skip to Main Content
Writing In An Age Of Artificial Intelligence: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Writing in an Age of Artificial Intelligence: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly moving into the realm of writing with natural language generation tools that encompass freelance writing and content creation, advertising and marketing copy, and creative works like novels and nonfiction books, poetry, and screenplays.

How will AI writing impact authors? And how can indie authors work with AI tools to improve our writing process and create better books?

In this #AskALLi Advanced podcast, Orna Ross interviews Joanna Penn about findings in her recent book, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Virtual Worlds: The Impact of Converging Technologies on Authors and the Publishing Industry.

Ingram Spark logo

The Advanced Self-Publishing salon is brought to you by Specialist Sponsor IngramSpark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our self-publishing advice center, https://selfpublishingadvice.org. And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

Listen to the Podcast on Artificial Intelligence Writing

Don't Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, Spotify or via our RSS feed:

Subscribe on iTunes   Stitcher Podcast Logo for link to ALLi podcast   Player.fm for podcasts   Overcast.fm logo   Pocket Casts Logo  

Watch the Podcast on Artificial Intelligence Writing

How will #AI writing impact authors? And how can indie authors work with AI tools to improve our writing process and create better books? @OrnaRoss and @thecreativepenn have answers. Click To Tweet

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn writes non-fiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts on Artificial Intelligence Writing

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advanced Self-Publishing salon with me, Joanna Penn, and Orna Ross. Hi Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi, Joanna and hello everyone.

Joanna Penn: Here we are again.

Orna Ross: Yes, and we have a treat for you this evening. Slight change of format from our usual, because we're going to be talking about AI, artificial intelligence, and how authors can use it as a tool to make better books and reach more readers. And, of course, we have the living expert on writing books and AI, we are lucky to have her as part of our own fold. Joanna has been doing so much research on this and has just brought out a book, and we're going to drill down into, just some aspects of it, because it's a huge, huge topic.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, we're specifically going to be talking about writing in an age of artificial intelligence and some of the things that, that crosses into.

Audiblegate Update

But before we get into that as the topic of this evening, or today, whenever you're listening, we're going to just give some news and updates as usual. So Orna, do you want to give an update on what's going on with ALLi?

Orna Ross: Yes. So, we have a few campaigns that are taking up a lot of our time at ALLi at the moment.

Most listeners, I think at this point, would have heard about Audiblegate, which is ACX and audiobooks. So, a while back we had to downgrade ACX, very reluctantly, because it's a platform that has done so much great stuff for audiobook authors, but there were issues around returns and their exchange policy, which I'm not going to go into now. It can be found on the website, under our campaigns page.

But people are saying to me, it's audiobooks and also why is ALLi, the independent authors organization, dissing Amazon, which has been such a fantastic service for us all.

And we partnered up a bit with the Author's Guild and the Society of Authors, two of the largest author representative bodies, to push this campaign and have some dialogue with Audible.

The reason being is that it really is very important, because it is a very unusual case whereby it seems to be, and this has not been denied or confirmed by Audible, but it seems that author's accounts, essentially, some money has been deducted from author accounts and there's no transparency and no way of authors finding out what's going on and as business owners, with our business partners, we absolutely have to have that sort of transparency.

Now the service, we have had some concessions, the service has reduced the exclusivity time on Audible, has got rid of the seven-year lock in, which we're really delighted about, and really pleased to see these concessions coming through.

But we do need the substantive issue addressed, which is, has this money gone missing, and if it has, then that needs to be acknowledged and compensated. So, it's important for everybody, whether you do audiobooks or not, it's really important that these things are held accountable.

So, that's one thing.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and just to add to that, yes, we can have great partners, but, as with marriage, both of us are married, and there's give and take in a marriage, but equally, if someone's behaving badly in a way, you want to deal with it, you don't just want to let things slide because things will get worse and worse.

And I feel that's one of the examples here is, yes, Amazon's amazing, Audible's brilliant in so many ways. ACX is great, but we've got to police the things so that the relationship continues in a mutually respectful manner, because we are partners, as you say, and this is part of being an independent author. Part of being an empowered creator is actually sticking up for yourself and we are stronger together and, of course, the Alliance is set up for that reason, that we are stronger together. So, thank you to you and, obviously, to all the people working in the Fair Deal for Authors and Narrators and Rights Holders, and Susan May, and all of the group, just fantastic job. So, yeah, well done.

Orna Ross: Well, it really is down to Susan and her group, and the pressure that's coming out of that pressure group, which is the work that they're doing at the research level of gathering the evidence that is allowing us to, anything that's happening is really coming because that author empowerment is there, and I think that's a big difference. We're seeing a difference, the very act of this campaign going on is further empowering to the whole community, as I said, not just those with audiobooks. So yeah, there's that campaign and then there are a couple of other campaigns as well. So, it's all seems to be about services this month.

We also, I'm happy to say on the other side, on a positive balancing note is, January is when we bring out our directory of approved partners and that has just issued. So, members can find it by logging into the Member Zone and just going to Services Directory and download it there. And it's available for sale in the self-publishing advice shop.

So, what are you up to?

Joanna Penn: I am in editing. I've got the massive print out on my desk and this is, How To Make a Living With Your Writing, the third edition.

And what has been brilliant is, I thought, as nonfiction writers, we have to do these new editions every now and again, the last one was 2017 and I thought, oh, it'll just be a small rewrite, as you do. And I did a survey, so I've had over 750 authors and it was basically, what are your different streams of income, and I ended up adding so much to the book. I've loved seeing all the different ways that people are making income, and I've got lots of ideas now for projects I want to do.

And also, I was going to say, because you did crowdfunding years ago now, five years ago, six years ago, for Secret Rose, and crowdfunding has changed so much in the last five years, and I think a lot of the things that those of us who've been around a while have thought about. So, this is my 15th year in the self-publishing world, 2006 is when I started. So I'm like, of course, you have to, re-examine the things that you might have put aside years ago and have another look.

So, I'm really excited about it. It'll probably be out by the end of March, but so good to see what people are doing, and I was very heartened to see that selling direct was third on the list for how people are making money. So, that's really interesting and I'll be doing a blog post on that.

So, that's what I'm doing, I am editing nonfiction and I'm so wanting to get back into fiction. I'm in that, oh, can I just finish this stage?

Orna Ross: Yes, I sympathize.

Joanna Penn: What about you?

Orna Ross: Similarly, though I have started back writing fiction, but I still have a lot of publishing mop up to do on the nonfiction.

So, I'm running those two side-by-side, dying to get back into just more writing and less publishing, but that will be the next quarter it looks like, everything always takes longer than I think it's going to take. Always.

Joanna Penn: As ever.

Orna Ross: Yeah, exactly. On the publishing fiction side, I am going to bring out a centenary edition of my very first novel, first and second novels, After the Rising and Before the Fall. It's a hundred years since the events that are described in the past section of the novel, happened. So, it was all happening back in 1921 to 23. So, it seems like a good time and I got a new cover with Jane, and I'm doing BookBub ads. Thank you, Jo, for introducing me to BookBub ads. So yeah, putting a BookBub ad on that and just playing around with it really. It's a bit of fun.

Joanna Penn: Well, we should shout out to David Gaughran's book, BookBub Ads Expert, which is an amazing book and is what helped me sort out BookBub ads, and then I showed Orna, did a bit of a tutorial. So yeah, I highly recommend that book, BookBub Ads Expert, if you want to get into BookBub ads yourself.

A brief introduction to AI for Indie Authors

Joanna Penn: Okay. Should we get into our topic for today, which is writing in an age of artificial intelligence?

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and I think the very words are probably enough to make people think, oh, this is nothing to do with me, and I want to say, stop, come back here, it has, that's the first thing.

This is important, and I think, when we read about artificial intelligence in the press, in the mainstream press, generally, it's all about the robots are coming for our jobs and it's a terrible thing, and there's a lot of fear and it's very primal fear, I think, in this. But that's not what we're talking about here.

You've being investigating artificial intelligence now for quite some time and you're very excited by it and about it, unlike most authors, I have to say. So, we're going to get the benefit of your experience. But before I do talk to you about all these things, I do want to say that it really is important for us all to get our heads around this, because artificial intelligence is a tool, and it is a tool that's going to be used.

Already, I was so surprised, when I did a beta read of your book and it introduced me to so much, I was amazed at how much is here already. I had this kind of sense that this is something that's in the future but actually, this is something that is really happening now. And there are so many ways in which I can see that we can use this for our writing as a tool. So, that's what we've got to think of it as. Something that we take hold of and work with, not run away from. And I think that's your main message, isn't it?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, absolutely. Just as we're using, right now we're using the internet, we use Scrivener to write, we're using StreamYard to stream this. We use tools in our author life to create, to edit; I use ProWritingAid. We use Google search. We use Facebook. YouTube. All of these things are driven by various forms of artificial intelligence.

So, I guess just to start with, that is really important. We're not talking about general artificial intelligence, as much as actually we would love to. I would love to clone myself and just say, right, AI Jo, do all of that stuff that I don't want to do. We know that's not what we're talking about here. We're not talking about something that's just going to press a button and out pops a book or any of that, it may be unfortunately, sometimes, but that's not what we're talking about.

We're talking about narrow AI, which is specific expertise in an area. So, for example, someone emailed me the other day and said, why would I even bother writing with AI, and I was like, well, why would you bother emailing me when you could send me a letter? Or why would you bother using Google to search? Why don't you use an encyclopedia at your library?

There are things we use to do shortcuts, to improve our process, we use these tools every day. So, now we're going to talk about natural language generation. So, essentially these are algorithms. I'll just use the word algorithm, a thing that is trained on a big data set of words.

So, if you imagine the whole of the internet put into an algorithm and then it generates words and strings of words from that data set. So, natural language generation. That's what we're talking about now.

So, the specific tool that we're really talking about in this area is called GPT-3, which was released in the middle of 2020 by a company called Open AI, and there's been a lot of hype, but many people have said it is a big leap forward for this kind of text generation. And the thing that probably changed it even more was the fact that it is licensed to Microsoft now. So, we're going to start seeing these tools emerging into the things that people use every day in the workplace.

But also there are lots of new tools, you can basically license the API and use that to build tools on. So, some of the things we're going to talk about have been built on top of GPT-3. So, I guess, does that make sense so far?

What Artificial Intelligence writing tools are available right now?

Orna Ross: It makes sense to me, so presumably it's going to make sense to other people, but I have had the advantage of reading your book, but yes. I mean, essentially, I think we can understand it so far.

The thing is, AI is being used right now. We're not waiting for anything; we're not saying this is all going to happen in five years’ time. With blockchain, I think, we're not seeing actual practical implementation stuff for writers just yet, but we are seeing AI tools being used in writing at the moment.

Talk to us a bit about that.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. So, I wanted to use a quote with this from Kevin Kelly who's like the guru of so many of us, who says in his book, The Inevitable, and I have a whole load of resources that I'll recommend towards the end, but he says, this is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose, this is a race with the machines. You'll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. It is inevitable. Let the robots take our jobs and let them help us dream up new work that matters.

And that is the crux of it really is, okay, what can we get rid of and what do we want to keep? And that's what I love.

I also just read a quote today by the founder of Huawei, a Chinese company, who said, with the help of AI, one person will be able to do the work that is done by 10 people today, and that's interesting for us as indie authors, because I certainly spend a hell of a lot of my time doing stuff that I would really love to use more tools for, and I do use a lot of tools, we've had a whole show on different tools. There's blog posts on ALLi, you did the whole Self-Publishing Conference on tools, but this is very exciting.

So, I want everyone to think about how do we come to this with an open attitude of artistic curiosity? How do we work with these tools to work like another brain? Like you and I, even though we're good friends, we have very different brains sometimes. We talk to each other and we entirely miss each other. We're like, I meant that, and you meant that, how did we not get together on that topic? And this is almost the way of co-writing with a “brain” that is not like our brain. So, that's creatively exciting, but also how do we use these tools to do the work that we don't necessarily want to be doing or to make it easier?

How is Artificial Intelligence writing affecting nonfiction?

Orna Ross: Yeah. So, it's already being used. It's being used in lots of different contexts. So, let's start with non-fiction, which I think is where we see the most advanced use, if I'm right.

Talk to us a little bit about some of the examples of what's happening in newsrooms and other non-fiction spaces.

Joanna Penn: Sure. Well, for a start, I am curating a list at thecreativepenn.com/aiwriting. So, I will put links in the show notes, but you can see the extensive list that I'm putting in, and I'm going to be adding to, as in, literally, today, as I'm talking, a new one popped up on my phone and I tried out and I put it on the list. And I was talking to a friend of mine who's quite tech savvy in the US and she said, Oh, this stuff is amazing, I just press a button and it's pretty much finished. And I said to her, yeah, maybe, but that's because you do content writing and SEO copywriting, which is not quite the same as a lot of people who'll be listening to this who wrote books.

But the very first thing is, writers do quite a lot of copywriting. We might do blogging; we also have journalists in the audience. So, journalism particularly is interesting because it's been using it. The industry has been using AI generation for over four years now. I can find evidence of four years' worth. This is increasing all the time, roughly a third of the content on Bloomberg News uses some form of automated technology and some of these media companies have their own in-house custom solutions. So, the Washington Post has Heliograf, Forbes has a thing called Bertie, the BBC has a thing called The Juicer, which is interesting. So, this is definitely everywhere.

Companies like, Narrative Science, Automated Insights, and United Robots, if you go and look on their websites, they do the big money industries, pharmaceuticals, the financial industry, sports reporting. They essentially take a data feed and turn it into narrative. So, once the human has structured a report, this feeds real time information like a stock ticker into it or a sports report/results and produces narrative. It's also report generation, like financial reports, things like that.

So, you can see if your job involves this kind of thing, then learning to use these tools is going to be really important.

Orna Ross: I was going to say, my job involves writing blurbs and ads and things like that, and there is actually a tool for that, isn't that right?

Joanna Penn: There are lots of tools, and what you've got to think with this area is, where's the money? And there is clearly money in the ad space, the content marketing space. So, this is where we see the most number of tools appearing.

So, as you mentioned, and some of these I had a look at the pricing, you can now get some of these tools for $19 a month. The one I was looking at here, copysmith.ai, writes ads, descriptions, metadata, landing pages, blog posts, and more in seconds. There are industry specific ones like Phrasee for the travel industry, retail, Telekom.

One of them was interesting, because my husband's in the farmer industry, this site called Yseop, which is an augmented medical writer, so a lot of medical writing, which is quite highly paid compared to some other things, where you can now do a lot of this generation.

So, what I would say is in this area, and the one that popped up today that I was mentioning to you is called usetopic.com, which helps you structure and write articles with a guided prompt generator. Really, really interesting.

So, I guess my challenge here is, if you're a freelance writer, if you do advertising copy, if you do content marketing, copywriting, any of that kind of non-fiction stuff, how could you possibly use these tools to make your job easier? What they tend to do, I've had a look at a lot of them, is generate maybe 30 headlines and then you choose. So, there's still human curation involved.

So, it's a bit like the {inaudible} for AI translation, which is an 80/20 rule. Yeah, it gets about 80 percent right for nonfiction, and then it needs about 20 percent of human curation and making it into a voice, putting a particular angle on it.

So, I guess that's a sort of overview of the sort of nonfiction. Let’s say that it's not narrative nonfiction, it's not the creative nonfiction if you get what I mean, I don't want to offend anyone, but you know what I mean.

Orna Ross: Yes, absolutely. It's less literary and more practical non-fiction.

Joanna Penn: What do you think about that?

Orna Ross: I think it's great. I mean, I think it depends. I had a play around with a few of the tools that you've recommended before, and I found that it's a bit laborious and you need to go into it more, but I absolutely love the idea, even in terms of getting ideas for headlines, because sometimes you've written an article and the last thing you want to do, or you've written a book and the last thing you want to summarize it. The last thing you can do, actually, your brain just won't do that for you. I think to have the tool, even as an idea prompt, at minimum, but to give you that first draft seems great.

I think there is a learning curve, like everything, where learning how to prompt it, how to give it good orders to get it to do what you wanted to do, and what you're pushing in, in terms of what you get back.

So, it's not something that you kind of, well, for me so far, and this may be me rather than the poor machine, but it's not something for me so far. I haven't yet gone, oh, yes, I'm taking that now and I'm going to use it, but I haven't gone into it, in fairness, in any great detail.

Joanna Penn: And your job's not really creating 20 articles a week on particular topics, which some peoples are, or advertising agencies now using this.

The other one I saw, which I think authors might love is, one of the things we all hate is emailing. We don't want to do the monthly emails, or whatever. I don't know many people who love that. There is now an email generator where if you just put in a number of words, it will generate you a draft for your email, it's not even complete, you just put in some and it generates something in proper language.

So, this type of stuff I think will save time, and as you say, it might enable you to be more creative because you get to curate the things that are good and edit those.

Can Artificial Intelligence writing tell a story or create poetry?

Orna Ross: Definitely, and for me, if you're the kind of writer who hates the first draft, some writers love the drafting process and don't like editing. I'm the opposite. Give me something and I can work on it. But the blank page bores me. So, having that ability to generate a draft easily and then play with it, I like, I like.

But what about creative writing? What about more literary stuff? You hear everybody saying, oh, it will never do that. A robot could never generate a poem, could never tell a decent story. Wrong, right?

Joanna Penn: Yeah. And I think, again, it's the mistake of thinking that something has to be exactly like our brain to do something that mimics what our brain does. So, you don't have to be a conscious being to write a poem that another conscious being will put meaning on to.

So, what's really interesting, and there are lots of poetry generators. Sorry, poets, but there are tons of poetry generators and things like GPT-3 now, there's a site called gwern.net, which is really interesting, where they've generated all kinds of literary stuff, so writing poems in the style of Dr. Seuss or Percy Shelley or in Lovecraft writing, you know, anything in the voice of these different poets.

And so I think poetry is interesting, because even if you put up three lines or three words on Instagram, some people will say, oh, that's a pile of crap, and other people will say, oh wow, that's so meaningful.

So, I think poetry is an odd one because you can impose meaning on it regardless, and in fact, perhaps the more esoteric, the better. But the bigger challenge is, how do you write a coherent narrative that actually has some kind of meaning? And what I would say immediately is remember we are at GPT-3 and we can do this right now.

So, for example, I talked about on my podcast, I used a site called Inferkit. You can get some free tries at these things, and then you can pay like $40 a month to keep going, and the other site is shortlyai.com and I've tried both of these for creative writing.

Essentially, you put in a prompt. So, I've been using a few lines of my own writing, so a short story, for example, copy and paste three lines into the tool, and then you press generate and it will carry on writing. And what's interesting is you can adjust the levels of how weird this is.

If you press it like four or five times, you're going to get different responses to the same prompt, and some will be complete gobbledygook and some will be fascinating. So, there was one particular output, I was reading it going, I can't believe that this was written by something that doesn't have any thought.

And I'm still looking at this paragraph wanting to riff off of that, and it's something I'm still really thinking about and I don't do that with a lot of human authors. So, that in itself is fascinating. So, I guess the other thing is, I've had on my podcast so far, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, who's a Sri Lankan author who actually, sort of, well, he's a programmer as well as a writer. He programmed various generators for weather and plot points, and used GPT-2 to create AI poetry, which he used as the dialogue in his novel, The Salvage Crew, as the dialogue of the AI poet character, and he got a two or three book deal for that, and the audio book is narrated by Nathan Fillion. So, if you know Firefly, it's like, ooh, fan girl, fan girl.

So, that's interesting because this is an author who has written and is traditionally published and got a book deal with the earlier version of GPT. That's GPT-2.

So, just a couple of other things before I let you speak.

I've actually got some books here, because I think the best way to go about this is to look at how other authors have done it. So, this book's called 1 the Road, and it's like On the Road from Jack Kerouac, where essentially, they put a camera and an AI generator in the back of the car and Ross Goodwin, who's an AI curious writer drove from New York to New Orleans, and it output, basically, this book, which they haven't really edited. It's more like a prose poem, I guess.

Orna Ross:  That's what they said about On the Road, wasn't it? Capote said, that's not writing, that's typing.

Joanna Penn: Well, there you go then, this is typing by a machine in the back of a car. But the one that is quite interesting is this one, it's called Pharmaco AI, and what is interesting with this book, it is written with GPT-3. It was written in 2020, so it's really new. And the prompts are in bold or a different type face, so you can see what was a prompt and what was generated. And that, to me, is a really interesting way, and this is, let's call it literature, which is when some of it doesn't necessarily make sense.

Orna Ross: Joanna, your definition of literary and literature, we need to work on them.

Joanna Penn: Again, people put different meaning on things. You know what I'm saying, and it's not meant to be offensive, it's meant to be complimentary. I don’t know. It's just a type of writing. Then, on a more commercial level, I've got LitRPG author, Paul Bellow is coming on my show soon to talk about how he's using GPT-3 in his publishing, and he's doing world generators and all kinds of things, and it's so interesting.

So, I think the LitRPG community and the science fiction community are more used to this kind of thing, but those of us, like in thrillers, I don't know anyone who's doing this. And probably in historical Irish time slip fiction, I mean, who knows?

Orna Ross: Not yet. But back to the poetry, actually and the literary idea, what I found when I was doing my little play around was that it's threw up very interesting, surprising. The whole thing with good poetry is that the imagery is surprising, and it isn't conventional and cliched, and it wakes you up. That's what good poetry does, it kind of wakes you out of your own fuzzy head and knocks you into the world of the poem. And I found it extremely interesting, the imagery, the surprising images of the surprising word matches that were being thrown up, and I definitely am going to play with that a lot more.

So, I think actually, for poetry, it's probably more there than for long form historical fiction, certainly at the moment.

Joanna Penn: Yes, absolutely. That's where we are, and I did also want to mention, I do some curation of stuff on my podcast, The Creative Penn podcast, but there is an up-to-date news on robot writers, ai.com, which is a great newsletter. It comes out every week, and because this is what I think, we're trying to say, this is changing so fast and there, and there are new tools literally almost every day, certainly every week. And the way this is moving, we're not going to get into copyright law today, but we've talked about it before, but there basically is no copyright law that covers all of this stuff. So, we have to come at it from a creative possibility angle, like you're saying about the poetry and like I'm looking at it going, wow, this is fascinating. And so, I think that's the most important thing is that we have an open approach to it.

That's why I like these books that I've got here. They are playful. I think we take everything so seriously, and the attitude of play is what I'm finding with these generators. It's like, oh, what if I put this in, I wonder what it will come up with and going, oh no, that is terrible. Just press the button again and see what it does, and then, oh yeah, maybe I'll look at that sentence and think about that.

Yudhanjaya actually said this on my podcast. He said it was a joy to create. And I don't know about many writers, I do love being a writer, but I'm not sure I would use the word joy when it comes to the first draft. So, yeah, I think, very interesting.

Where should writers start with AI?

Orna Ross: Brilliant. If anybody has any questions, please do pop them into the chat and we'll see if we get time for them, there's so much to talk about here. I know what people are going to be thinking now is, okay, that sounds interesting. I'm ready to give it a go, I'm feeling playful, I'm feeling up for some joy. How do we create, how do we co-create, I should say, with a tool like GPT-3?

Joanna Penn: Well, I think what's interesting about that, the book, and first of all, I would say, go and play. So go to Inferkit or go to my list of AI writing tools, and all of them have a free couple of goes, so you can have a look, try things out, do a bit of research. Think of it as a bit of research into the future.

And then what I love about the Pharmaco AI book is they say in there that this is a hybrid disruption. A literary intervention that rails against stale, conservative ideas about how we make books. And I was like, whoa, that's challenging.

I mean, I don't want to be called stale or conservative, that's not actually how I see myself. And so, I love the idea of this, and they talk about the process of writing is beautifully intimate, even organic, a conversational approach. You enter the prompts, like we've talked about, and it generates responses. So, then they talk about the iterative process of writing and pruning the output. And clusters of concepts emerged, and a vocabulary was born, a mapping of space, time and language that points outside of all three. And I love that, because that's what we want to do. That is some beautiful writing about the process of co-creation with AI. So, what I would say is, what I've discovered and I'm, as I said, I'm going to have Paul Bellow on, and he's been doing this since GPT-3 came out, so I'm really going to quiz him on it, but a short prompt, like a line from one of your poems will output potentially a short something in the same vein. But a long prompt, so 300 to 600 words is more interesting, because it will actually generate something more coherent, mimicking the tone and the style.

So, I think when I first got on, I started to put things like, a man with a blue hat, and expecting some kind of a character description, for example. But actually, that's not what you do. It's more like, Thomas dug beneath the skeletal tree with his bloody spade. And then press enter, and it's going to continue in that vein.

So, you have to give it some sense of what it wants to continue writing or, wants is the wrong, word, but you know. Think of it as a comprehensive autocomplete that will carry on what you've started. So, think of it as prompting and what's interesting is around 90% is original, is what most of the models seem to say. It's not plagiarism. So, for example, I had an output that had Voldemort in it, and I was like, that's from Harry Potter, they've plagiarized Harry Potter, and my husband said, no, there's so much Harry Potter fan fiction on the internet, that's probably what it is. But still obviously I would never put anything out with Voldemort in it. So, curate.

If you're going to publish and, to be honest, there's nothing stopping you, use a plagiarism checker, edit and use the tools as we would use any other tool to enhance your skills. As humans have always done, humans use tools. It's one of the things that make us human.

The other thing I just wanted to mention is that I'm reading a rule book at the moment called new laws of robotics by Frank Pasquale, who says, robotic systems and AI should complement professionals, not replace them. And he has this concept of intelligence augmentation.

So, IA instead of AI, which, you know, we both really like this idea. So, think of it is augmenting your own intelligence. You have to drive it. It's like Google or YouTube, it doesn't automatically do stuff, you have to start by putting your intent into the tool and then it will feed things back to you. You have to prompt it in a certain direction.

So I guess, for me, it's about learning how to use these tools to enhance the creative side, but also remember, double down on being human, which we always say, edit for your voice, curate for your audience and remember, you're still you. You're not just pressing the button and hitting publish, that's not what we do.

So, yeah. What do you think about that?

Is Artificial Intelligence writing a threat to my career?

Orna Ross: Yes, I like it. And I think, as I said, there's a learning thing. I know that people are concerned about the fact that it's going to do away with jobs.

So, Angie is saying, my daughter is an SEO copywriter. To what extent do you think this is likely to threaten her job? She should embrace it, right?

And Tom comes in, yes, embrace. No job, or for that matter, anything we humans take part in is static. And I know you agree with that, but what about people who are concerned and are thinking, why should I bother?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and why should you bother? You don't have to bother. It's like, if you still love handwriting your books in to notepads, there's no law against that. You don't have to use these tools, we're not saying that, in the same way that the last Self-Publishing Advice Conference wasn't saying, you should use every tool on the internet.

That's not what we're saying here. What we're saying is, this is another suite of tools that is possible to be used by writers in order to augment us.

So, your daughter there, Angie, what I would do if I was your daughter is oh, in fact, hi Angie. I read Angie's thing in my survey; I remember her. So, basically what I would say is, hey, here's a list of all the tools that you could possibly use to make your work easier, and this is what translation professionals are doing too, is using AI to get rid of the bulk of the work that doesn't need the human touch and focus on the more interesting part.

And that's what, coming back to Kevin Kelly said, you'll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots or work with AI. So, if you can be an SEO copywriter who can produce really quality work in half the time, or the same amount of time and still be paid. She could do something else with her time while still paid the same amount of money, write a book or do something else. That's what we're talking about. It really is a case of optimizing how we want to live our lives rather than saying, this is what you must do, and that's why I want to have this open, I think quite child-like, to be honest, I think I'm pretty childlike around this stuff, which is curious and interested and playful, and not to be afraid.

And, you know, you see it with like my nieces, they're not afraid of an iPad or an Alexa, whereas we're like, what do I say, how do I say that? Or maybe I'll get it wrong. And they're not even bothered. If the Alexa doesn't respond in the right way, they'll ask it in a different way, and they won't even flinch. They'll just carry on. So, that's kind of how I want us to see this, as, well, let's just play with this and see how we could use it, and perhaps it will benefit us, or we'll just say no. Do you know what, I'm not going to do that. Maybe Orna will write a book of AI assisted poetry and then do one that is just handwritten on some lovely, printed paper or something. We can do all these things because we're human. The AI doesn't want anything, we get to choose.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and because we're indie, I think that's part of it. To me, it's very much an extension. All the attitudes you're talking about there, curiosity, playfulness, openness, they're at the absolute core of what it is to be creative, and every creative moment is like that. And as independent authors, we're going to take hold of this, rather than feeling defeated by it. I remember when people were feeling defeated by eBooks. eBooks were going to be the end of everything and, you know, we saw how that went. So, I very much feel that this is in the same vein.

And thank you so much for bringing all your learnings and encouraging everybody to have good conversations about this in our community. So, you are really doing a ton of work. First of all, tell people the name of your book, and then tell them where they can find out and keep apprised of what's happening as you go out there and find out for us.

Joanna Penn: Oh, right. Well, I actually have a tiny, it's a tiny little book, it's really thin.

Orna Ross: It's packed full of goodies, yeah.

Joanna Penn: So, this is Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Virtual Worlds. There is a chapter on writing with AI, and there's a chapter on voice and, obviously, blockchain and other things.

But I'm also doing a lot of interviews on my podcast, the Creative Penn Podcast, and I'm linking to everything at thecreativepenn.com/future where I'm doing conversations with other creatives. And I'm doing them in the mid-weeks, in between my main podcast, because I know not everyone's interested.

So, I'm doing different ones and I've got interviews coming up, as I said, with Paul Bellow, who writes with GPT-3 in the LitRBG space, as well a professor who's got a book on creativity and AI. So, I'm really trying to cover different angles, and again, that list of AI writing tools is at thecreativepenn.com/aiwriting.

So, I suggest you start there if you want to have a little play and a little think about things.

Orna Ross: Fantastic, and we'll have the list of all of those links and some of the resources that you've mentioned also on the podcast show notes on Friday on the blog, at selfpublishingadvice.org/podcast.

So, yeah, thank you so much for all that you're doing here. We're right out of time folks, but yeah, until next time.

Joanna Penn: Wait, we should tell people what we're doing next time, because that's what we normally do.

Orna Ross: Oh yes, okay then.

Joanna Penn: So next month in March, we are going craft and we are doing indie authors literary prizes and awards.

Both of us have been in judging situations with different awards, and we're really going to talk about what is the point? Are these things important and do indie authors stand a chance? And what are the types of books that do well in these things?

So, I'm really excited about that because something on my list, one of the things I want to achieve, is to be an award-winning author. I'm award nominated. It's just not good enough.

So, this is like, me personally, this is what I want to cover next month on the show. And of course we can have literary ambition, it's completely fine. But, yeah, that's coming next month.

So Orna, anything else you wanted to mention for the Alliance?

Orna Ross: No, just to say that there's lots on that particular topic, and we'll be talking about the difference between indie awards and other awards and our ratings page and so on.

So, it's not just about Joanna winning an award

Joanna Penn: All people listening, that's what it will be around.

Orna Ross: So, thank you for listening today. We'll see you next time and have a play with some AI in between. Happy writing and publishing. Bye, bye now.


Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. This was a fascinating discussion – I’ve just started using AI to edit my blurbs and sales copy, but it’s also promising for fleshing out dramatic scenes.

  2. If you’ve read the surprisingly coherent story written by GPT-3 in the style of Neil Gaiman titled Chrysalis, I think you’d be more worried. (https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/hmu5lm/fiction_by_neil_gaiman_and_terry_pratchett_by_gpt3/)
    Remember that this is early days – there are a few missing elements in the general AI systems at present, but what GPT-3 shows is that parts of that, especially the ‘rules’ of writing and also knowledge of the real world, can be mined from a large enough sample data set, with a rich enough model.
    Upcoming developments in the areas of zero-shot learning, attention, real world modelling, and in the long term, rational thinking, will mean that the AI systems will come closer and closer to human intelligence. Joscha Bach is a fascinating researcher to follow.
    On the darker side, we also need to factor in the use of these tools by bad actors in the human community, who will use them purely for profit (or worse motives), and I see a bumpy road ahead.
    It’s an area that a lot of our attention should be directed to, to ensure that AI aligns well with the common good (for humanity and for the planet as a whole). It’s arguable that we haven’t been doing as good a job as a species as we should have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Latest advice, news, ratings, tools and trends.

Back To Top
×Close search