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I tried the AI novel-writing tool everyone hates, and it’s better than I expected

theverge.com – Wednesday May 24, 2023

Last week, generative fiction tool Sudowrite launched a system for writing whole novels. Called Story Engine, it’s another shot in the ongoing culture war between artists and AI developers — one side infuriated by what feels like a devaluation of their craft, the other insisting that it’s a tool for unlocking creativity and breaking writer’s block. Neither answered the question I was really curious about: does it work?

Well, I didn’t take on Sudowrite’s pitch of a full novel in a few days. But over the weekend, I generated a novella written entirely inside Story Engine — it’s called The Electric Sea at the AI’s suggestion, and you can read the whole thing on Tumblr.

I’m not sure how I feel about it.

I’m an enthusiastic, if strictly amateur, fiction writer. I wrote somewhere north of 150,000 words of unpublished fiction last year, so Sudowrite’s “break writer’s block” pitch isn’t that compelling to me. Writing, however, is not a task I hold inherently sacred. The field has a long and proud tradition of hastily written profit-driven trash, from Ed Wood’s churned-out erotica to the infamous pulp publisher Badger Books, known for handing authors a cover and asking them to write a book around it. I enjoy seeing where large language models’ strengths and weaknesses lie, and I’ve long been fascinated by challenges like NaNoGenMo, which asked writers to create an AI-generated novel in the days before modern generative AI. So on Saturday morning I paid for 90,000 words of Sudowrite text, booted it up, and “wrote” a roughly 22,500-word cyberpunk novella by Sunday afternoon.

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5 Tips on Finding a Literary Agent For the Book You've Written

houstonpress.com – Monday May 22, 2023

When I teach my Intro to Fiction Writing class at Closing Credits, I always start by telling students what to expect in the world of publishing. There’s not much point in writing a book if you don’t know what you’re going to do with it. Inevitably, we end up talking about agents, the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Here are some tips I hand out.

Figure Out If You Really Need an Agent

I don’t mean “ go straight to the publishers.” They will throw your work in the trash. I mean, is your work better suited for self-release?

The example I always use is Chuck Tingle. There was always a market for weirdly-worded dinosaur erotica with badly-photoshopped covers and overt political commentary, but no agent was ever going to be able to sell that. The industry is focused on a handful of surefire moneymakers. It turns on a $100 bill, not a dime.

If your work is particularly weird or off the beaten path, you may be better off investing in yourself. Agents are for market-ready works.

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Even Without Book Bans, Publishing Has a YA Issue

themarysue.com – Sunday May 21, 2023

Young Adult (YA) literature has found itself under attack from an increase in book banning and censorship. Right-wing groups like Moms for Liberty have set their sights on YA literature, and have succeeded in removing countless titles from school districts and local libraries. Some of the most common targets are books that address topics like abuse, racism, and LGBTQIA issues. Right-wing groups raise outrage by wrongfully classifying YA books as “pornography” to make them inaccessible to readers of all ages. However, book banning is only part of the genre’s continued fight for survival.

Those who oppose YA literature are definitely part of the problem, but those who support it may also be unintentionally harming it. So many adults are reading, publicly reviewing, and commenting on YA literature that YA books are now tailored to adults instead of teens. There’s also the issue of adult books mislabeled as YA literature, and vice versa. The problem isn’t that kids can’t read or handle any content deemed “adult.” It’s that adults and young readers are two completely separate markets, and the needs and interests of each ought to be evaluated separately. Additionally, price hikes in books make YA literature inaccessible to their target audience.

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The 'publishing less' conundrum

thebookseller.com – Thursday May 18, 2023

Yes, publishers are overstretched — but fewer books won’t really help.

Do we need to care for authors better, rethink staff workloads and pay more attention to each book? Yes. But the short answer to "can we publish less, but better?" is: not necessarily.

Most would agree we don’t want lists reduced, teams shrunk and only safe titles published. This wouldn’t be serving readers, writers, the industry or society. So what we need is a situation where authors are better communicated with, books are given more attention, and the changed nature of publishing roles is recognised.

As someone who has tried to do exactly that, from the luxury of a fresh start with a new company, it’s worth highlighting our aims and our realisations. 

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How to get published in a literary magazine: ‘Whatever excites you will excite us’

irishtimes.com – Sunday May 14, 2023

Gemma Tipton offers a beginner’s guide to taking up a new cultural pursuit

If there was an Olympics for philosophical musings, Ireland’s Chat Team would surely win gold. Some get their deep thoughts down on paper, but how do you take the next step and get it in print? Lisa McInerney is editor of the Stinging Fly.

Aren’t literary magazines for people who write stuff that’s hard to read?

Absolutely not. Danielle McLaughlin says she credits the Stinging Fly with enabling her to be a writer today, “something that would once have seemed as remote a possibility as becoming an astronaut”, while Anne Enright says, when people ask her how to break into publishing, she tells them “try there first”.

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What Teaching Shakespeare Taught Me About Writing Horror

lithub.com – Monday May 8, 2023

Titus Andronicus May Be Bloody, but the Scottish Play and Othello Are Psychological Horror Perfection

A desolate moor, haunted by incomprehensible supernatural beings. Chains rattling in a dark castle, ghosts prowling the ramparts. A grisly corpse, hands chopped off and tongue sliced out. For any horror-lovers, whether the Gothic classics or the contemporary greats, these tropes will ring familiar.

They come, of course, from Shakespeare.

In fact, after more than a decade of teaching his work, I’ve come to see Shakespeare—at least when he’s writing tragedies—as primarily a horror writer. He might perhaps be the most significant influence in the entire English language to the Gothic, and consequently the modern, horror tradition.

On the surface, no play epitomizes this more than his first tragedy, the grisly Titus Andronicus. It is the Saw franchise of Elizabethan theatre, filled with as much shock and gore as Shakespeare could possibly have packed into a single play. As well as a full complement of stabbings, hangings, and beheadings, the audience is treated to Aaron being buried up to his neck until he starves to death, seeing Lavinia’s hands removed and tongue cut out, watching on as Alarbus’s arms and legs are cut off and he is thrown into a fire, and finally, Shakespeare delivers the coup-de-grace as Chiron and Demetrius are baked into a pie and then fed to their mother. Let it not be said that gore is a new thing in popular entertainment.

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Asked to Delete References to Racism From Her Book, an Author Refused

nytimes.com – Monday May 8, 2023

The case, involving Scholastic, led to an outcry among authors and became an example of how the culture wars behind a surge in book banning in schools has reached publishers.

It was the most personal story that Maggie Tokuda-Hall had ever written: the tale of how her grandparents met and fell in love at an incarceration camp in Idaho that held Japanese Americans during World War II.

The book, called “Love in the Library,” is aimed at six- to nine-year-olds. Published last year by a small children’s publisher, Candlewick Press, it drew glowing reviews, but sales were modest. So Tokuda-Hall was thrilled when Scholastic, a publishing giant that distributes books and resources in 90 percent of schools, said last month it wanted to license her book for use in classrooms.

When Tokuda-Hall read the details of the offer, she felt deflated — then outraged. Scholastic wanted her to delete references to racism in America from her author’s note, in which she addresses readers directly. The decision was wrenching, Tokuda-Hall said, but she turned Scholastic down and went public, describing her predicament in a blog post and a Twitter post that drew more than five million views.

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Jaime Green on Writing with Research

lithub.com – Saturday April 29, 2023

I realized early on that what I loved about writing nonfiction was the finding. Digging some marvel out of a dusty corner and giving it a good wipe-down, holding it up so the reader can see how it catches the light. Look at that!

The item is always in the light, not me. The thrill of the jackpot in research entranced me, as did the satisfaction of setting the artifact in the perfect frame of an essay. Instead of puzzle pieces with only one solution, the research was mosaic tiles, making a different picture if you placed them this way or that. I thought, for a while, that was my art.

But it’s a choice, of course, how visible a writer makes their research. Not the information found, but the act of finding. And not the credit and citation—that’s not a flexible requirement—but whether the sourcing lives in your prose instead of just the back of the book. You do get to decide.

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I'm a poet. And I celebrate the days I write nothing

wbur.org – Friday April 28, 2023

During the 30 days of April, poetry, normally not-in-the-limelight, earns a hashtag: it’s #NationalPoetryMonth. It's as though Emily Dickinson has won a Publisher's Clearinghouse prize. There's a major uptick in poems studied, written, performed, and published as poetry becomes the focus of national educational organizations and local community arts counsels, heralded by U.S. Presidents and English language arts teachers alike.

I've been writing and publishing poetry since I was 15. It's usually a quiet gig. Come April, though, my day planner is flooded with readings, public appearances, online events, interviews and contests to establish or judge — and I'm only a state poet laureate. I can't imagine what U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limon's calendar looks like for those four weeks. All this fanfare for a genre that won't be touched by most literary agents.

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Without freedom of publishing, culture withers

telegraph.co.uk – Friday April 28, 2023

In a world of ideological polarisation, books are in a hazardous position. On the Left, we have those who want to rewrite history, to vandalise our cultural heritage – as illustrated by Penguin Random House’s assault on the works of Roald Dahl, disclosed by The Telegraph in February – and to introduce a literary landscape where the experience of the individual is favoured over the unfettered imagination.

Yet while such small-mindedness is prevalent on both sides of the Atlantic, America is also seeing a rise in censorship and book banning from the Right – which, fortunately, is yet to make it to British shores. The New York Times reported that according to the American Library Association, attempted bans have seen an alarming rise, with 2,571 titles under fire in 2022, compared with a mere 223 in 2020. Many of these books are estimable, but seem to fall victim to their thematic content, which doesn’t always sit well with middle America. Third on the list, for instance, was Toni Morrison’s debut novel The Bluest Eye (first published in 1970), which not only features a racially abused black child who yearns to have blue eyes, but also contains a hefty amount of sex and violence.

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