Novel Writing With AI (Free AI Options vs SudoWrite)

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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. 

Write 1000 words of a chapter using the following details: 

dark fantasy 

serious, point of view: Coen, third person/past 

1630, Batavia, beach, night 

Key Characters:
Coen, a merman, 22 years old, and Judy, a human, 22 years old. 

Coen spies on his wife, Judick, from the water. She thinks Coen died years earlier. She is about to commit suicide, believing she is crazy. The day before, Judy and Coen bumped into each other at the market. Coen acted like a stranger. The encounter triggered raw grief for them both. 

Judy tries to commit suicide by drowning and Coen has to keep his identity as a merman a secret (humans knowing is forbidden). 

Make sure to have plenty of realistic dialogue, and be sure to show don’t tell, and use a deep point of view.

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. 

The night was dark and stormy. The wind howled and the rain beat down on the beach. Coen, a merman, swam through the waves, his tail cutting through the water like a knife. He was on his way to see his wife, Judy.

He had not seen her in years. She thought he was dead. He had been forced to leave her behind when he was banished from his home, the ocean. He had been forbidden to ever return, or else he would be killed.

Coen had never stopped loving Judy. He had thought of her every day since he had left. He had even tried to find a way to get back to her, but it was impossible. The ocean was too vast and the human world was too dangerous.

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

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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.

Coen crouched low in the inky depths of the ocean, his eyes fixed on the silhouette of a figure standing on the desolate beach. It was Judy, his wife, whom he had believed dead for years. She was oblivious to his presence, lost in the depths of her own despair. The crashing waves echoed her torment, their mournful symphony mingling with the weight of his own heart.

Judy’s shoulders sagged beneath the burden of her anguish, her once vibrant spirit now reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. Coen had watched her from afar, unable to resist the urge to protect her, even in his absence. He knew the depths of her pain, for he had felt it too. But revealing himself was forbidden, and the consequences dire.

As the night stretched on, Coen strained to hear her thoughts. “I must be losing my mind,” she whispered to herself, the words carried away by the wind. 

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

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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. 

The dark waves lapped at the shore under the dim light of a half-moon. Coen peered at the beach from behind a large rock, his sleek gray tail swishing impatiently. There she was, his beloved Judick, standing where the water met the sand. Her long chestnut hair blew in the breeze as she stared out at the inky sea with a haunting sadness.

Coen’s heart ached at the sight of her. Though it had only been a few hours since their encounter at the market, it felt like an eternity. Their brief conversation had left him reeling, his feelings as raw as the day he had to leave her. The memory of her soft hand on his cheek and the warmth of her embrace threatened to overwhelm him. He took a shuddering breath to steady himself.


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 

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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?

Take Away

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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