Exposing the limitations [and insane potential] of AI writing tools
Can I use ChatGPT to write a book?
As a book ghostwriter, one might think it’s my biggest fear that AI writing tools will become so advanced I’ll become obsolete.
Could my writing business tank because someone can just type in prompts to ChatGPT and get a book vomited out?
This post will share why I’m not worried. Yet…
Maybe I’m naïve, or too optimistic, but I don’t think current AI can infuse the written word with just the right amount of spice, alacrity, and common sense.
In case you haven’t yet heard, ChatGPT is the latest in a recent string of powerful AI writing tools.
“ChatGPT is an incredible tool for content creators, marketers, and anyone who wants to produce high-quality, engaging content at scale.” –Lillian Pierson, CEO of Data-Mania (Source: Forbes)
My only previous experience was with Jasper AI, a tool that is supposed to make it “fast & easy to create content for your blog, social media, website, and more!”
What popped out of Jasper wasn’t great. I attempted to use it to write a few blogs, but the writing felt machine-like and riddled with content errors.
The errors weren’t grammatical, but I still spent more time shifting content around and filling in the gaps where needed.
A friend asked me a month ago, before I tried ChatGPT, what I thought of AI writing tools, and I gave him a one word response. Garbage. That response was probably this writer projecting a bit.
I expected ChatGPT to be similar. Actually, it feels much better than I would have hoped for.
This is what popped out what I ask ChatGPT the question I pose in the title:
“Can I use ChatGPT to write a book?”
Yes, you can use ChatGPT to generate ideas, provide information, and help you with the writing process, but it’s important to keep in mind that ChatGPT is a machine learning model and not a substitute for your own creativity and writing skills.
ChatGPT can provide you with a lot of information and inspiration that you can use to write your book. For example, you can ask ChatGPT for advice on writing a particular genre, developing characters, or creating a plot. ChatGPT can also help you with research, providing information on a wide range of topics.
However, it’s important to remember that ChatGPT’s responses are generated based on the data it has been trained on, which means that it may not always provide accurate or appropriate information. You should always use your own judgment when deciding what to include in your book.
Ultimately, writing a book is a creative process that requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and personal input. While ChatGPT can provide you with some helpful insights and ideas, the final product will be a reflection of your own unique voice and perspective.
While the content here is fantastic at first glance, it doesn’t really answer the question like an in-depth blog post or book could do.
I love that it’s self-aware enough to urge caution from the very first sentence. It knows it’s not yet up to the monumental task of writing a book.
As someone who is constantly writing books, I like to think I have a sense of what ChatGPT can currently offer in terms of immediate need.
Automatic writing certainly has the potential to save time and money but not without severe limitations.
Three Major Limitations of AI Writing Tools…
Using ChatGPT and other AI writing tools I see three major limitations:
- It’s limited by what we input.
- It could be wrong and you won’t know it.
- Writing a book with ChatGPT ignores the real reason people read a book.
1) ChatGPT is limited by what we input
The first limitation is you!
The AI is answering a prompt, and will only scratch the surface of answering the question. If you don’t know how to ask follow-up questions or don’t know what to ask to dig a little deeper, the content will stop there.
In the example above, the AI seemed to assume I was asking if ChatGPT can write a fiction book when it said, “For example, you can ask ChatGPT for advice on writing a particular genre, developing characters, or creating a plot.”
This doesn’t help answer my question because it’s not what I meant. I was thinking of non-fiction books. It’s my fault in this case because I wasn’t clear, but if I didn’t know there is a major difference between writing fiction and writing non-fiction, I could be in trouble.
I bet if I added a clarifier of “non-fiction book” it would have removed this brief note and the output may have been even better.
But, even for this short 185 word section, I would need to edit for clarity and correct for errors before I would add this to a book.
2) It could be wrong and you won’t know it.
Beyond input limitations, another problem is lack of ability to fact check.
For example, I asked ChatGPT to list out every character in the game Overwatch. I play the game a lot so I know it well.
It listed 24 characters along with short one-sentence definitions for each.
The problem? One of the main characters, Symmetra, was missing from the list. Originally, I thought that maybe this was due to ChatGPT’s data limitation that doesn’t extend beyond 2021 (It hasn’t read that part of the internet yet; I guess).
But nope! Symmetra wasn’t on the list, even though she is one of the original 21 main characters.
It’s useful to have words written for you almost as fast as you can read them, but errors introduced at the draft level create headaches during the editing phase.
The goal of getting a first draft completed is usually just that, to get the first draft done! But you might create more work for yourself down the line to get everything right if you use AI tools.
3) Writing a book with ChatGPT ignores the real reason people read a book.
If we need access to immediate information, we use Google.
Chat GPT is like Google on steroids. It answers questions in depth without having to look through various sites.
But book readers don’t want an unorganized mess. They want you to do this work for them. Steroids aren’t good.
When we really want to dive deep into a subject, we read a book, because we don’t know what we don’t know.
Readers want you to show them what to do without having to ask their own questions because they don’t know what questions to ask.
When I am authoring a book, I am writing answers to the obvious questions AND providing answers to questions the reader will eventually have.
I am organizing everything they need to know about a specific subject into one easy to read and (hopefully!) enjoyable book.
What they’re reading is beyond what they can get via a simple Google search.
It’s this intricacy of intention behind an author’s craft that AI writing tools will struggle to match.
But Jordan, I REALLY Want to Use ChatGPT to Write a Book… Can I? Please?
Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should. — Dr. Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
If you want to use ChatGPT to write an entire book, sure. Be my guest.
Try it and let me know how it goes.
I don’t see any reason you couldn’t feasibly do this if you really wanted to.
If you’re willing to spend ample time editing and pulling the entire book together, then it could be done and none would be the wiser.
However, you’ll still need a fully fleshed out outline before you even start drafting.
A good outline will write your book for you, and will make it much easier to know what prompts to enter in ChatGPT.
Without an outline you’d be naked in the dark, entering random prompts and compiling it all into one messy document.
Either way, an outline is necessary however you choose to write the book:
- On your own: If you write the book on your own, outlines break your writing into small parts so it’s much easier to get to work. Outlines eliminate writer’s block.
- With AI tools: With an outline, you’ll know what prompts to enter into ChatGPT and you can more easily organize it.
Make sure you have a solid outline based on the purpose of your book and your efforts to write a book will be much easier, whether you use AI tools or not.
You’ll Still Need to Edit
A 50,000 word first draft of a book written by a human is always a mess.
A 50,000 word first draft of a book written with ChatGPT will be less of a grammatical mess but likely an organizational nightmare.
Unless you ask ChatGPT to write a 50,000 word book, which isn’t recommended based on processing time and other limitations, you’ll need to have it write in 500 to 1000 word chunks.
The problem comes when piecing these various chunks together.
As an author, knowing the content of your book like the back of your hand is how you keep your reader interested to continue reading. If you don’t actually write the content, the book might become repetitive or it may not even answer the problem as promised.
It might become a random slog of information. Smart readers will close the book to find another one that wasn’t written with AI (and also one not written by you, unfortunately).
The complexity of a book is just too vast for current AI writing tools to overcome.
It will take vast amounts of time and effort to create a 50,000 word manuscript using ChatGPT.
And then, you’ll have to do vast amounts of editing to make sure it flows like a book is supposed to.
So, if your only goal is to save time, AI writing tools won’t help you, not in the long run.
The Incredible Potential of AI Writing Tools
I’m intrigued by the potential of tools like ChatGPT to help write a book.
I don’t think it’s anywhere near the point of writing the book for you. Sorry, we’re not there yet.
But it’s still useful, even in its current form.
I already have systems in place that prevent writer’s block, but I’ll definitely consider using it if I’m stuck, or writing a section that doesn’t require an outflow of creative juices.
If I’m writing a book about personal growth and need a section on various deep breathing techniques, I might use an AI tool to help make sure I’m not missing anything.
I’m not an expert on breathing, but I might find it valuable for my readers to know various breathing practices or guided meditations.
I’d go on Google and do the research anyway, so why not have an AI writing tool start the process for me, instead?
This would likely save me a ton of time researching and collating data from various articles and studies. It still might behoove me to do the research and learn on my own, but I can do that in the editing phase if need be.
If I wasn’t a writer and didn’t have time to master the craft, AI writing tools would be incredibly helpful to get started and avoid the dreaded writer’s block.
Still, technology still isn’t anywhere near a point where you should feel comfortable copy-pasting from AI writing tools directly to blog posts or websites.
It takes quality editing to ensure the content will actually help the reader, beyond something they could find elsewhere.
In conclusion, you can certainly write a book with ChatGPT, but you should think twice before doing so. And if you do, make sure you don’t skimp on editing!
What do you think? Will writers everywhere soon be out of work?
All the best,