Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last few months, you’ve witnessed the meteoric rise of artificial intelligence (AI). If you’re on social media, you can’t help but see AI generative art on display. This software transformed your friend’s professional headshot into an oil painting of a medieval warrior queen. Or, if you’ve been in tech spaces, you’ve heard the buzz around ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence language model that will likely change how we communicate in the future.
Technology is coming at us fast and hard, and we can’t afford to ignore it. Using technology to become a better writer may sound insane, but is it? There was a time before written language when writers were simply storytellers. But, with the invention of written words, some storytellers evolved into writers. Now, with the creation of artificial intelligence, what will become of writers?
This question is one that every serious writer must face. We can choose to continue as writers from a bygone era. And there is charm and integrity in that choice. But we can’t pretend there isn’t another, equally viable choice. That second choice is to utilize modern technology tools to become more efficient, productive, and even more evolved.
Change is scary, but change can also cause you to grow as a writer.
Let’s look at how to use artificial intelligence to become a better writer.
What is ChatGPT?
If it seems like artificial intelligence came out of nowhere, and now everyone’s talking about it, that’s because it’s true.
Sure, we’ve all heard about AI for years now. We’ve seen blockbuster movies where sentient robots take over the world. We’ve interacted with chatbots. We’ve watched recommended videos on YouTube or Netflix. We’ve asked Siri or Alexa to set alarms. We’ve listened to a playlist that Spotify or Apple Music has created for us. We use smart thermostats in our homes. We allow sites like Amazon and Walmart to suggest similar products. The list goes on.
We’re no strangers to AI.
But, in late November 2022, AI turned a significant corner. This turn occurred when ChatGPT launched its prototype for public consumption. Everything changed. ChatGPT could produce 1,000 words in seconds, and it would make sense to the human mind. The words are so intelligently composed that they seem to come from another human. That’s the brilliance of ChatGPT.
So, what exactly is ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is a language model. GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer. The purpose of ChatGPT was to create a language model you could use for conversational purposes. When you interact with it, it sounds like you’re talking to an actual human or at least an intelligent being who can understand what you’re asking and respond in kind.
ChatGPT is a conversational chatbot. It’s like Google Search, but better because it can answer your question in a simple, casual format instead of giving you a long list of different web pages to visit. It breaks down the most complicated topics in terms that even a five-year-old could understand.
If ChatGPT sounds like it is human, that’s by design. Programmers trained ChatGPT using vast amounts of human-written text data, meaning it can understand natural human language.
You may be thinking, “Great. ChatGPT can answer questions and respond to me like a human. But how does any of that affect my writing a novel?”
ChatGPT can help you write the best novel of your life.
Researchers have fed the chatbot massive amounts of text data for the last few years. It’s read literature, websites, research papers, news articles, social media posts, and billions of words in context. It uses deep neural network architecture to analyze and recognize language patterns in written and spoken text data.
In other words: ChatGPT understands how humans communicate with each other. We can lean into ChatGPT’s comprehensive data analysis to make better stories—and to be faster at doing so.
Should I Fear ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is insanely impressive. It can produce an entire paragraph in the short time it takes to conjure up one word. It processes faster than the human mind and delivers quality work. That can be intimidating for any writer. Why even write if a technology like ChatGPT exists?
ChatGPT can never replace human creativity. ChatGPT builds its responses off of what it has learned from humans. While ChatGPT can generate ideas based on what humans have already created, only humans can create strange new words that have never existed. Our imagination is not limited to the past. ChatGPT wouldn’t have a foundation to build upon without humans feeding it more of their creativity.
While ChatGPT can mimic human language, it cannot feel human emotion. Therefore, ChatGPT cannot connect with the reader in a way that a human writer can. Writing is not purely mathematical. The emotional component in good writing hooks the reader and makes them identify with the characters.
When you play around with ChatGPT (and I highly encourage that you do. It’s free and available from this site), you’ll immediately notice that ChatGPT is pretty generic in its presentation. You’ll get the facts, but no pizazz or personality. The answers will sound natural but also buttoned-up and professional.
ChatGPT is fantastic when you use it as a tool, not a replacement for solid writing.
How to Use ChatGPT to Become a Better Author
Let’s discuss how you can use ChatGPT to improve your writing skills.
Come Up With New Ideas
Not sure what to write about next? Ask ChatGPT to generate ideas for characters, plots, and settings. ChatGPt can rescue you from writer’s block by creating unique ideas you can tweak and make your own. You can also ask ChatGPT to give you writing prompts and exercises based on genre, word limit, or other requirements.
Research Your Ideas
If you’re writing a novel that requires a lot of research into location, settings, customs, and so on, ChatGPT will be a valuable tool. Instead of spending time with Google, you can ask ChatGPT direct questions and get immediate answers. For example, you can ask what men and women wore in 1,000 BC ancient Palestine, and ChatGPT will respond directly.
You can flesh out characters by asking ChatGPT to provide suggestions. For example, tell ChatGPT to generate a list of personality traits for your protagonist. Remember that you don’t have to take all of its recommendations. Instead, use them as sparks of inspiration to ignite your creativity.
Write Better Dialogue for Your Novel
Many writers need help with dialogue. How do you convey the scene’s emotion and conflict in a realistic but progressive way? You can use ChatGPT to generate a conversation between two or more characters. Describe the stage and watch ChatGPT do the rest.
I used this example: “Write a dialogue between a mother and a daughter. The daughter wants a puppy, but the mother doesn’t want to get one.” ChatGPT then generated nine lines of dialogue based on that simple prompt. In exchange, you can use this exercise to figure out what you want your characters to say (or not say). Use the generated prompts as starting points.
ChatGPT Can Provide Feedback on What You’ve Written
Use ChatGPT to improve your writing in real time. ChatGPT can analyze a sample of your work and provide suggestions for improvement. While ChatGPT cannot replace an editor, it can help you identify errors you’re too close to see. For example, it may recognize your tendency to use passive language and suggest inserting active language instead. ChatGPT can’t do the heavy lifting when it comes to editing, but it can help you improve the basic mechanics of writing, such as grammar and sentence structure.
Should we fear the rise of AI or embrace it? That’s a question that all writers will eventually face. However, this writer will embrace AI as a tool to develop ideas and produce stories faster. What about you? Will you use AI tools like ChatGPT?
Let us know your thoughts below.