Once upon a time, authors wrote books on typewriters. There was no writing software for authors or AI tools.
Editing was hard. Getting feedback was laborious. Submitting the manuscript to publishers required lots of paper and postage. Before copy machines, writers had to retype the whole book just to have a backup copy if the publisher’s copy was lost in the mail.
Then WordPerfect arrived on the scene, and everything changed. WordPerfect users could print a second copy of their manuscript as easily as they printed the first. You could use its spell-checking feature and easily get feedback on your manuscript with the Track Changes feature.
The word processor made writing books easier, allowing more people to write books. With the ease and accessibility of word processing, the number of books published each year grew exponentially.
Word processors also changed the expectations of industry professionals and readers. Publishers started to expect higher levels of quality with little tolerance for misspellings and typos. Authors who resisted the shift to word processors were eventually replaced by word processor users.
In 1982, if you used a word processor, you had an advantage over authors using typewriters. By 1992, publishers expected word processor quality, but you could still get by with a typewriter if you worked harder than everyone else. By 2002, if you were not using Microsoft Word with track changes, no publisher would work with you.
New Writing Software Tools for Authors
Today, the writer’s technology is shifting again. Just as the word processor replaced the typewriter and made everything easier for those willing to shift, today’s AI tools for authors are replacing less efficient methods. Writers who adopt the technology have an advantage, just like the word processor users of the 1980s.
If you want to stay competitive as a professional author, you will eventually be forced to use better tools. But if you switch now, you will have a head start that could mean the difference between your success and failure. You might as well start using AI tools now while they still provide an advantage and aren’t yet the industry standard.
But what is AI? And which tools can help you write better and faster and even sell more books?
What is AI?
Unfortunately, this term is typically associated with movie tropes, which are wildly misleading. If you think AI is HAL 9000, then you’ll be easily scared by AI and the media’s portrayal of it. It is easy to ingest worldviews from the media without considering the truth about AI.
The auto-complete feature in your phone is AI, and it doesn’t open the pod bay doors on you.
AI uses neural networks and machine learning to make software work better. The writing tools are the same, but when you add AI, the writing software works better and becomes more efficient, helping you write faster and better.
AI is an Author’s Power Tool
AI tools don’t replace humans in the creation process. Using an AI tool is like using an electric drill rather than a screwdriver. You must learn how to use the drill, but once you learn, you become far more efficient.
I’ve watched handymen work, and they reach for a drill more often than I would. I’m less skilled and more likely to reach for a trusty screwdriver. The professionals charge by the hour and use a drill so they can accomplish more and earn more per hour.
If you want to be a professional writer, you need that professional perspective.
There are many different AI tools that help with various steps of the writing process, but you will still guide the process. These tools still require the author to decide when to listen to the AI and what to do with the feedback.
So let’s talk about the specific tools.
AI Character Creation
If you need to add a character to your story, how do you decide what she looks like?
AI can help you decide.
Artbreeder and Midjourney are AI tools that will help you create photos or drawings of people who do not exist. Some authors use these tools to visualize their characters and keep them straight. These AI tools can also brighten your descriptions since you have a photo to reference as you describe your character.
You could generate a second photo of her love interest, and Artbreeder could even generate a photo of what their child would look like. You could then tweak this photo to adjust her age, race, or hair color. The software is surprisingly fun to play with.
Another easy tool that generates photos of people is ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Each time you refresh the page, you will see a new “photo” that is completely generated by AI.
AI for Scene Creation
To learn how this tool worked for scenes, I entered the first writing prompt I found at WritersDigest.com. The prompt was “someone is stealing from the booths at the local market.” I ran that prompt through Midjourney, an AI image creator.
Here are some images it generated for me:
If you began to describe this scene, I imagine the words would start flying! Midjourney and Artbreeder are great brainstorming tools. Even when the scene they produce isn’t quite right, it could give you a better idea of what the “right” scene should be.
One of our Obscure No More students built the cover for her reader magnet using only AI tools.
I recommend using a professional cover designer for a book you plan to sell, but for reader magnets, this is an easy way to get great illustrations. If you want to learn more about AI Book Cover Design, Derek Murphy has an excellent post with more information.
AI for Outlining
AI can help you generate an outline for your novel. Subtxt.app is an “intelligent outliner” built specifically for authors and screenwriters.
You input the theme of your book, such as “Greed leads to self-destruction,” and Subtxt will generate a story outline for each scene following various best practices for outlining.
The AI-generated outline doesn’t replace you. You still need to guide the outline, but like a power tool, Subtxt removes some of the hard work. To use this tool, you will need to understand the fundamentals of story structure and have a message or theme in mind that you want to convey in your story.
If you’re not familiar with “the hero’s journey” or the difference between the first and second acts, you’re probably not ready for Subtxt. But, if you understand story structure and dislike outlining, Subtxt could be a life-changing tool.
AI for Rough Drafts
AI can generate a rough draft of a story. To demonstrate, I used the same Writer’s Digest prompt (someone is stealing from the booths at the local market), and I ran it through Rytr.me (Affiliate Link) to generate a rough draft.
Here is the first narrative it generated:
The townspeople are whispering in the streets that there is a thief at the market, one who takes small trinkets and sets off silent alarms. The town merchants are on pins and needles when they see their booths ransacked. The night time is barren and lonely, though the townspeople are clamoring for protection and security measures.
A disgraced detective has been tasked with catching this thief, but she’s never before seen a thief with such cunning. Surely they’re only trying to scare the merchants off of their property, but why would they risk everything for a few trinkets? They’ve lost some of the most valuable and treasured items in their inventory.
The detective speaks to all the merchants in the area and learns that it’s happened more than once, but not enough to fully understand this new thief. There’s no pattern to be found, no thread that connects these events together unless….
I could have allowed the AI to continue further into the story. Can you see yourself working from that starting point to develop the story? Rytr is a great tool to help you when you don’t know what to write next.
I asked Rytr to generate a second story from that same prompt. Notice how different this first-person narrative is:
As I walked through the farmer’s market, I noticed something was off. It seemed as though people had been stealing from booths lately, and it’s not like we don’t have enough problems with people coming in here to try and take advantage of our vendors.
I needed to figure out who was doing it if I was going to stop them before too much damage is done. I put on my detective hat and surveyed all the booths, checking for any security camera footage or evidence left behind. The one thing that seemed odd was that none of the food vendors seemed to have had anything taken from them, which didn’t make sense as most people steal food items for themselves or for resale purposes. I noticed one booth that had a high-quality video camera installed and made a mental note to head over there first when….
You can feed the same prompt several times and see the different narratives Rytr creates. Or you can feed it slightly different prompts to see how small changes in wording alter the narratives it produces.
Rough Draft Tool to Speed Up Your Writing
If you are better at editing than drafting, a tool like Rytr could be a game changer. Rytr is primarily a writing software tool for writing blog posts, podcast questions, and ad copy! Writing fiction is a side gig for Rytr.
Sudowrite, on the other hand, is designed specifically for novelists. It creates rough drafts like Rytr’s, but it also has a “show don’t tell” button. You can highlight some text in your manuscript that “tells” instead of “shows,” and Sudowrite will generate a beautiful sensory description featuring all five senses. It will even generate metaphors. Think of Sudowrite as a super thesaurus.
If you get stuck with your writing, you can highlight the last several paragraphs of your story, and Sudowrite will generate paragraphs that will take your story in several different directions. You can use those suggestions as a guide for developing your story or getting unstuck.
Another tool that functions similarly is NovelAI. It’s a more complex tool for people who want to control things like phrase bias, banned tokens, and context. If you have been wanting to play around with GPT-Neo without learning to code, NovelAI may be worth checking out. The current version (August 2022) feels like a beta version. If you check it out in the future, it will likely be more refined.
AI for Dictation
Dictation is an ancient way to write. Many of the epistles in the Bible were dictated. In the olden days, you had to hire a human, called an amanuensis, to write down your words by hand using shorthand. The amanuensis then translated the shorthand into standard English.
Today, an AI tool can transcribe your words as quickly as you speak for a fraction of the price.
The average typing speed is 70 words per minute. The average talking speed is about 150 words per minute. Switching to dictation for your rough drafts could double your production speed. Many authors find they more than double their output because they are less tempted to edit the draft they are dictating.
Editing while you write is by far the slowest way to write.
In addition to increased speed and focused drafting, you also get the benefit of protecting your wrists from repetitive strain injuries. If you’re typing fast for several hours each day, you’re more likely to injure your wrists.
If you want a tool that also captures the punctuation without you having to say “period” at the end of every sentence, you need an AI Dictation tool. Sonix.ai (Affiliate Link) and Rev.com (Affiliate Link) are popular options. I’ve used and liked them both.
Currently, I use Descript (Affiliate Link) because it has some nice podcasting features built in. It allows me to edit audio as if I were editing a Word document. It also adds punctuation and paragraph breaks. We use Descript as the starting point for creating the blog post versions of each podcast episode.
AI for Developmental Editing
A developmental edit provides feedback on the big-picture elements of your story. It is focused on characters and plot rather than words and grammar.
Authors.ai (Affiliate Link) is an AI tool that generates a 30-page report about your book. It covers emotions, pacing, overused phrases, frequency of adverbs and adjectives, cliche usage, and similar books. The report can even break down character personality traits so you can see if you’ve differentiated your characters.
One feature evaluates your ratio of dialogue to narrative and displays a chart of how they mix throughout your book.
You can buy a report for around $50. If you plan to publish traditionally, you will definitely want to pay for a report because traditional editors may use this tool to evaluate your book.
A human developmental editor won’t count every use of the word “very” or give you the percentage of dialogue used. By the same token, a 30-page report doesn’t replace the need for a real-life developmental editor, but it may save your human editor time, which will save you money.
If you are an editor, a tool like Authors.ai can inform the feedback you give your clients.
AI Tools for Copy Editing
If you are still using the default spell checker that came with your word processor, you are making life unnecessarily hard on yourself. AI copy editors can check for spelling as well as grammar and usage rules from the Chicago Manual of Style.
Copy editing by AI does not replace the need for a human copy editor, but it may save you money since you can fix most issues before sending your manuscript to your human editor.
Copy editing tools can also improve your craft since they explain the grammar and usage rules behind the suggested changes.
The two most popular AI copy editors are Grammarly (Affiliate Link) and ProWritingAid (Affiliate Link). Grammarly is geared toward blogging and nonfiction, while ProWritingAid is geared toward fiction. I’ve used and loved the paid version of Grammarly for years.
I recently purchased ProWritingAid, and I’ve been playing with it. So far, I prefer Grammarly for the type of writing I do, but I can see why novelists prefer ProWritingAid. ProWritingAid has a one-time purchase option, which makes it cheaper than Grammarly in the long run.
Grammarly has a better spell checker, while ProWritingAid is better for grammatical suggestions, especially for fiction. Both integrate with Scrivener, but only Grammarly works with Vellum (as of August 2022). Neither work with ConvertKit, which is ConvertKit’s fault for using an incompatible editor.
Either of these options will be far better than the spell checker built into Scrivener or Word.
AI for Quality Control
AI can help you with quality control in several ways.
Text to Speech
One great way to improve your writing is to listen to it being read by an AI voice. It’s better than reading it aloud to yourself because the AI voice will read you what you actually wrote rather than what you meant to write. When you read your own writing aloud, your brain often inserts missing words it knows you should have written, even if you didn’t actually type them.
If your book sounds great when read by Siri, you have a winner.
Listening to your book can help with copy editing and developmental editing. I recently interviewed bestselling author Angela Hunt, who shared how she uses AI narration software to improve her writing. She prints a paper copy and marks the errors she hears Siri read. She uses the marked-up paper manuscript to edit the document on her computer.
AI is very good at ensuring you have no accidental plagiarism in your work. Using an AI tool to check for plagiarism is much cheaper than ending up in court or getting kicked off Amazon.
AI is far better at checking for plagiarism than a human editor is. AI can instantly compare your book against all books ever written and see if anything was misquoted or missing an attribution.
I think every book needs a plagiarism check. Accidental plagiarism can easily work its way into your manuscript. You might have written something you thought was original, but it was actually word-for-word someone else’s idea.
AI for Marketing
AppSumo (Affiliate Link) has dozens of AI marketing tools on sale from various companies (in August 2022). Many of the featured tools are normally monthly subscriptions, but the limited-time deals offered on AppSumo are always a one-time purchase for lifetime access.
These AI tools can help you:
- Write Facebook & Amazon Ad Copy
- Manage Amazon Ads
- Draft Blog Posts
- Write Social Media Posts
- Do Market Research
- Search Engine Optimize Your Website
- And more!
The above links are affiliate links.
AI for Productivity
AI can also help you be more productive. Here are some links to AI tools that can help you:
The above links are affiliate links.
What to Do if You Feel Overwhelmed
If you still do everything the hard way, you may feel overwhelmed by all these tools. But don’t worry. You don’t need to use all of them. Start by using one tool until you are comfortable with it, and then add another.
You already use a spell checker, and these tools are better spell checkers. After you get comfortable with one of those, choose an aspect of your writing where you feel weakest, and start using an AI tool to improve and strengthen it.
The Impact of AI
There are two kinds of people who work at Amazon. Some people work for the AI. The AI tells them which box to pick, which turns to make in the delivery car, and which house gets the package. These employees work for an AI app running on their phones. Some Amazon workers even get fired by the app.
The second kind of person working at Amazon is programming the AI and telling it what to do.
What has already happened at Amazon will happen across all of society over the next decades. Robots will not replace us, but they will separate us. The AI will either be your boss or your employee.
If you want AI to work for you, rather than the other way around, you need to learn to use it. Stop making excuses about how it makes you uncomfortable.
AI tools and writing software make writing a book easier. By using AI tools, you can write a better book faster than you can by using only your word processor. In the future, publishers and readers will expect this higher quality.
Get Human Help at AuthorMedia.social
I want to give a shout-out to everyone on AuthorMedia.social who helped with this episode.
We’ve had a lively discussion over there about AI tools. Special thanks to Darlene N. Böcek, who wrote an essay on how she uses AI images in her creative process.
If you have not been to AuthorMedia.social recently, what are you waiting for?
Novel Marketing Patreon
This was one of the more expensive episodes I have ever produced in terms of time and money. Testing AI tools is not cheap. I would like to thank everyone who supports the Novel Marketing podcast on Patreon.
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