The AI writing discourse is exhausting me and my opinion hasn’t changed one bit in the past year, and everything I’m seeing right now just proves that opinion is correct.
You see, right this second, there are thousands and thousands of books on Kindle Unlimited that are plagiarized.
Because there is a subset of people in every group that are looking for a way to make money and (ahahaha) decided books are a way to do it. Except, generally speaking, it is extremely hard to make a living writing, even if you’re very good at it. What does help you? Rapid releases and Amazon exclusivity. And the easiest way to do that is to outsource “ghostwriters” on Fiverr for very little money–and, surprise, since very little money is involved, they take shortcuts as well and plagiarize books (ghostwriting is a skilled, honest living! but it costs significantly more money than grifters want to pay–“It’s an 80K-word book, Michael, what can it cost to write, ten dollars?”). Books are released once a month, usually in contemp romance or PNR (at least that’s where the scandals pop up), and when eventually the plagiarism is caught, their account is closed, and they open up another one and start the grift again.
That is where you’re going to find AI writing: they’ll fire their “ghostwriters” because it gives them another, cheaper shortcut.
The self-pub gurus who are selling courses on How To Be an Amazon Bestseller and pushing NFTs will start selling How To Use AI To Be a Bestseller.
Last year, a friend told me about a writer she knew who took one of those workshops on being a bestseller–this was run by people who are extremely prominent in the self-publishing community. And one of the instructors said, point blank, that if you have ten books out already, stop writing new books and learn how to market the ones you already have.
Stop. Writing. Books.
This is not the advice you give writers.
…because writing books is why we’re putting ourselves through publishing in the first place?
Someone claiming to be a writer posited on Twitter the other day that “wouldn’t it be cool if you could train AI on your own writing and use it to write books for you?” and was baffled when people said “…n…no???”
On Reddit another said “I think AI writing is great because it means someone who has a great idea could be able to write a story without having any skills”.
See the pattern here?
The disconnect I witness, over and over, is people genuinely not understanding why anyone writes or publishes in the first place.
I publish because I live in a capitalist hellscape and need to keep a roof over my head, so I have to get paid for some of what I spend my time doing.
And I enjoy writing. The act of creation is my idea of a good time. I’d rather spend my days with with fictional people than real ones.
I love the high of writing 10K words in a night to finish a book, bleary-eyed at 4am and feeling like my brain has been scooped out and replaced with oatmeal.
I love revising something for the fourth time and spending an hour on getting a sentence right.
I love going to sleep every night playing out book scenes in my head, over and over again, even if I won’t write them for years to come.
I love rereading something I wrote and having no memory of it because I was in some kind of fugue state at the time.
This is ALL fun for me! So it’s in my best interest to get paid for it so I can spend more time doing it. If there was universal basic income, I’d still be writing, I just wouldn’t be publishing.
And if I expected to make more than poverty-level wages, I would be doing literally anything other than writing.
With series books, I know the arcs years in advance. The endings of books I haven’t started yet, the growth of the characters, the answers to the mysteries. But still, even then, there are things I don’t know until I’m actually writing. That is not a thing AI can replicate, because I don’t always know I need something until I’ve actually written it, so I couldn’t even direct a program to write it for me.
“Writers write” gets thrown around sometimes to reassure people that if they’re doing any writing at all, they’re still a writer; in other cases, it’s criticized, because if circumstances or health issues prevent you from writing, you feel like you’re no longer a writer. But those nuances aside, if we’re going to accept one single universal thing about writers, it’s that they write (or even, have written).
If you’re editing something AI wrote: congrats, you’re an editor.
If you’re selling plagiarized books: congrats, you’re a grifter.
If you’re doing nothing but teaching others about marketing: congrats, you’re a marketing teacher.
If you have a “great idea” but don’t actually want to write a book: congrats, you do not actually have a great idea. Because great ideas are a dime a dozen; it’s the expression of them that varies, and if you have no interest in expressing them in your unique way then it’s not any better than any of the other million ideas out there.
Storytelling is something humans do. We do it to remember. We do it to memorialize. We do it to process. We do it to transmute reality. We do it to connect. AI cannot do that.
I’m sure AI writing is going to be very good at writing a nice story (eventually; it’s not there yet) after training on other people’s hard work. And it’s going to be used by the same grifters who are already grifting, because it’ll be another shortcut for them.
And they’ll have readers for their AI shit because they already do.
Those aren’t my readers, though. Believe me, the book-a-month primarily-KU crowd dropped me the moment it took over a year to get a new book in a series (I know, as they inform me of this with hatemail about both Demons and Livi). And they won’t touch any of my new books because they’re priced over $2.99. If you treat writing as “content” to be consumed, which is a plague on any industry trading in the written word, sure, you’ll be happy with those AI books just as you’re happily with the heavily plagiarized ones or knowing some ghostwriter in a developing nation was severely underpaid.
That’s not what I want to read. And it’s not what I want to write. And while my readership is very, very small, they’re here for the art I’m making–the memorializing, the processing, the transmutation, the connection. There may not be a lot of money in it, but it’s helping to keep a roof over my head so I can do more of it and not kill myself or others.
Now, today is my writing day, and I’m going to spend it working on my stuff and not yelling at AI bots on Twitter (as enjoyable as it is).