Well, this has been an interesting trip down the rabbit hole. For me, the verdict is in. AI apps like ChatGPT are great tools for brainstorming, title and blurb generation, and just having some harmless fun. But there is danger is relying on them too much. Not to mention the learning curve necessary to get halfway decent results. Long story short, use these apps to help but remember the real creativity lies with you, the author, and not with the program.
Let’s start with the learning curve. It certainly isn’t the largest I’ve had to deal with, far from it. But it isn’t necessarily intuitive. The fact there are so many so-called experts out there ready to tell you how to get the best story out of ChatGPT or similar app–and all giving different advice–doesn’t help. Sure, it’s simple to tell the program to generate X-number of title suggestions for a story in a certain genre. But to get readable and entertaining text? That’s something different.
In fact, it should be no surprise to learn the more information you give the program, the better the results. That mean, unless you want to basically write the story or book before using the program, you have to work in small chunks, scenes or partial scenes, at a time and build one upon the other. I’m sure there’s probably a way to cut down the detail you give but I haven’t discovered it yet.
Then there’s the little issue of the text being output by the app stopping in the middle of a sentence. No, it didn’t finish with the set-up you gave it. Are you supposed to finish the scene on your own or is there some super secret handshake you do with your laptop to finish without having to repeat all the prompt you just put in? (I learned through trial and error that simply using “continue” as the next prompt will instruct the app to continue that unfinished sentence and the rest of the scene.)
I’ve also mentioned the need to check your work for plagiarism if you are using ChatGPT or a similar app. Here’s the problem with that. There are some excellent plagiarism checkers out there but they are on a subscription model. Most of those that tell you they are free, aren’t. Either that or they limit the word count you can check to a number so low it is useless for a writer. So it doesn’t become economically feasible to use one of the apps until you finish most if not all of the story. I’m not saying to skip this step–far from it–just do your homework and decide when you want to pay and how much.
Will I give up on ChatGPT?
It is good for coming up with name suggestions, title suggestions, even with writing blurbs that can be quickly edited and made your own. Mind you, I recommend doing a quick search on the names/titles to make sure nothing jumps out to bite you on the butt later.
The biggest drawback, if you want to call it that, I’ve found with ChatGPT is getting it to create dialog. If you don’t tell it to do so, it usually won’t. At least it didn’t for me. Then, when it does, there is no distinction between the “voices”. When writing in first person POV, it is rather robotic, even more than it is with third person.
All that said, I can see how it can be used to get what I’d call an expanded outline or very rough draft of a novel in a matter of days. (After the learning curve). But you, as the person telling it what to do, still needs to have an idea of the plot you want, the characters, and the settings.
Over all, I’d give ChatGPT a reserved thumb’s up as a tool to be used to supplement the writing process but it is nowhere near a replacement for the writer.
Check back in an hour or two and see the opening scene on a new work as ChatGPT wrote it (and I will include the prompts I used to get there) and then my rewrite of the scene.
Until later this morning.
Featured image created using MidjourneyAI.