Why AI Intimidated Me
Changes can suck. Once you get comfortable with something, you want to stick with it, especially if it’s something that has worked for you in the past. But, technology is advancing, and the landscape of writing and publishing is changing with it. When I first heard about AI tools for writing back in 2019, I panicked. Then I refused to acknowledge it. I spent the next two years pretending it didn’t exist.
The whole thing scared me. I didn’t like the idea of AI replacing me. I didn’t like the thought of AI replacing any human writer. Unlike people, AI doesn’t get tired, and AI doesn’t face burnout. AI can outpace every human writer, and at some point, it will probably be able to create a story specifically tailored to a reader’s every whim. Imagine a reader being able to fill out a form for everything they want in a story and AI creating it for that reader. I don’t know if such a story would be any good, but if AI learns by taking words human writers created, then it might be. What if retailers who sell books could utilize this AI software so they could produce stories on demand without having to give human authors a cut of the royalties? If AI can be as good as human writers but produce books faster and tailored to individual readers, then what could a human writer offer that would make their books worth buying? AI doesn’t need money. Human writers do. Human writers have to eat, put a roof over their heads, and wear clothes. If they don’t get paid, they can’t continue to write.
Benefits of Having AI
While I do have concerns about AI and where it’s heading, I can’t keep my head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. There was a time when I used to read road maps when going into unfamiliar territory. Today, the AI program on my phone will tell me in real time which lane I need, what light I need, and when to turn. I am unable to pay for a human narrator, but AI is allowing me to create audiobooks so I can listen to them. Since I can no longer read ebooks or paperbacks due to my eyes getting worse with age, this has given me a way to “read” my stories. I can also “read” other books because of AI narration. AI, while scary in some respects, has also opened up doors that have been good for me.
Times are changing. They were always changing. As much as we might not like it, we have to adapt. I have to adapt. This post is more for me than anyone else. I need to hear this so I can get past my apprehensions and learn how to use AI to improve my writing. I do believe that AI can help writers. I don’t think AI should write stories FOR authors, but I think that AI can ASSIST with the writing process. The one perk a human writer has is the “human” factor. A human writer can “feel” the story. A human can communicate authentically with a reader. Humans aren’t perfect, but the value of the human touch will always be special. Each human is unique.
Writing for Passion will be More Important in the Future
You can’t replace a human. You can come close, but you can’t replace someone who has come to mean a lot to you. I don’t care who this person is. It can be a parent, it can be a friend, or it can be someone in the public eye. When you develop a special attachment to someone, that person’s absence will always be there no matter how much you try to find someone else to replace that hole. After my mom died in 1995, I looked all over for a mother figure to fill that slot. That slot is still empty. Each friend I’ve had over the years and have lost touch with couldn’t be replaced, either. I have also developed attachments to public figures, like authors and actors. I might not have known these public figures personally, but the content they produced was important to me. When that person was no longer able to keep producing content, I missed that “special something” that person brought to the table. Other people might produce similar content, but they don’t produce it the exact way (with the same flavor and tone) that the original person did. As close as the others come, they are not “that” person.
Human writers are unique. Every human writer has their own personality, their own interests, their own weaknesses (for better or worse), their own way of looking at the world, and their own way of telling a story. AI isn’t going to replace that. Another human isn’t going to replace that. AI and another person might come close, but they will never be that specific writer. When you write to market, you take yourself out of the story because you are not writing stories you love; you are writing stories that you believe will sell the most copies possible. So you write with others in mind. You are not writing what most inspires you. There’s nothing wrong with that, but AI might one day be able to do that, too. If AI does it, then it’ll do it much faster than any human can. Will AI hurt write-for-passion writers? I’m sure it will, but writers who are focused on passion will be buffered better than those writing to market.
Writing to market means playing it safe. You’re always trying to please someone else. You’re not looking for unexpected twists and turns. You’re not willing to upset the critic. You are not going to take any chances. AI will be able to write to market, too. In fact, I’m sure that is how AI is going to be programmed. I’m sure there will be a time when AI will produce stories that are good enough for most readers to enjoy. I hate saying that, but I think that’s where this technology is heading. I’ve seen samples of AI work, and it’s not bad. It’s not ready for a complete story, but it can come up with poems and scenes that are okay. That AI technology is only going to improve from here.
A writer who writes for passion has the advantage of being unique. These writers are willing to take risks that those writing to market won’t. These writers will insert themselves into what they write. Readers who fall in love with these writers’ storytelling abilities will still want to buy from these writers because even if other writers can come close, no other writer (whether human or AI) can be exactly like this specific writer. Your unique voice matters. Putting your specific interests into your books matter. Allowing your creativity to go in directions it wants to go (instead of restraining it to fit what the market wants) matters. Writers who embrace passion take risks. They risk not appealing to the largest audience. They cater, for the most part, to a smaller audience, and while that audience is smaller, that audience is often more engaged and more loyal because that audience has connected on a personal level with the author. Writing for passion a slow build. It’s not sensational. It’s not going to impress anyone in the writing world. But if you can find your core group of readers who appreciate what you bring to the table, you have what it takes to withstand the changes that will come to the world of publishing.
How AI Can Help Writers Who Write for Passion
This year, I am going to experiment with using AI as a tool. I don’t plan for it to write for me. I will write the book. But what if I get stuck in a scene and want to brainstorm possible ways to proceed? I don’t always have a writing buddy to bounce ideas off of, and I can get stuck in a story for days or even a couple of weeks. What if I have trouble describing something? AI could help me cut down the time I currently spend on the internet looking up things like what a certain type of house looks like or how brandy tastes. What if AI could help me come up with names so I’m not repeating the same ones across stories? I’ve done over 100 books, and it is hard to come up with new names for characters. What if I want help coming up with the book description? I’d love some help coming up with words to better describe my book because my descriptions aren’t that great. I think AI could be useful as a “helper”, but I don’t see using it to write my stories for me. Writers who write for passion need to tell the story that is their vision, and they need to tell it their way. This is what separates passion writers from the writing-to-market crowd and from AI. Passion writers are square pegs that won’t fit in round holes. Things that don’t fit stand out. They are noticeable. They are memorable. They have intrinsic value to the people who love them.
I believe that writers who are embracing passion are much better off because they can’t be replaced. This is why I no longer fear AI technology in the writing world. I no longer have to bury my head in the sand and pretend AI doesn’t exist. I’m not sure how the changes will look, but the change is here. I’m sure the debate of copyright will be a big debate coming up. Can someone copyright a book AI writes? Who will own the material? What can be done with it? Will someone target a certain author and attempt to “mimic” that author by using AI software to write stories using that author’s backlist as material? (That is a scary thought, but with all of the scammers out there, I believe it’s only a matter of time before that one happens.) I think we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg on AI and what it means for the future of writing. But we can better keep up with the changing landscape by writing stories true to ourselves.