Could an A.I. Chatbot Rewrite My Novel?
newyorker.com – Saturday December 10, 2022
During one of my more desperate phases as a young novelist, I began to question whether I should actually be writing my own stories. I was deeply uninterested at the time in anything that resembled a plot, but I acknowledged that if I wanted to attain any sort of literary success I would need to tell a story that had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
This was about twenty years ago. My graduate-school friends and I were obsessed with a Web site called the Postmodernism Generator that spat out nonsensical but hilarious critical-theory papers. The site, which was created by a coder named Andrew C. Bulhak, who was building off Jamie Zawinski’s Dada Engine, is still up today, and generates fake scholarly writing that reads like, “In the works of Tarantino, a predominant concept is the distinction between creation and destruction. Marx’s essay on capitalist socialism holds that society has objective value. But an abundance of appropriations concerning not theory, but subtheory exist.”
I figured that, if a bit of code could spit out an academic paper, it could probably just tell me what to write about. Most plots, I knew, followed very simple rules, and, because I couldn’t quite figure out how to string one of these out, I began talking to some computer-science graduate students about the possibilities of creating a bot that could just tell me who should go where, and what should happen to them. What I imagined was a simple text box in which I could type in a beginning—something like “A man and his dog arrive in a small town in Indiana”—and then the bot would just tell me that, on page 3, after six paragraphs of my beautiful descriptions and taut prose, the dog would find a mysterious set of bones in the back yard of their boarding house.
After a couple months of digging around, it became clear to me that I wasn’t going to find much backing for my plan. One of the computer-science students, as I recall, accused me of trying to strip everything good, original, and beautiful from the creative process. Bots, he argued, could imitate basic writing and would improve at that task, but A.I. could never tell you the way Karenin smiled, nor would it ever fixate on all the place names that filled Proust’s childhood. I understood why he felt that way, and agreed to a certain extent. But I didn’t see why a bot couldn’t just fill in all the parts where someone walks from point A to point B.
Sam Lipsyte on the What and the How of Writing
lithub.com – Friday December 9, 2022
Content and style are not separate things. They are different aspects—the what and the how—of the same thing. By the how I mean the way certain syntactical arrangements of words set off chains of thought and emotion and even physical sensation in the reader, create a kind of energy field within which one experiences the text. By the what I just mean whatever somebody is writing about: love, work, art, war, school, politics, sex, faith, family, death. Life, basically, life with others and life alone, the end of life. This is the content. Style is your filter on all of this, the way you see it and feel it— tragically, tragicomically—and how it summons language in you, how life comes to be alive on the page.
Writing Fan Fiction Gave Me Community and Creative Freedom
electricliterature.com – Thursday December 8, 2022
When the pandemic erupted, I was in the midst of leaving my lucrative corporate job and transitioning to graduate school. I had returned to my parents’ home, logging onto client meetings from my childhood bedroom during the day, losing hours to fanfiction on Archive of our Own (Ao3) at night. As the terror of the pandemic appeared in push notifications on my phone, scrolling through fanfictions about Draco and Hermione’s imagined lives after Hogwarts soothed me. Escaping into stories that continued the plot of a childhood classic also comforted me as I came to terms with leaving the stability of my career for the instability of pursuing my passion.
I had always wanted to be a writer, but as the only child of two Chinese immigrants, financial security was a religion in my household. I interpreted part of my inheritance to be the achievement of the upward mobility for which my parents had immigrated. Writing, especially the popular conception of a “starving artist,” did not fit into that framework; I spent my first year post-college trying to see if I could repress and extinguish my literary aspirations for a more stable career path.
Creative Writing Prompts to Get Your Brain in Gear
rismedia.com – Tuesday December 6, 2022
Writing is an easy way to escape reality and enter into a world of your own. Unfortunately, writer’s block is a nasty beast that loves to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune moments. Inspiration is undoubtedly the most effective weapon against this monster. Explore these five creative writing prompts to get your imagination moving and your pen flying across the paper.
Print on demand pays off
thebookseller.com – Tuesday December 6, 2022
When I founded Mensch Publishing, I determined to use the business to test out different ways of doing things. At an author level my terms involved zero advances, world rights all languages, and a relatively high net receipts royalty. Most of the books I have published are brilliantly supported by the Bloomsbury salesforce worldwide and by using their excellent production and rights departments.
But I wanted to try an experiment using print-on-demand technology for an out-and-out trade book with the author’s and agent’s permission. The book in question is Philip Norman’s wonderful memoir of Fleet Street high jinks and catastrophes, We Danced on Our Desks, which we are publishing in original paperback and e-book on 12th December.
AI Reveals the Most Human Parts of Writing
wired.com – Friday December 2, 2022
A WOMAN HAS been working on her book, a young adult fantasy novel, for hours. At some point, she gets the familiar itch to check her email: She can’t think of what to write next. She stares at the screen. She’s lost her words. She could bang her head against the wall, or maybe turn to a favorite book for inspiration, or lose her momentum to distraction. But instead she turns to an AI writing tool, which takes in her chapter so far and spits out some potential next paragraphs. These paragraphs are never quite what she wants, though they sometimes contain beautiful sentences or fascinating directions. (Once it suggested a character sings a song, and also generated the lyrics of the song.) Even when these paragraphs fail, they make her interested in the story again. She’s curious about this computer-generated text, and it reignites her interest in her own writing.
So You Want to Start Reading (or Writing) Fanfic
gizmodo.com – Wednesday November 23, 2022
Buckle up babes, we’re all in tonight. In a ridiculous moment of hubris a few weeks ago, I posted on Twitter that I was debating between writing fanfic and doing work while on a plane home from a work trip. My editor saw it, and now, wouldn’t you know it, I’m doing a whole slideshow to introduce you to fanfiction, fanfic, or just fic. Life is funny. (I posted that fic I wrote on the plane last week, btw, I’m very pleased. You will never find it.)
Let me take you on a journey through fanfiction—the history, the drama, the good, the bad, the ugly. All of it deserves its moment in the sun. Or on your screens. We’ll figure it out together.
What's the Key to Writing Realistic Historical Fiction?
crimereads.com – Tuesday November 22, 2022
William Christie says it's all about timelines, a sense of place, and including the right details.
I’m not a historian, just a novelist who happens to be a history fanatic. So when I write a spy novel set during World War II, fake history is unacceptable. Even though my protagonist Alexsi and the situations he finds himself in may be fictional, the story has to be set within the context of real locations, real historical characters portrayed accurately, and an actual historical timeline.
As a history fanatic I feel obligated to offer my readers history that they may not necessarily be familiar with. My previous novel, A Single Spy, was set among the German exile colonies of Azerbaijan, Stalin’s Russia, Nazi Germany, Iran, and a German plot to assassinate Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin at the Teheran Conference in 1943.
Readers clearly appreciated it, so obviously for The Double Agent I couldn’t take the easy way out. Alexsi, who is interested only in personal survival, not ideology, had to make his way out of Iran after betraying both the Germans and the Russians, and being left disappointed in his offer of service to the British.
Of course his journey could not be carefree. Alexsi would have to be dragged to London, think he was safe, then targeted by the Russians and their traitors in British Intelligence. He had to get out of London in order to survive, but the only way he could do that was to offer to spy again. It’s 1944. Where?
Shannon Terrell on The Guest House and the craft of writing
themedium.ca – Tuesday November 22, 2022
Creative writing is a vulnerable process. From short stories to full novels, the process of putting words to paper (or into a Word document) is often time consuming and feeds into our most precious insecurities. Before releasing their work to readers, writers receive feedback from trusted editors and spend countless hours re-writing. Their fingers cramp and they laugh and cry and want to chuck their keyboards across the room in a fury—but it’s all worth it. Writing is an art of pristine rewards.
Tilting At Windmills: Becoming (and Staying) A Writer
evesun.com – Sunday November 20, 2022
I recently finished writing a novel. It is an arson mystery called DOE EYES, and I like it a lot. After dotting the last “i” and scribbling THE END on the final page, the next item on my agenda was to send out query letters. For those not in the know, a “query letter” is a missive that provides an author’s credentials; a plot synopsis; a list of potential markets; a projected audience; the word count, etc., to literary agents who list themselves as “Open to Inquiries.”
This procedure is pretty much the same as it was about a million years ago, when I was trying to sell my first mystery, JULIAN SOLO. My quest then was painful, fatiguing, and frustrating (rejection is no fun). Eventually, however, it was rewarding, as my book was accepted by RLR Associates Literary Agency, with whom I remained until they closed up shop. JULIAN SOLO was also nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of American, and it set the stage for my happy marriage to RLR for over twenty years.
Now, however, I am back to square one ... trying to find a literary agent in a shrinking publishing market, where there are less publishers, less bookstores, more competition, and less books.