The buzz around AI for writers continues to grow. I’m always looking for a way to give my typing fingers a rest and help my brain out for faster creative processing. The noggin stalls all too often. I wrote about my initial thoughts on AI a few months ago (read here), and at first, AI blew my mind, and then it settled into an “eh”. I’m back to holy cow Batman. AI might actually help with novel writing. Tech is moving so fast say hello to Whiplash.
SudoWrite nagged at me. However, the price tag leaves me with a few four-letter choice words. While it’s reigning king on the market for creative writers, I wondered about free options, you know, before I pledge my firstborn. I trialed four free AI on the market; Bing Chat, Google’s Bard, ChatGPT3.5, and Claude for Slack. Results were mixed. I also trialed SudoWrite for good measure (fantastic AI, customer service not so much).
AI Scene Writing Prompt
To experiment with AI output, I borrowed a scene AI prompt from The Nerdy Novelist and featured a scene I wrote my own a couple of months ago.
Note: a prompt is the information and demands we give AI in a chat box, such as the one below.
Google’s Bard and Novel Writing
Bard… hmm Bard… lacklustre. The AI writes like an old-school fairy tale. This happened and then that happen. A “show don’t tell” offender. The language is passive. I won’t be using Bard for prose anytime soon. In all fairness, Bard is the new kid on the block.
Bing Chat and Novel Writing
It was a long shot. Bing couldn’t cope with 1000 words, despite Bing claiming so. Bing is out.
ChatGPT 3.5 and Novel Writing
Trusty ChatGPT3.5 gives solid results. I imagine the upgraded ChatGPT 4 would be even better. The free 3.5 output provided good first-draft material with decent descriptions. I forget about writing descriptions, and my first drafts are dialogue driven. Keep in mind, I approach AI with the notion I will replace any AI dialogue with my own and add internal thoughts and feelings. ChatGPT has no issues transforming the third-person point of view into the first-person point of view. Chat GPT is also fun and great at brainstorming ideas and suggesting where to go next in the story. Unfortunately, ChatGPT 3.5 leans a little toward the telling side.
There are some story errors but that’s ok. As the head writer, it’s my job to edit. This is a first draft.
Claude for Slack
Claude for Slack is a surprisingly good lesser-known AI. The prose turned out fantastic.
On par with Chat GPT. I’m undecided about which one I prefer. Claude is the winner. The language is more active. Claude offered better dialogue and read smoother, However, ChatGPT4 provides more material to work with and I prefer ChatGPT’s interface. Both make fine first drafts (ChatGPT needs more editing). Switching the point of view from 3rd person to first was a breeze. Like ChatGPT, the text lacks internal dialogue, but that’s probably a flaw with all AI. As a first draft, the prose is sound. Coen’s tail is the wrong colouring, as is Judick’s hair. AI only knows details the writer punches into the prompt. Everything else is fair game, and the AI makes up.
SudoWrite is the king on the market at the moment for creative writers. During my trial run… the words that come to mind are pure magic. The new (as of May 2023) Story Engine can take your brain dump notes, and create a synopsis, summary, character lists, outline and, in the final step, write the prose. As the creator, you make changes as you and the machine work together as a team every step of the way. The process is like building blocks or the snowflake method. Worth noting the same method is used to generate novels with any text AI, but the process is manual with a lot more prompting and cutting and pasting text. SudoWrite allows changes, updates, and new words with a click of a button, making the process streamline and the words in one place (no cutting and pasting).
The swiftness and ease are amazing. I’m impressed. However, I am not impressed by the price tag and less so by their customer service. My trial, by fluke, started a day before their big Search Engine release. Even though their plans are overpriced at the best of times, I convinced myself to commit for a year with the pro-plan ($240). A bit of creative entertainment. I imagine the monthly allotment of 90k words would burn fast. On checkout, my payment didn’t go through. When I started the payment over, the amount jumped to $300. I contacted the company hoping for a solution given the circumstances. Instead, received a condescending bot reply. Basically, stiff shit, and thank you for understanding. Only the pro-plan received the price hack without warning. Had the “new” plan included more words, my sour reaction might be different. No PayPal is rather alarming. Maybe in the future SudoWrite will offer reasonable prices and work on their customer service, thus convincing me to join their cult. I’m open to amending my opinion. Then again, AI is hot at the moment and competition will catch up. Another possible reason why SudoWrite is Scrooge McDuck.
AI Novel Writing Concerns
Despite being sourpuss as I write this, SudoWrite does throw some deep philosophical questions my way. AI is fantastic and is a game changer for writers, but when does AI writing cross the line?
I’m not talking about ethics or copyright issues here, let’s pretend AI written books are ethically sound and the murky web of copyright is sorted and belongs 100% to the human creator. I’m referring to creativity. We learn about our story and characters as we write. But if the machine does the bulk of the heavy lifting, how much of The Muse are we tapping into? The Muse is the reason why most creatives write fiction. To chase the excitement of a story unfolding. I’m no stranger to a detailed outline. But, and a big but, the details and character personalities only shine during the writing process. SudoWrite does everything with chosen alterations and a click of a button. A muse-kill? — I’m picking on SudoWrite because of its supreme capabilities and speed. Other AI needs more user input, making the process slower forcing a bit more time to think. At the moment, I don’t know at what point relying on AI drowns The Muse out. Every writer has a unique relationship with their muse. If I am honest, I feel a bit of a disconnect with the text AI produced — my story, not my words.
Honourable Mention: Verb AI
I’d been eyeing out SudoWrite for months. SudoWrite allows writers to paste in their prose and use the tools. One tool that piqued my interest is the ability to highlight a word and hit a describe button. The app adds descriptions. As mentioned above, description is my weakness. Verb AI has the same feature and is free! Verb AI has a lot of features. I won’t dive into them here. From my limited play, Verb AI doesn’t use chat “prompts” and I couldn’t experiment with my scene. The structure of the AI looks more geared up to explorative writers rather than plotters. Verb AI’s current form lacks the power of SudoWrite, but the lacking makes Verb AI less intimidating. Did I mention Verb AI is free?
AI is a fantastic tool to help writers craft. For the best results, writers should have sound knowledge of story structure and other tricks of the trade because the writer drives the machine. Playing around with different AI readily available, I recommend ChatGPT or Claude for Slack for the best output. ChatGPT for brainstorming and Claude for prose. The best part is they are free. Learning how to prompt AI will be a growing skill individuals need as AI becomes the next big thing. Why not start with creative writing? AI can brainstorm, outline, and write first drafts. Prompt skills are transferable. Who knows, maybe I’ll spend $20 a month for ChatGPT4 (no word limit).
Categories: Technology, Writing
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