beneficial, lacks emotion. Feelings, sweat equity, and passion for the story, your baby, are missing from the AI equation.
What does the AI revolution mean for the aspiring author? Will publishers one day seek to create novels through the use of AI and mass market those books? Will human authors become obsolete? In theory this sounds plausible. They could crank out books at a much faster rate, and not have to deal with the author’s feelings, complaints, suggestions, or demands, all while raking in the Ben Franklins. Slow your roll, I’m not sure we’re there yet, but theoretically this could happen as AI platforms continue to improve. Calm down, the human factor can never truly be replaced by AI. Right?
I’m about to date myself but I refer to the original Star Trek episode, The Ultimate Computer, Season 2, Episode 24. If you’re a Trekkie, you know what I’m throwing down here, if not give it a watch. The story was written by D.C. Fontana and based on a story by Laurence N. Wolfe. It was first broadcast on March 8, 1968, and it will blow your mind. Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek was way ahead of his time.
In this episode, AI technology has expanded in leaps and bounds. Captain Kirk and a small crew are tasked with testing an advanced artificially intelligent control system - the M-5 Multitronic system, which could potentially render them unnecessary. Dr. Daystrom, the platform’s creator, has imprinted his own human engrams onto M-5's circuits. The result is akin to a human mind that operates with the speed of a computer. Things go horribly wrong when the M-5 begins to make command decisions. The moral of this episode — machines cannot fully replace human beings.
Giddy-up my darlings, it’s 2023 and AI is like the wild, wild west of technology, so let’s focus on the positive aspects of it as it stands today and explore how it can aid authors in writing and completing a novel. Proofreading is a biggie. Sure, it can whiz through a piece, find mistakes quicker than a person, and improve the narrative, but it achieves this without the added personal touch.
A human editor will garner a feel for you WIP whereas a one-stop-shop AI tool cannot. Nor can these apps fully understand the nuances of context, characters, and plot on a visceral level, but any editor worth their salt in the publishing venue can. Perhaps my approach is quixotic, but as an aspiring author, I hunger for the emotional input and comfort of an actual human reading and refining my manuscript alongside me.
A long time ago I used the AI program Hemmingway to sift through a few pieces of writing. I wanted to see where my writing stood. Was it easy to understand? Too complicated? Did it make sense? The app of course caught errors and it also highlighted long and winding sentences that needed serious trimming. It is known for helping writers create concise, bold, and clear writing. It stresses the usage of better words, with an emphasis on stronger verbs, and points out passive voice. In essence, the tool analyzes the readability of your work. It’s free to plug in a passage, so there’s little downside. After a few uses, I got the gist of the mistakes I was making as a newbie and self-corrected. If this seems worthwhile to you, go for it.
Grammarly is another AI program that is an all-in-one writing assistant. Like Hemmingway, it’s free and checks for grammatical errors and such, makes suggestions, and identifies delivery mistakes, but an added bonus is it spots plagiarized content. Sometimes writers aren’t aware that something they’ve written as their own may have been inadvertently picked up in other books or from other sources. This feature of identifying copied phrases is especially helpful when an aspiring author plans to self-publish.
Building unique characters takes time, patience, and creativity. This is a process I enjoy, but for those who want a quicker way to churn out amazing and interesting characters rest assured the digital world has character generator tools at the ready. Character Generator allows writers to create characters for any narrative and genre in minutes. With a few clicks the app crafts a profile and encompasses everything from character name and appearance to personality.
Open AI, with its newest GPT-2 model and its counterpart CHATGPT along with some info from the user and a series of prompts, can develop and produce a wide variety of characters, spitting out name, age, appearance, personality, and backstory. Though it sounds too good to be true, it is true. And boy does it seem like an easy answer when an author is on a deadline and requires a character lickety-split.
Plot possibilities are endless when employing the use of AI. Let’s stick with CHATGPT since my kids tell me it’s the wave of the future. I haven’t used it myself, but I must admit I am intrigued by the time saving built-in component and the fact that it can cough up plot and subplot suggestions in a New York minute.
This app can assist the writer by adding depth to a one-dimensional plot and provide richness where the author’s writing may be lacking. We all go through periods of writer’s block or moments where we know we need to expand a certain scene, but the ideas just aren’t coming. We also may not even realize that a passage needs spicing up. This app leads writers in the right direction, can help invent new storylines, and can spark an author's creativity.
AI can also assist with book titles, so if you're struggling to craft a cool, unique title that fits your book perfectly, give a book title generator a whirl. There are many free ones out there. With a few clicks and a bit of info you'll have a bunch of titles to choose from. Here are a few apps to get you started:
AI is not technology to be afraid of or avoid. AI is a helpful tool, and an adjunct to the writer. It saves time and makes the writing process logical and organized, thereby producing an effective piece of writing. It’s up to the author to add the heart, soul, and spirit to their novel. That’s the fun in drafting a novel anyway. It’s worth researching the apps out there and deciding for yourself what works best for you. Maybe I’m stuck in the dark ages, but while I might consider using AI in a pinch, I prefer not to depend on it. You do you, I’ll do me!