ChatGPT, Midjourney, & Other AI-Content Creators: What Are Their Roles in Creative Writing?
For months, I’ve tracked ChatGPT and Midjourney’s development and what users have been able to create with the platforms. I am fascinated by their evolution and in their apparent exponential progress—especially since I’m a science-fiction author.
But when it came to artificial intelligence affecting my company or editing in any capacity, I thought, “Eh, I’ve got time. It doesn’t really have anything to do with book editing. We’re good.” It remained on my periphery—until it plowed into me like (insert relevant sports metaphor here).
Humanity’s proclivity for creative endeavors is what makes it unique. Our ability to elicit exquisite emotion from written word is arguably one of the most prominent attributes that makes humans, human. No other species on Earth has developed, evolved, and sustained a written language that can transcend time. Humans have used the written word to store information, make a permanent record of important events, and to communicate. Writing (among other talents) is what separates us from all other living beings.
Creative writers—that is, people who write books (both fiction and non-fiction)—epitomize this skill. They have taken a learned talent that is universally taught and transformed it into a beautiful, non-replicable form of communication and storytelling. They have learned to describe in sweet detail the serenity of a sunny glade in a forest and to illustrate a gritty battle between long-time friends who have found themselves on opposing sides in a war; they have developed the ability to chronicle the physiological effects of anxiety and depression on the human body and to concisely explain how effective leadership can influence a business’ bottom line. Writers are writers because they fostered self-discipline and practiced their craft.
The insertion of AI-created content into the creative realm is alarming, to say the least. I recently prompted ChatGPT to “write a love song,” and it did—poorly. But that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to evolve and better its responses. I asked the AI to write a short story about a navy pilot, and it did—poorly. To an untrained eye, the story seemed… okay. But for someone familiar with military protocol, ranks, and equipment, it was laughable. Still, it’s only going to get better. And that’s what’s so frightening.
Aside from the implications of involving AI-created content in politics, diplomacy, and civil rights, the idea of ChatGPT and its descendants earning an active role in creative endeavors is offensive. Utilizing it to brainstorm, analyze, and synthesize is fine. I have nothing against interacting with it in that regard. However, asking it to write a story or to explain a complex subject in simpler terms (responsibilities belonging to an author) invalidates the years of hard work human writers have cultivated.
As an author, I am personally against any type of AI-created content being used in a creative fashion. It goes against what a writer is, the embodiment of an inspired spirit. It’s the same with artists of all flavors. When we assign a computer a job that has, for all of humanity’s existence, belonged solely to humans and that has separated our species from others, we risk losing our identity.
I know, I know—I sound like one of those sensationalized nay-sayers who adamantly declares that computers are taking over human jobs and that we should implement swift legal recourse to protect the human worker. No, let me clarify.
As our technology advances and automation becomes readily available in every industry, we as a species will also evolve. But when it comes to creative endeavors and a constantly-learning computer attempting to replicate that which identifies us as human, artificial intelligence crosses a line.
Already, hordes of people utilize ChatGPT to “write” low-effort books which they then publish on digital platforms like Amazon KDP—all to make a quick buck.
We as a collective must establish a universal code that promotes human originality over the responses of an AI and that discourages the use of computers to generate “art” while not limiting the evolution of such technological advancements.
I most certainly don’t have the answers, and you probably don’t either. This is an ever-changing and complex subject that requires research in a variety of fields to better assess the effects artificially intelligence platforms like ChatGPT, Midjourney, and Quillbot have on society and humanity’s identity.
7 Common Mistakes Writers Make
Even the most seasoned writers make mistakes. Whether you’re a technical writer, working on dialogue for your YA novel, or conducting research to supplement sources for your non-fiction book about World War II, keep in mind that everyone makes errors. Below is a list of mistakes that some authors might find surprising. The examples included are real-life instances that authors have submitted for editing.
1. Lazy Words
Lazy words are words that weaken writing. They are usually generalizations inserted that can be deleted without altering the sentence’s purpose or emphasis. Do your best to avoid lazy words as there is always a better way to convey an idea. The following are considered lazy words:
Certainly, probably, basically
Use descriptive adjectives or alternate words to best provide details to readers. For instance:
Lawson outlines a very hopeful future for humanity and AI’s development.
Lawson outlines a hopeful future for humanity and the development of AI technology.
2. There Was/There Were…
Avoid using sentences that begin with “there was” or “there were” because it pins you (the author) into a corner. Once you implement that subject/verb phrase, you can’t be creative with the direction of the sentence. For example:
There was a strike of lightning and there was a tremendous thundering sound…
Instead, make the lightning and thunder the subjects. Write:
A strike of lightning flickered, and a tremendous clap of thunder ensued.
You give importance to the subjects by writing in this way!
3. The Past-Continuous Tense
Many emerging writers overutilize the past-continuous tense. That is, someone was doing something. Past-continuous is defined as [was + a verb]. He was sitting; they were dancing; I was thinking…
You can use this tense sparingly. In most cases, however, you create a more immediate sensation by using past simple.
The colorful, blue door was standing open and inviting.
The colorful, blue door stood open, inviting.
By changing the verb tense, you create more immediacy.
Another mistake writers often make has to do with misdirects. Allow me to provide an example:
As I moved closer to check it out, it appeared to be a gold-encrusted sword.
The first half of this sentence is a dependent clause. It can’t stand by itself because you’ve used the word “as.” It needs the second part of the sentence. In the dependent clause, you have established that I is the subject. Therefore, the rest of the sentence must be about I.
Instead, the second part of the sentence (the independent clause: it appeared to be a small opening or window) uses the subject it. So, you’ve led your reader to believe that the sentence is about “I” in the beginning and then changed it in the second half. Rewrite the sentence to read:
As I moved closer to check it out, I realize it was a gold-encrusted sword.
Notice that “I” is the subject in both clauses.
5. Overuse of Coordinating Conjunctions and Prepositional Phrases
Coordinating conjunctions “and” and “but” are important in the English language. However, when abused, they can become a great source of distress for readers. Often, writers write like they speak, tacking on independent clauses one after another by simply using “and.”
Be careful when doing this because it can not only frustrate readers (because they can’t perceive an end to the sentence), but it can detract from the power of the statements you are making. For example:
On the final day of our quantitative analysis class and in no less than six hours we had to prove what we had learned over the semester and do the following: review the data from a survey carried out and identify one- and two-tailed hypotheses as well as write level of measurement questions, recognize semantic differentials, and create an SPSS regression to represent the data, but no additional computer statistics needed to be completed, thank goodness.
This is hard for readers because they don’t have an expectation of when the sentence will end. Instead, let’s change it to read:
On the final day of our quantitative analysis class, we had to prove in no less than six hours what we had learned over the semester by reviewing the data from a survey, identifying one- and two-tailed hypotheses, writing level-of-measurement questions, recognizing semantic differentials, and creating an SPSS regression to represent the data. Thank goodness we weren’t asked to complete additional computer statistics!
Overuse of prepositional phrases and dependent clauses can also frustrate readers. For example:
She had an athletic build with short red hair that curled around her chin, wearing tight shorts and a tank top (red and gold decorative designs) with white and gold sneakers and no-show socks, like an Olympian, showing lean, muscular legs and a toned midriff.
Aside from the misplaced modifiers, this sentence is exhausting to read. But if we edit it to focus on single elements one at a time, this character becomes a mosaic of an athlete!
She had an athletic build with lean, muscular legs and a toned midriff. Her short, red hair curled around her chin. Her track uniform of tight-fitting shorts and a tank top was red and adorned with decorative gold designs. Her white sneakers also boasted gold.
6. Using the Same Word Twice
On your quest to become a stronger writer, practice avoiding using the same word twice within a sentence or neighboring sentences.
While she was used to the stares, she didn’t know the effect they would have on her. Using the chair to keep her balance, she gazed into the distance. She didn’t know what to do.
While she was accustomed to the stares, she didn’t realize the effect they would have on her. Using her chair to keep her balance, she gazed into the distance. What could she do?
Young or fledgling authors have a proclivity for reusing words because they just want to get the information down on the page. They are not yet aware of their surroundings (the surrounding sentences).
Many authors write like they speak and hope that punctuation will clarify everything. But you can’t do that. Writers must find a balance between how they speak and the written language. Often, this is the copyeditor’s job!
Writers can become distracted by their own inner thoughts and subsequently divert readers’ attention from the focus of a sentence. For instance:
Having a group of volunteers from different backgrounds: from teenagers, busy moms, and octogenarians to college students and retirees trying to stay active and involved leant itself to scheduling complications to say the least.
That’s a meandering sentence that will frustrate readers. Rewrite it to read:
The volunteers came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were teenagers while others were busy mothers and octogenarians. College students and retirees trying to stay active also participated. Of course, such a wide assortment of volunteers led to scheduling complications.
See? A little cleaner, a little more straightforward.
Writers are proud people who are intimately tied to their creative works. Manuscripts—no matter if they’re fiction or non-fiction—act as representations of an author’s identity and soul. They symbolize hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Aside from the day-to-day common typos and generalized writing mistakes others might tout, the above list delves into the nitty gritty of developmental editing.
Don’t be discouraged if you make the above-mentioned mistakes! Now, you know what to look out for. Make your corrections and go forth!
Advice for Wannabe Writers
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared with people that I’m an author/editor and they’ve responded with, “Oh! I’ve always wanted to write a book!” or “I’ve been thinking about writing a book!” or “I started to write a book a few years ago but never finished it…” As they enthusiastically launch into how they were writing a memoir, I simply present a polite smile and nod. Not because I’m uninterested or am a mean-spirited person, mind you. But because such responses are nearly constant. It’s become a running joke between myself and my husband.
The best advice I can impart wannabe writers is this: develop self-discipline. Sit down and write. Force yourself to write. Every day. Set a schedule, make it a part of your routine, and do it. Don’t make excuses. Self-discipline separates writers from wannabe authors.
It was American Robert Greene who said, “Mastery is not a function of genius or talent; it is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field or knowledge.” Just like anything else in life, if you want to be good at something, you must practice it. Even if you’ve had a stressful day or are exhausted, if it is your desire to be an accomplished author, open that MS Word document and write!
Even when I’m exhausted from a day’s activities, I open my work in progress. My mind might be unable to produce content at that moment, but I can most definitely reread what I’ve written, edit, and place myself in that creative mindset. Don’t talk yourself out of it!
I also recommend that you read, read, read! How can you write if you do not like to read? How can you connect with readers if you don’t continuously explore how others do it? Expose yourself to a variety of genres and take note of how authors convey information. If you passionately read YA fiction, delve into a memoir. If you usually select mystery-thrillers, pick up a steamy romance novel or a historical fiction book. The more you expose yourself to the incredibly vast world of writing, the deeper your well of experience and comprehension grows.
It's just that simple—and difficult.
Do I Need an Author Website?
Yes! This is especially important if you have written many books or intend to write more than one. However, even if you have just a single creative work, it is vital that you have a digital presence. Having a single hub of activity where you can send people interested in reading your book is integral to an author’s success.
Suppose you’re doing a book signing or have a table at a book festival and a potential reader stops by. They’re interested in your book but are supposed to meet a friend shortly, or they don’t carry cash on their person, or perhaps they’re too shy to interact further. If you give them some sort of takeaway (a business card, a postcard-sized promotional, a flyer, etc.) pointing them to your author website, they can make a purchase when it suits them.
Creating an author website doesn’t have to be an intimidating process! There are several reputable website hosting platforms that make building a website easy! Emerging Ink Solutions recommends the following:
Hostinger Website Builder
Remember, when building a website, be creative and work hard to make it appear professional. Users/readers can immediately discern if a website was constructed by a novice. Use stock photography to spruce up landing pages. There are countless stock photography websites. Here are the ones we recommend:
Ensure your website is concise, professional, and error-free. Read and reread posted content for mistakes. Make sure you direct readers to the digital platform where your book can be purchased. For instance, if your book is available through Amazon KDP, link it to your website. You can do this by simply going to Amazon.com and searching for your book. The URL on your product’s page is what you would link on your website.
Author websites are integral to the development of self-published authors. Of course, each of the above-mentioned website hosting platforms has a learning curve, but they are intended for users with little to no website design experience. You can do it!
c. 1615. Hasekura’s portrait by French Baraoque painter Claude Deruet.
Look at this dapper gentleman, at his neatly pressed wardrobe, at his swords jauntily positioned at his hip; look at the casualness of his stance.
Now, study the painting behind him, the dog at his feet, the curtains and flooring. Take notice of the striking differences in light and shadow, the rich colors between the foreground and background. The painting itself does not appear to be of Asian origin, does it? Are you confused?
This painting has all the elements of a Baroque painting, a European cultural movement that swept the region in the 17 and 18th centuries. Yes, that’s right – European.
This portrait is of Hasekura Tsunenaga (支倉六右衛門常長), a Japanese samurai and retainer of a regional ruler of Japan who founded the modern-day city of Sendai, Japan. At a time when the nation of Japan was beginning its persecution and suppression of Christianity within its borders, Hasekura ventured to Europe as head of the Keichou Embassy.
Subsequently, he became the first Japanese ambassador in the Americas and Spain.
With the encouragement of famous Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino and the go-ahead from both the shogun of Japan and the regional ruler of Sendai, a galleon – a large, Spanish ship – was constructed. It set sail for Spain in October 1613. In addition to taking Spanish explorer Vizcaino back home, Hasekura’s objective was to discuss trade relations with Spain and Rome.
In January 1614, the ship arrived in Acapulco, Mexico for a brief reprieve. Upon leaving for Spain in June, Hasekura took only half of his crew; those left in Mexico were instructed to continue trading.
Hasekura, now traveling with a fleet of other merchant ships en route to Spain, arrived in October 1614, exactly a year after leaving Japan. The samurai was greeted by carriages, accommodations, and wide-eyed onlookers.
Hasekura met with King Philip III in Madrid that following January. He remitted to the King a letter from his lord, the regional ruler of Sendai, and offered a treaty upon which King Philip III responded that he would try his best to accommodate the Japanese’s requests.
Thereafter, Hasekura traveled to Italy to meet with Pope Paul V in Rome. He gave the Pope two gilded letters (one in Japanese and the other in Latin) which contained requests for a trade treaty between Mexico and Japan as well the dispatchment of Catholic missionaries to Japan. The Pope readily agreed to the latter of the two requests but could make no decision regarding trade as that was for the King of Spain to decide.
Hasekura returned to Spain where King Philip III immediately declined to sign the trade agreement, stating that the Japanese Embassy didn’t appear to be official as it was the eastern nation’s ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu who, in just the previous years, had begun expelling missionaries from Japan and persecuting all those who practiced the Christian faith.
By the time Hasekura returned to Japan, the nation had greatly changed. In the short amount of time Hasekura had been gone, the extreme persecution of Christians had been carried out and the nation was on its way to complete isolation which it would continue until the mid-1800s.
Hasekura’s return was not joyous nor triumphant. Although he brought back goods and products from the West, he had failed to obtain a trade treaty from Spain. He reported his travels to the lord of Sendai, presenting him gifts from the esteemed rulers he had met as well as goods he had collected.
Overall, Hasekura’s adventure was a failure. After several years of travel and careful diplomatic meetings, he brought back nothing for his country.
The Japanese emissary himself, however, received many personal gifts during his travels. He was named a Roman Noble and a Roman Citizen. In Havana, Cuba where his ship had stopped briefly, a bronze statue was erected of him. Hasekura was baptized by King Philip III’s personal chaplain and made godchild of the de facto ruler of Spain, the Duke of Lerma.
How’s that for creating a name for himself?
Harbingers of Change
c. 1885. (Left to Right) Anandibai Joshee of India, Kei Okami of Japan, and Sabat Islambooly of Syria.
At first glance, this photo might appear like another yellowed, grainy relic of the past, but contained in it are the faces of change.
Since humanity’s inception, the practice of medicine has endured. Around the world, men and women took it upon themselves to learn more about the human body. Through painful – and often fatal – trials and experiments, mankind slowly garnered a deeper understanding of life and the microcosms that affect humans.
While both men and women sought to uncover the mysteries of the human body and contributed equally to the reservoir of knowledge from which humanity could draw, it was men who were given the go-ahead to specialize in certain fields and practice professionally.
There have been numerous identified groups throughout the ages regarded as keepers of medical knowledge. In the West, the charter for the Company of Barber-Surgeons was granted by the infamous Henry VIII of England, allowing doctors – male doctors – to specialize in medicine.
Just because women were barred from entering the guild, however, didn’t stop their pursuit of knowledge. Women made great strides in nursing, midwifery, and pharmaceuticals around the world.
In the late 1800s, women began pushing back, demanding with stubborn vehemence to be admitted into schools of medicine. Because the prevailing school of thought at the time for most nations was that women should be keepers of the house, demure and stewards of morality, the surge of female determination that rose against the conservative majority was greatly unwelcomed.
While many women backed down with disappointment, there were those who did not. Of that small collection of determined individuals are the three women photographed above. All three women completed their medical studies; each became the first woman physician in her respective country to hold a professional degree in Western medicine.
Dr. Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi, born in 1865, was encouraged by her husband from an early age. Married at the tender age of nine, Anandibai found an advocate in her vastly older husband who was surprisingly progressive and supported women’s education. Despite being poor in health, Anandibai’s husband encouraged her to set sail for America to pursue higher education. Anandibai applied to the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania and was accepted at the age of 19.
Although her health failed her often, Anandibai graduated in March of 1886. Later that year, she returned to India where she was appointed as the physician-in-charge of the female ward of the local hospital.
Dr. Kei Okami of Japan, like Anandibai, was also a student of the Pennsylvanian Woman’s Medical College. After marrying at the age of 25, she and her husband traveled to America where Kei enrolled in the college. She graduated in 1889, becoming the first Japanese woman to attain a medical degree from a Western university.
Upon returning to Japan, she began work at a hospital in Tokyo. Throughout her life, she opened several clinics where she taught nurses and tended to the sick.
Less is known about the third medical professional in the above photo, Dr. Sabat Islambooly (Islambouli). Born circa 1867, though that date has not yet been confirmed, Sabat was also a graduate of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania becoming the first woman from Syria to be licensed. Shortly after graduating, she returned to Damascus before moving to Cairo, Egypt in 1919. After that, there are few records of her life. All that is known is that she died in 1941.
The lives of these women might seem distant and inconsequential, but they were the progressives of their time. They were the determined, the fierce, the dedicated. They were harbingers of change.
Should I Use a Pen Name/Pseudonym?
Not unless you’re willing to create a whole identity for that name. If you are a prolific writer, you will need to have a website, email address, marketing copy, etc. for that identity. Everything that is tied to your actual person will need to be created for your made-up one. If you are worried about someone discovering that you write inflammatory political rhetoric or niche erotica, then try to find a way around using a pen name. Use only your initials; ensure your writing won’t ever come across in their sphere of influence (via social media or otherwise).
You want to be recognized for your work. Why let your fictitious name take the credit? You will never be able to brag about your accomplishments if you use a pseudonym. Say your erotica series takes off and you start earning big money. Do you think people will really care that you’re writing about scandalous rakes and Scottish lads in kilts? No! Take the money and be proud! Claim what is yours!
Using a pseudonym also opens you to legal issues regarding taxes. Of course, pen names are legal, but you’ll have to check with your state or country of origin to ensure you aren’t putting yourself in some sort of financial or legal jeopardy. You may need to register your pen name as a trademark.
Remember, creating and using a pen name is like a lying. It’s okay initially, but it can snowball. The logistics of working with a pen name are rarely considered, so take the time to explore your options!
You have chosen to self-publish which means that how successful you are is directly correlated to how active you are in marketing. You do not have an entire marketing team and publicist purchasing ad space in magazines/newspapers and setting up book signings. You have to make that happen. If you do nothing, your books will not sell. Thus, get creative!
Who is your audience? How can you sell to them?
If you’ve written a young adult book, get in contact with local schools and see if they would be willing to let you come do talks about your book. They probably won’t let you sell your book on school grounds, but if you generate enough interest—and provide marketing materials such as takeaways that route to a professional website—you could earn yourself new readers.
If you’ve written a nonfiction history book about a particular region, say, the American Southwest, get into contact with tourist centers in those key states. See if you can partner with them to present your findings.
If you’ve written a fiction book that takes place in the Catskill Mountains, look for venues, such as resorts, in that area and start reaching out.
Make friends and always be pleasant. You are no longer an author; you are a brand. Market yourself and your book.
Create takeaways, marketing materials that you can pass to someone. Ideally, we want someone to be enthralled with our books on the spot and to purchase a copy right there. But people are busy. They are running late to pick up their kids, or they don’t carry cash, or they hate chitchatting with strangers. Give them something they can take and review at home.
I recommend authors create glossy postcards as takeaways. Make sure to include social media and website information so readers can look you up. That’s why it’s so important to have a professional-looking website. If you send an excited reader to a website that appears immature, they will assume your book is not worth their time. Spend money on yourself and your work.
Reputable websites to create marketing materials include:
The UPS Store
As technologically advanced and user-friendly as everything has become these days, it’s ironic that we still have to go about finding an agent or a publisher the “old-fashioned” and tedious way; that is, querying. Querying entails going through lists of agents/publishers, identifying who might best represent you and your book (usually by genre), and following their guidelines to submit your work. Often, this means going to a publisher or agent’s website and uploading your manuscript or work according to their very specific rules (e.g., “include the first 15,000 words of your book, a cover letter, a synopsis, an explanation of your qualifications, a small sacrificial goat, and a magical purple woodland flower that bears thorns…”). Each publishing house/agent has their own guidelines. So, make yourself some tea, get cozy, and set aside a few days to knock out submissions.
Go into the process with the expectation that you won’t hear back as many offices don’t reply to submissions (aside from automated messages). If you do receive a response, it will be some four to nine weeks later, depending on the publishing house or agent office.
Google is your best friend as it will give you lists of publishers open to submissions. You can also visit Reedsy.
If you would prefer to go about querying with pen and paper, Writer’s Market is a good place to start. It lists all publishing houses and agents open to submissions for a given year. The book can be purchased online or at bookstores like Barnes & Noble.
It depends. If your primary selling platform is Amazon KDP or IngramSpark or if you are going to direct people to purchase from such print-on-demand services, then no. You do not need to purchase a barcode as those platforms will place your ISBN on the back cover along with their own barcode. However, if you are going to submit to a printing press or upload to multiple digital platforms, then you need to purchase a barcode with your ISBN.
If you purchase a barcode, ensure that you download all the files Bowker, or your respective ISBN office, provide. Often, this includes a PDF, PNG/JPG, and EPS.
Owner/Editor of Emerging Ink Solutions, avid YA/NA author, adamant supporter of the Oxford Comma, anime and music enthusiast.