Speculative Fiction Writing Made Simple

Exploring The Benefits and Dangers of AI Use in Writing

May 09, 2024 Heather Davis
Exploring The Benefits and Dangers of AI Use in Writing
Speculative Fiction Writing Made Simple
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Speculative Fiction Writing Made Simple
Exploring The Benefits and Dangers of AI Use in Writing
May 09, 2024
Heather Davis

Snag my FREE workbook: resources.manyworldswriting.com/AI

Everyone in the writing world is talking about AI, but should you really buy into the buzz?

In this episode I’m going to explore what it’s okay to use AI for in your writing and what I believe you should never use AI for.

 In this episode you’ll learn:

  1. 3 tasks it’s okay to use AI for.
  2. 3 tasks you should NEVER outsource to AI
  3. 2 main benefits of using AI in your writing
  4. 5 dangers of letting AI have too big a hand in your work 
  5. And so much more…


Don’t forget to give my Author Accelerator book coaching friends a quick hello! These ladies are brilliant! 


Ivy Dally https://www.bookboundcoaching.com/ 


Katie Wall https://www.craftbetterbooks.com/ 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Snag my FREE workbook: resources.manyworldswriting.com/AI

Everyone in the writing world is talking about AI, but should you really buy into the buzz?

In this episode I’m going to explore what it’s okay to use AI for in your writing and what I believe you should never use AI for.

 In this episode you’ll learn:

  1. 3 tasks it’s okay to use AI for.
  2. 3 tasks you should NEVER outsource to AI
  3. 2 main benefits of using AI in your writing
  4. 5 dangers of letting AI have too big a hand in your work 
  5. And so much more…


Don’t forget to give my Author Accelerator book coaching friends a quick hello! These ladies are brilliant! 


Ivy Dally https://www.bookboundcoaching.com/ 


Katie Wall https://www.craftbetterbooks.com/ 

Speaker 1:

Every day, I see yet another ad on Facebook promising to show me how to write books and novels using AI, promising me wealth and adoring fans if only I ride the new AI wave, promising me that I, too, can write a novel in a few days or a few weeks. Every day, I see another author bragging about how fast they wrote their novel using AI and promising to show me how to do the exact same thing. Every day, another AI program boasts that all I need to do is feed it a simple writing prompt or even a single sentence, and AI will take it from there and create an entire scene for me. But what's the truth? Can AI really do all the heavy lifting? Can I write a novel in a few weeks? Well, the truth about what AI can do, what you should let it do and the consequences of using it for higher-level work at all are far more complicated than you might imagine. Hello and welcome to the Speculative Fiction Writing Made Simple podcast. I'm your host, heather Davis. I'm a book coach, developmental editor and fellow storyteller, and this is the show that's all about how to brainstorm, write, edit, publish and sell a powerful speculative fiction novel and maybe just change the world too.

Speaker 1:

A few months ago I started working with a fairly new writer who wanted to speed through the first draft of her fantasy novel. To give you some context, she had taken a creative writing class in college but she was still working on developing her understanding of scene structure, character arc creation, plot structure and other beginner-slash-intermediate-level writing skills, like using dialogue effectively, protagonist interiority and how to use backstory effectively. In essence, she was still developing her own writing voice. Anyway, she submitted some pages and we started working on all of these writing things, but very quickly her dream of fast-drafting her novel began to fade. She worked hard, ie struggled to produce small, fragmented scenes, but even though it was taking a lot of time and effort to create good scenes that served her greater novel, she was making great progress. Her writing was getting better by leaps and bounds. Each time she sat down to create, her scenes were getting deeper and she was developing a wonderful voice that was unique to her.

Speaker 1:

And then she submitted a complete scene where the grammar and punctuation were spot on Too spot on for novels, actually and the characters and their reactions seemed so surface level that it was a little eerie. The characters really had no depth, the pacing was too uniform, and though everything was technically correct, the scene felt so general and so generic that I could barely finish reading it. When I asked her what happened, I bet you can guess what she said. She said she had stumbled across a really great AI writing program that would analyze any scene you wrote and then rewrite it for you and predict what would happen next. So you didn't even have to write that. No more getting stuck. Just hand a rough scene over to AI and voila, ai will take care of the rest. It wrote all of the descriptions for her, all of the dialogue, all of the everything, and thus the scene was the generic, voiceless mush of AI.

Speaker 1:

Well, as you can imagine, I've been feeling pretty riled up about this topic, so I decided to record a podcast episode about it. And if you're wondering, no, I did not use AI to write this script for me, nor did I consult AI for a list of benefits and dangers of using AI in writing. Why? Because that would have stifled my creativity and my originality, and I don't need AI to regurgitate other people's thoughts and ideas to me. I have my own, and I'm not afraid for the process to take a little bit longer so that I can think those ideas through and get them down on digital paper and make sense of them so that I can to agree with Joan Didion, who said this I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. Okay, let's dive in and talk about the things that I think it's perfectly okay to use AI for. The things that I think you should never use AI for, and then we'll step back and talk about the general benefits and dangers of using AI in your writing.

Speaker 1:

Here are the three things I think AI is very useful for. Number one spelling and punctuation. Let's imagine you're writing dialogue and you're not really sure where the commas and periods go, and maybe you also tend to have misspellings creep in because you're writing dialogue and you're not really sure where the commas and periods go, and maybe you also tend to have misspellings creep in because you're really focused on higher level stuff. Sure, ai is very useful for correcting those things. Just make sure to tell it not to change anything else about what you wrote, only the spelling and punctuation mistakes.

Speaker 1:

Number two names of things. Let's imagine you're trying to come up with the name of a continent or the name of a group of magic users, or maybe you just want to come up with the name of your protagonist? Sure, ask AI for some examples. I often find that AI doesn't produce the best names for things. They're all kind of trite and generic. But I always get inspired by the list and I can use it as a jumping-off point to come up with my own excellent ideas.

Speaker 1:

Number three brainstorming specific things Like, for example, specific plot snafus or specific character arc, inconsistencies or specific problems with my magic system's mechanics or even specific world building difficulties. Notice how I keep using the word specific meaning. I am not going to just outsource my plot or my character arc or my magic system or my world building to AI. No, no, no, no, no. I am going to ask it to help me solve very specific and small problems.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so let's imagine you're a writer with the following world building problem you have two empires that sit side by side and you want them to be at the brink of war, but you're feeling a little blank as to why that might be happening. So you head on over to AI and ask what things might cause adjacent empires to have a fraught relationship. Or you could head over there and ask what are some historical reasons that nations have been at the brink of war. Ask what are some historical reasons that nations have been at the brink of war. Invariably, ai will supply you with a big list of possibilities. Now, I would never just copy and paste an idea from that list, but if something resonates with you and it usually will you can use it as a jumping-off point for your own creativity. It might help inspire something really fun and interesting in the context of the story you're developing.

Speaker 1:

Okay, here come the three things that you should never outsource to AI. Number one the development of your protagonist's character arc, of your protagonist's character arc. Your protagonist is the most important and complex piece of your novel, the piece that will draw readers in and convince them to stick with your story for the long haul, and you can't leave their character development up to the bland, vapid machinations of AI. After all, ai, by design, is a clever regurgitator of information sprinkled across the internet. But that's it. Only you and your clever, creative brain can create the deep interplay of the past and the present, the goals, the motivations and the stakes that make your protagonist feel like a living, breathing person. Only you can create the story logic that will make your darling protagonist someone interesting enough for the reader to spend the next three to five hundred pages with.

Speaker 1:

Number two, the development of your plot. The problem with AI creating your plot is that the plot actually grows from the message your novel is designed to convey to the world. It's what we book coaches call the point of your novel. Generally speaking, the process goes something like this you, the writer, have a message that you want your novel to convey, a point which feels very important to you. It's usually something about how the world works or why people behave the way they do, and it's important enough to you that you're willing to spend an entire novel writing about it. And with that point in mind, you create a character who needs to learn that point, a character whose arc will be going from someone who does not believe the point of your novel to someone who does believe the point of your novel. That's their character arc, and because of that character arc that your protagonist will be traveling. You begin to select plot points that will challenge your protagonist's misbelief and help them to come to understand the point of your novel.

Speaker 1:

Typically, the external world of your plot will serve up an inciting incident for your protagonist to grapple with, and they will respond to that inciting incident based on who they are and what they believe, which, of course, is tied to their character arc, which is tied to the point of your novel. After that, the plot is like a row of dominoes, linked together by a complex interplay between the external world of the plot and the internal world of your protagonist. And here's the kicker Given the same inciting incident, no two protagonists should have the exact same unfolding plot, because how your protagonist responds to the events and makes decisions is a part of what creates an unfolding plot. And since no two people are exactly alike, no two people will make the same decisions. But what does this have to do with not letting AI plot your novel? Well, I hope it makes sense from the things that I was just talking about that plotting a novel is a complex process. It's not done in a vacuum. It's not just about coming up with nifty or exciting ideas. It's about an interplay between the point you're trying to make with the novel, the character arc of the protagonist and the events that you handpick that you think will help force your protagonist to learn the point of the novel. And guess what? Ai doesn't understand all of that. It doesn't understand the point of your novel. It doesn't understand your protagonist, it doesn't understand the events that would logically make your protagonist move through their character arc, and it never will.

Speaker 1:

Number three you should never use AI for the actual writing of your novel. Ah, this one really bugs me, and I'm not going to lie. If you let AI write the sentences and paragraphs and scenes of your novel, then you are not the writer AI is. You didn't do anything but curate the words and ideas that AI scoured the internet and put together. There is no reason to feel pride or excitement about your work, because you can't take pride in something you didn't do. But let's go deeper than that, shall we? Ai produces mush. Ai produces mush. Sameness, bland regurgitation, nothing new or exciting or memorable. Sure, you may finish a novel, but who cares? Will readers love it? Probably not. Will agents select it? No way, they're looking for voice and depth, and AI is never going to produce that. And AI is never going to produce that. Okay, we are done with what I think it's okay to use AI for and the things I think you should never use AI for.

Speaker 1:

Now let's just recap some of the benefits of AI and then take a deeper dive into the dangers of using AI Benefits. The benefits of AI can be numerous If you use AI the way I suggest. Here are the top two benefits it can help you with low-level tasks like spelling and punctuation and the naming of things, and by doing so, it can make your writing sessions easier and more productive. Yes, it really can make you write faster, even if you're not letting it do the writing. Number two it can help you brainstorm to find your own deeper creativity and originality, and by doing so it will help prevent writer's block. It can get you out of a rut because it can feed you ideas that can unlock what is inside of you to make your story take off, and I highly suggest using it for that. Brainstorm with AI. Let it feed you ideas, let it unlock your creativity, let it make writer's block go away entirely. Okay, storytellers, now we're going to get down into the dangers of using AI to help you write your novel, and those dangers are vast.

Speaker 1:

First, I just want to say in general that the danger lies in really letting AI have too big a role in the writing of your novel. Ai should never be given the authority to write any portion of your novel. In my opinion, you should never ask it to generate words or paragraphs for you. You should never let it plot your novel or decide your protagonist's arc of change. Those tasks are simply too complex and personal to dish out to AI. Okay, now let's get more specific.

Speaker 1:

The first danger is that it can rob you of your own creativity and originality. Again, it will feed you sameness. It will feed you regurgitated words and why would you ever want that when writing is your creative playground? Writing is deeply personal. It's an expression of who we are, what we think and what we feel. It's therapy as we confront the same themes and ideas again and again in our work in different forms, and we find out who we really are and what we really believe. If you task AI with that creation, you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to connect to your work and hone that creative part of yourself. You're robbing the world of your unique perspective, that creative part of yourself. You're robbing the world of your unique perspective.

Speaker 1:

The second danger of using AI to help you write your novel is that you're robbing yourself of becoming a better writer. Look, being a great writer takes time and practice. Most of us start out as pretty terrible writers and we write our first short stories or our first books by sheer force of will and over time, as we practice and we get better at seeing our mistakes, we get better at the craft, just like working towards anything the more you do it, the better you get at it. But if you're outsourcing it to AI, then you're never going to get better because you're not putting in the time and the effort to achieve that result. The third danger of using AI to help you write your novel is that you're robbing yourself of thinking deeply about your story.

Speaker 1:

I know that we all imagine that the authors of our favorite novels just sit down and the stories flow out of their brain like liquid gold, but the truth is that's not how it works. Think of your favorite novel. That novel was not written with AI. That novel was written by a human person who sat there and toiled over their story for hours, for weeks, for months, maybe for years, developing the deep story logic that you fell in love with. There is no AI that can match that, where brilliance in story comes from those long hours of teasing apart the ideas in your story, of making connections, of seeing things that you hadn't seen for a long time and suddenly they become clear and your novel takes on a whole new life or moves in an entirely different direction. That is what you don't want to rob yourself of that deep connection. Honestly, some of my absolute favorite writing sessions have been sessions where I didn't put any words on a page. I was just running in the woods and suddenly the ideas of my story began to coalesce and something magical happened a deep connection that only came because I was thinking very deeply for a long period of time about my story.

Speaker 1:

Dangers number four and five are actually going to come to you straight from my book coaching colleagues at Author Accelerator. You see, I got so worked up about this topic that I immediately went to our online forum and I asked them what they thought about the topic, because I respect them greatly and I value their opinions, and I was not let down. I found their input so important and so wise that I knew immediately I wanted to tell you exactly what they said. I wanted to tell you exactly what they said. So the fourth danger of using AI in your writing comes from my friend and colleague, ivy Daly. She is a fellow author accelerator book coach, and I'm going to put a link to her website right in the show notes in case you want to go over there and say hi to her. Here's what she said.

Speaker 1:

I believe that programs like Pseudo-Write are a new means of plagiarizing. It's passing off words that are not yours as your own. I'm so glad I made the switch from teaching to coaching. When I did. I know the writers I coach are doing the work out of love rather than for a grade. My former colleagues in education are having a heck of a time figuring out how to combat the ease of cheating these days. Okay. So I love what Ivy said here. It brings up the idea of using AI in this way as cheating and plagiarism, and even though we don't have any strict rules or regulations around the use of AI in writing novels at this point in time, I truly believe that this is the case. After all, ai got those words and ideas that it fed to you from the work of other authors who were never asked for permission to use their work.

Speaker 1:

Okay, the fifth and final danger of using AI in writing your novel comes from another friend and colleague over at Author Accelerator, book coach, katie Wall. I will also put the link to her website in the show notes so you can go say hi to her as well. Katie has a wonderful point and I'm just going to read it to you exactly as she wrote it. This is such a tricky topic. One thing to note is that publishers will likely have their own rules about AI usage or they will at some point in the next few years. For example, the Berkeley Open Submissions Call and she cites a link here specifically says this regarding what can be submitted Authors may not make submissions that have used AI in their creation, whether in the outlining or in the writing of the manuscript. That specifically says outlining and writing, but does revision fall under writing in their mind? Unclear. I haven't fully formed my opinion, other than I think being very cautious and conservative in the use of AI is prudent. It would be heartbreaking for a writer to use AI to help outline a book and then, three years later, have publication opportunities limited by that.

Speaker 1:

Okay, writers, I know this episode probably felt a little controversial and I hope it was. I hope it gave you something to think about whether you agree with me or whether you disagree with me, but if what I said really resonates with you about the ways in which you should be using or not using AI. Please take a moment to snag the checklist that accompanies this episode. I think you'll find it very helpful when you're trying to sort all of this stuff out and make sure that you're using AI in an ethical way. Also, please take a moment to follow this show and share it with a writer friend. It's a great way to show your support and let me know that you're interested in hearing more. Until next time, keep writing, keep dreaming and remember. The world needs your stories right now, so don't you dare give up on your novel or yourself. See you next time.

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