Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
Welcome to the Future, Part 2

By Lisa Norman, @deleyna

a robot and a writer collaborating while drinking coffee together
AI and Author collaboration via Dall-E

In case you missed it, part 1 is here.

Backstory

You may remember that my first computer teacher, Mr. Wilson, shared a magazine article with me about the future of teaching. In this series, I’m talking a bit about trends in technological developments and daydreaming about the future of storytelling.

Last time, we talked about AI-generated images.

In this article, I’d like to talk about AI-generated text.

Just like the debate around the visual arts, writers often fear that someday they will become obsolete, replaced by an AI generating stories faster than any human can imagine.

We already live in a world of rapid-release authors, authors pushing themselves to write faster and faster, trying not to sacrifice their quality and craft for quantity and a living wage.

What if the AI wasn’t a competitor, but was actually an assistant?

The Goal of AI-Generated Writing

Let’s pretend that you just want to generate a rough draft of a scene, but it is giving you fits. You write it out, erase, rewrite, rinse, and repeat. What if you had an AI that could spit out a dozen different drafts of a scene within minutes? Some would be terrible, but some might give you ideas that you could build on.

In theory, as the AI develops, you’d be able to train it to understand your style and your prompts. The AI wouldn’t be writing the story, but helping you write out your draft. Then you’d work through it, add in your voice, and interweave all the magic of your craft.

The State of AI-Generated Writing

As part of the research for this article, I tried several AI writing programs. To be clear: there’s no way I could try them all. I'm sure there are better ones. Please: share your favorites in the comments!

I focused on two: Rytr and WriteSonic. I just used the free, average levels of the programs. Both have more advanced versions available.

My first reaction to these tests was to realize that I’d seen content generated by these AIs before in articles I’ve stumbled on while searching the internet.

I’m now even more skeptical of many tech and news articles that I read on the internet.

What I wanted to know was: Could AI generate a decent story?

Let me give you two samples:

From Rytr

  • Story Idea: Two lovers (Fred and Betty) get in a spat and Fred leaves.
  • Tone: Funny
  • Language: English
  • Creativity: Optimal
  • Note that Rytr considers this a story “plot”

Betty is a woman who has had a difficult life. Her job as a nurse gives her meaning and purpose, but she lives with the guilt of not being closer to her family. Fred is Betty’s husband who loves Betty but has grown tired of the routine and compromises in their marriage.

While they were having dinner, Betty teasingly asks Fred what he would do without her. He replies that they should both take walks in the woods and not worry about getting lost because they would have each other to find their way back. Fred is joking with her, but Betty takes him seriously and starts to cry.

They are arguing when Fred abruptly gets up from the table and leaves the room without explanation. Betty gets angry and throws some of their dinner on the ground before carrying it back into the kitchen for leftovers later on.

Betty makes dinner for them again that night but it’s clear something is wrong because she didn’t speak to him at all during dinner. So at the end of the night he goes over to see if she’s okay.

“I made dinner again,” Betty said. “You’re welcome to stay.”

“No, I’m fine, I ate at work,” Steve said.

“Did you eat?” Steve asks with concern.

Betty nods and turns around trying not to look at him in his eyes because she knows that would be a definite trigger for her tears to start streaming down her face when he starts talking


Lisa’s comment: who is Steve??? Apparently the AI felt a third character was required.

From WriteSonic

  • Prompt: Two lovers (Fred and Betty) get in a spat and Fred leaves.
  • Tone: Romantic Suspense
  • Language: English
  • Quality: good

Fred left angrily, but Betty could not help but feel a little bit lonely. She spent the day wandering around the city, thinking of all the things they had planned to do together. As the sun set, she decided to take a walk down by the river. It was a beautiful night, and the stars were shining.

As she walked, Betty heard a voice in her head. It spoke softly but urgently: “Fred is missing you, Betty. Come find him.”

Betty didn’t know what to make of it, but she felt a sudden urgency to find her husband. She walked faster and faster, until she finally saw a light in the distance. It was Fred’s apartment! She went inside and found him sitting on the couch, crying.

“What happened?” asked Betty.

Fred explained that he and Betty had been fighting all day and he just couldn’t take it any more. When he left, he knew that he might never see her again, but he hoped that they could at least be civil to one another from now on.

Betty hugged Fred tightly and promised to never hurt him again. They spent the night talking and laughing until they both fell asleep in each other’s arms.


Lisa’s comment: my ProWritingAid assistant is having fits trying to fix those. My human editor wasn't any happier.

I don’t feel threatened by either of those offerings. There was a hint of an idea in them, though. I probably should have tried a scene I was legitimately struggling with!

If you took the time to learn to use these tools, I could see them generating some acceptable basic ideas.

Much Better Current-Use Cases

Meanwhile, I was checking my blog statistics on a website called Ubersuggest, owned by Neil Patel. Neil is a marketing guru who emphasizes the power of blogging to raise the rankings of websites.

This tool noticed that I’m close to ranking for a very important keyword and suggested that I should write a new article to generate traffic. Yep. I know that. It’s been on my to-do list for a long time.

Then it went a step further and offered to write the article for me.

Skeptically, I played a bit. I have to admit that it came up with some good ideas for titles and even a pretty good outline. The tool was interactive. Based on my idea topic, it gave me several titles to pick from. Then it took my chosen title and gave me a breakdown of suggested ideas as a checklist.

After I checked the ones I wanted, it generated the rough draft of an article for me.

Is it done? No.

Is it perfect? Hardly.

But am I closer to being done with that article than I was? Definitely.

Now don’t worry. My blogs won’t be replaced by AI-generated content. But I may let some of them help.

AIs can also help with:

  • social media posts
  • article ideas
  • ad copy

They can become your assistant, helping to keep you on track and helping you with mundane tasks, leaving you more of your valuable mental space for creative writing.

Remember: I’m not suggesting you let them write the final draft. I’m offering the concept that they may generate ideas and first drafts to get you past that blank page.

You’ve Seen AI-Assisted Work

Aside from the many articles on the internet that I firmly believe were written by artificial intelligence, something much closer to you has been influenced by an AI.

WITS.

Yes, this amazing website, Writers in the Storm uses an AI on a regular basis to help behind the scenes!

We don’t use it for writing, but we use it to make sure that our posts score well on search engines. The AI (or perhaps more correctly "advanced algorithm") isn’t dictating the content, but it is guiding us so that the brilliant articles submitted by the contributors score well. If you are a blogger, you can use the same tool on your website. It’s free! AIOSEO (All in One SEO) works beautifully with WordPress.

Can you imagine a future in which an AI is your writing buddy?

About Lisa

head shot of smiling Lisa Norman

Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.

Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books LLC, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.

Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.

Classes:

Top Image by Deleyna using Dall-E.

Read More
Why Writers Should Celebrate Every Writing Milestone

By Karen DeBonis

For this Writers in the Storm post on why writers should celebrate every writing milestone, this image is of multi-colored balloons in one corner and confetti streaming against a blue sky. The text reads "Bubbly not Required"

“That’s a fine piece,” the editor of my local newspaper wrote in his email.

It was my piece he referenced, my op-ed I’d submitted a month before the 2016 presidential elections.

“I can use this,” he continued.

I jumped up from the table and ran, blubbering and breathless, to tell my husband. It was my first acceptance as a “real” writer, and it indicated—as hard as it was for me to believe—that I could actually write.

As writers, we have many firsts. First finished piece, accepted piece, finished chapter. Shitty first draft. First 100 followers, 1,000 followers, 5,000 followers. First query submitted, query rejected, and—if we’re lucky and worked our tails off—first book published.

Like a baby’s first tooth or his first day of college, our writing lives are a sequence of milestones. The early milestones may seem less important than the big ones, like our books being published, but we’d never have that book if we hadn’t walked through the other firsts. And every first, every writing milestone deserves a celebration.

Our brain rewards success

Recently, in preparation of my memoir’s release in May 2023, I sent out my first book launch team letter. It was a marketing task I’d prepared for and read about for several years. I had amassed a group of almost 70 team members from 22 US states and 4 countries. The anticipation of hitting “send” flooded me with happiness.

As a writer, I’m sure you’ve experienced this flooding of emotion. It’s caused by the activation of reward centers in our brain, which release dopamine, one of the “feel good” neurotransmitters.

With challenging tasks that we work hard to achieve—think writing an essay, story or book—the reward centers ignite a feeling of accomplishment and reward.

But our brain doesn’t stop there. Multiple reward pathways involving myriad parts of our brain “work together to encourage repetition of the rewarding behaviors.”  Essentially our brain “tells us to repeat what just happened in order to feel the rewarding sensation.”

For you science and physiology geeks, here’s a 2-minute video explaining in more depth our brain’s reward centers.

Celebrate writing milestones with mindfulness; bubbly not required

When I received and accepted an offer of publication from a small press earlier this year, I popped the cork on a bottle of Prosecco which I’d kept around specifically for that occasion. But bubbly is not required for every milestone.

For the kickoff of my launch team, I didn’t celebrate with champagne, a bowl of ice cream, or retail therapy, but with mindfulness of the moment. In other words, I sat with the feeling, soaking in that dopamine like a hot bath, and it felt every bit as good as the real thing.

Anytime I finish a creative project, whether it’s painting a wall in my house, reviving a garden, or sewing curtains, I like to spend time in the milieu I’ve created. I think of it as my afterglow.

After a rush of dopamine, if we hurry on to our next writing task, we cheat ourselves of our well-earned reward. It’s like eating birthday cake but scraping off the frosting. (Really- who does that?)

Fending off rejection blues

Before I queried small presses, I queried 85 agents, and only two requested a full manuscript before summarily ghosting me. The other agents either didn’t respond, sent me a form letter rejection, or kindly told me the project wasn’t right for them. Sound familiar? And don’t even get me started on my Submittable page with its endless list of “declined.”

Writers face rejection more often than phone scammers get disconnected. To return to understanding our physiology: rejection causes our adrenal glands to release the stress hormones epinephrine (otherwise known as adrenaline), and cortisol, which may cause aches, pains, and digestive troubles, among other symptoms. In other words, our "brain processes a rejection the same way it processes physical pain.”

Many writers have a creative strategy for handling the “downs” of our occupation. Here’s mine. In addition, we must capitalize on our brain’s dopamine production anytime we can. One way to do that is to celebrate the “ups,” the wins, the milestones.

10 reasons why you should celebrate your writing milestones

  1. Celebration feels good. These days, you need all the good feelings you can get.
  2. You’ve earned it—just like the candles (and frosting) on your birthday cake. (If you’re not a frosting lover, please pm me to make arrangements for sharing.)
  3. It’s a reminder of how far you’ve come. Use the positive energy to carry you through the next phase.
  4. It’s an opportunity to practice gratitude, which is associated with numerous positive benefits.
  5. It provides a counterbalance to rejection, which even the most famous writers contend with.
  6. Like meditation or a good massage, celebration helps you decompress from the pressure of achieving that milestone.
  7. It reinforces the tried-and-true strategy of breaking big goals down into smaller steps.
  8. Celebrating gives you an opportunity to reflect. What went well in this stage? What could be improved next time?
  9. Especially for new writers, celebrating your early milestone with newsletter subscribers and social media followers lets those fans feel part of the magic of your success.
  10. It helps reinforce your brain’s physiological messages to continue writing and thus repeat the rewarding sensation.

What was one of your most memorable early milestones and how did you celebrate? Please share with us in the comments!

About Karen

Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, an entangled mix told in her debut memoir Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived, forthcoming from Apprentice House Press in 2023. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, HuffPost, The Insider, AARP, and numerous literary journals. A happy empty-nester, Karen lives in upstate New York with her husband of forty years. You can see more of her work at www.karendebonis.com.

Read More
Writing Through Life's Storms

by Eldred Bird

person in yellow rain coat looks over the sea with storm clouds above the horizon

Let’s face it, writing is tough and sometimes the problems we face in our daily lives makes it tougher. Five years ago, my father-in-law fell and broke his hip. This accident led to two hip replacement surgeries and months of physical therapy. During that time, he also ended up getting a pacemaker. I was his driver and main support for all his appointments.

As he recovered, my mother-in-law ended up having several medical issues. I was her transportation and support as well. While all of this was sucking up my time and the stress was blocking my creativity, I was trying to write my third book. I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

So, how did I keep my writing on track when life kept trying to derail me? Let me share a few lessons I’ve learned the hard way.

Write when you can, where you can.

Thanks to modern technology we can work from just about anywhere and that’s exactly what I did. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that 80% of Cold Karma, the third James McCarthy book, was written in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and physical therapy waiting rooms. Between my laptop, netbook, and cellphone, I was able to steal back hours and minutes that otherwise would have been lost.

I’ve done my fair share of writing in bars and restaurants as well. My wife no longer drives, so when I drop her off at an appointment or meet up with her friends I plan ahead. I have my laptop and current work in progress with me, or at least have a copy in the cloud so I can access from any device I have handy.

Escape into your own world.

When life gets out of control it’s nice to have a place you can run to where you are in charge. When I write, I’m able to let go of the day’s problems for a while. Reading also allows an escape, but someone else is still driving the bus. Writing puts me in control of my own little world where I am God. Characters live and die based on my current mood. I usually go back and revive some of them later, but this helps me blow off some steam in the moment.

Channel your frustrations into your words.

Let’s face it, when the world gets out of whack so do our emotions. I like to use that emotional energy and funnel it into my writing. Jump to the scenes where your characters are dealing with a similar problem and work them through it. I think you’ll find it helps you work through your own issues as well.

When I’m in a heightened emotional state is also when I tend to free-write. It lets me drain my brain of all the turmoil and lift the dark cloud blocking my creativity. Some solid plots have been generated by these sessions, like my short story Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins.

Clear your mind with physical activity.

One of the best ways I’ve found to deal with stress and free my creativity is movement—any kind of physical activity. Take a walk, ride a bike, or clean the house. Do whatever works for you. You don’t have to run a marathon (unless that’s your thing). Put your body to work burning off the nervous energy so your mind is free to wander and find it’s center again.

It’s okay not to write.

One thing most authors forget is sometimes it’s okay not to write. Self-care is one of the most important parts of the creative process. Take a break and read a book or listen to some music. Call an old friend or spend some time with loved ones.

If you force yourself to produce when the inspiration isn’t there it’s going to show up in the quality of your writing. You may get something down on the page, but odds are you’ll spend more time later trying to fill plot holes and fix inconsistencies.

One final suggestion.

If there’s one thing the experience of the last five years has taught me it’s to have a good support system. When the times get tough, lean on your writing friends. They are the ones who truly understand what you’re going through and usually know the right thing to say. If it wasn’t for my weekly video chat with my author friends, I probably would have tossed in the towel long ago. So, to all of you (and you know who you are) I say a big THANK YOU!

How do you manage writing through the hard times? Do you have any tips or tricks that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments below.

About Bob

Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing KarmaCatching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking RoomTreble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.

When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking, and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives).

His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.

Bob Juggling Knives

Read More
1 2 3 627

Subscribe to WITS

Recent Posts

Search

WITS Team

Categories

Archives

Copyright © 2022 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved