An initial exploration of ChatGPT and other AI helpers for writing
This week I tried out a few AI writing tools to see if they could help me draft a blog post faster or better. I enjoyed the experiment with ChatGPT and a few other tools—SudoWrite, QuickWrite, and Jasper—to help me brainstorm, outline, research, and do the tedious work of providing introductory material and an outline. It took a few tries to get my prompts right, to ensure good results, and so far I like it! I just don't know which tool I'll use. Definitely ChatGPT for now, because it's free.
Here's my experience with these tools along with links and resources.
Since the AI explosion in the past few months, I've looked at many writing examples and found most lacking. Articles written solely by AI seem pretty easy to spot right now as they simply lack depth. I don't think there's any reason for experts to fear it though. We can use it for outlines, drafts, and ideas, then add our own style, experience, and opinion to the pre-generated narratives. I also think it's futile to resist, feeling that it's as inevitable as the calculator, the computer, and the GPS.
During the process, I became excited about AI's potential to free me from repetitive writing, outlining, and the tedious work of generating first drafts. Like many writers, I'm a research junkie, it though the database only runs through 2021 at this time, I liked how it organized the data for me,
You'll find all the results of my experiment using ChatGPT, SudoWrite, QuickWrite, and Jasper in my Google doc.
ChatGPT as a thinking and first draft tool
I used the AI tools to help me draft a blog post that helps authors figure out how to publish short pieces to market their books for publication as blog posts, magazine stories, or newspaper articles. Though many authors are great at writing chapters and entire books, these formats are often unfamiliar to them. So I want to publish a blog post that helps them choose and to structure their piece.
I prompted ChatGPT to compare the essay, the article, and the story. It did a pretty good job, though I would reorganize it, personalize it with my writing style, and add specific opinions and examples. I'd also strike out a lot of repetitive or unnecessary language, or rewrite it entirely.
An essay is a written piece that presents an argument or a point of view on a specific topic. It typically includes an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. The introduction presents the topic and thesis statement, the body paragraphs provide evidence and analysis to support the thesis, and the conclusion summarizes the main points and reiterates the thesis.
An article is a written piece that informs the reader about a specific topic or issue. Articles can be found in newspapers, magazines, and online. The structure of an article often includes a headline, an introduction, several paragraphs of information, and a conclusion. It may also include subheadings, images, and captions.
A short story is a fictional narrative that is usually shorter than a novel, and it is intended to entertain and engage the reader. It typically includes a plot, characters, setting, and theme. The structure of a short story often includes an opening, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. The opening sets the scene, the rising action develops the plot and characters, the climax is the turning point of the story, the falling action is the events that follow the climax, and the conclusion brings the story to a close.
ChatGPT provides the basics
Again, this is a great starting point because it defines the purpose and structure of each format, eliminating me from having to take time to explain them for the umpteenth time in my career. Often, experts lack "beginners mind" and skip basics, so it served as a good reminder.
Did ChatGPT explain it well enough? No, so I re-prompted: what's the difference between an essay and a story?
An essay is a formal piece of writing that presents an argument or an opinion on a specific topic, while a story is a narrative that describes a sequence of events, usually involving characters and a plot. Essays are often written in a more academic or formal tone, while stories are written with the intention of entertaining or engaging the reader. Essays typically have a clear structure, with an introduction, several body paragraphs, and a conclusion, while stories may have a more open structure with a beginning, middle, and end. Additionally, stories often have fictional elements, while essays are non-fiction.
ChatGPT can draft the entire blog post
I was thinking about creating more prompts but then, remembering that ChatGPT recalls our conversation, I thought, why don't I just ask it to write the blog post for me? Counting on the fact that we'd already been chatting about all this, and it would "remember" our conversation, I prompted: Write an 800-word blog post for beginning writers on the difference between an essay, a magazine story, and a newspaper article.
Find the results in my Google doc.
It was not terribly satisfying but again, a good start and provided a usable draft.
Then I found out about SudoWrite, a paid tool created for writers (from journalists to novelists) which is much more user-friendly.
When I used the same prompt in SudoWrite, it gave me the same(ish) information but provided real world examples that I could replace with my own. Much better! Again, find the results in my Google doc.
Sudowrite's brainstorming tool was also very helpful.
Using the examples it gave me, I can provide my audience with more ideas on how to structure an essay, given the message they want to spread, the point they want to make, and the story they want to tell.
QuickWrite was developed by Adazing, a company that already provides a lot of useful services for authors.
QuickWrite forced me to be more specific. I had to specify the format (blog post) and the segments of my post (newspaper article, magazine story, blog post) separately. It felt more complicated but I quickly realized that it helped me organize my thoughts and it did provide better results, which you'll find in this document. QuickWrite has a lot of good tutorials which you can study right now.
Note: I signed up just in time because they've closed enrollment until May 2023.
The last tool I used was Jasper, which only gives you a five-day trial period and like the other paid tools, force you give them your credit card info. (I've learned calendar all my cancellations.)
Jasper looks to be the most comprehensive do-everything tool, with templates to help you generate blog posts, ads, and social media posts, sales letters, press releases, emails, and companion art. It's more expensive than the other paid tools, and it might be worth the price for a solopreneur or a small business.
You'll find Jasper's results to my prompt, along with the others, in my Google doc.
Conclusion: AI-generated results need your personal (expert) spin
ChatGPT gave me a good, basic starting point. SudoWrite provided examples (which I would replace with my own examples) and more detail than ChatGPT. QuickWrite was much better at prompting me organize my thoughts and gave me the best results. However, all the results lacked personality and, of course, my expertise, which is what I would expect.
Check all the results in my Google doc.
AI tools can replace tedious research
On my first try, I worked as hard and as long on learning how to prompt the AI to get good results as I would have by starting from scratch with the usual kind of research I do. But after a while, I got better at providing more concise prompts to get the results I needed. It feels like it could replace the research process I'm used to doing, because it does that research for me behind the scenes.
The knowledge base ChatGPT used stops in 2021 so if you write about new developments in 2022 and 2023, don't expect good results.
Indeed, when I prompted the tool to list the top five self-publishing services the list included CreateSpace, which was retired in 2018, replaced by Amazon KDP Print. If I were not an expert, I wouldn't know that. So reader beware... know your source!
AI can help you with copywriting
When I was finished collecting material for my blog post, I prompted ChatGPT to help me promote my post.
First, I asked ChatGPT to create a title for the blog post, and though it's not brilliant, it was a start. I'd probably be better off with a marketing copy AI tool.
Choosing the Right Form: Deciding Between an Article, an Essay, and a Story
Then I prompted it to create a social media post to advertise the blog post, with the following results.
Calling all beginning writers! Are you unsure of the difference between an essay, a magazine story, and a newspaper article? Look no further! Our latest blog post breaks down the key differences between these three types of writing, and provides tips and tricks for writing effectively for different audiences and purposes. Click the link to learn more and kickstart your writing journey today! #beginningwriters #writingtips #essays #magazinestories #newspaperarticles
I got very excited about its ability to copyright and whoah, it even added hashtags. Because I find copywriting so tedious I breathed a sigh of relief. What a burden off my shoulders!
So far so good
I liked the process of testing the AI and I will be using it regularly from now on. I realized that I already talk with AI apps all the time: Siri, Portal, Alexa and whatever irritating robot answers the phone when I call customer service, so I've been getting more and more used to being clear and concise with instructions and options.
I've often heard that people who know how to converse with AI will have an advantage in the workplace, and I agree. I'm looking for a new virtual assistant, and one of the skills I'm adding is experience using AI tools. I'd like to ask my assistant to draft a blog post, share it with me so I can finalize it, then post it on WordPress and create all the assets needed to promote it, including images, social media posts, and hash tags. AI feels like a win-win. I see myself being much more productive.
In conclusion, I believe that ChatGPT and other AI writing tools will increase my energy and productivity, relieving me from the tedious task of explaining the basics so I can concentrate on infusing the value of my expertise in a post, article, essay, story, or book.
Whether you're a writer or a businessperson, an administrative assistant, social media expert, or if you work in any job that includes content creation, you will benefit. The challenges will be in learning how to ask and how to verify your results.
Here's a Forbes article about OpenAI’s ChatGPT that provides a good overview of what it is and what it does.
Here are links to the AI writing tools I covered here:
Start with ChatGTP, which is a free and open source tool. Go to https://chat.openai.com/ and create an account. Then write your prompt in at the bottom of the screen. As you see from the screenshot below, it can do a lot more than help you write.
A very good and extremely short ChatGPT book to get you started
ChatGPT for Nonfiction Authors: How to Use ChatGPT to Write Better, Faster, and More Effectively (Tips and examples that help you generate ideas, research topics, and maximize your productivity) by Hassan Osman and ChatGPT
This book is under 60 pages and I read it in 30 minutes. The author wrote it with the ChatGPT app. Osman not only explained how he did it but offers very helpful instructions and sample prompts.
For nonfiction authors who want to get up to speed on writing with ChatGPT, this book is the easiest place to start.
You’ll also get specific examples of ChatGPT prompts and responses, a downloadable ChatGPT Prompt cheat sheet (a PDF file), and a free copy of “Write Your Book on the Side” to learn how to publish your nonfiction book while working a full-time job (even if you don’t have a lot of time and don’t know where to start).
Joanna Penn talks about AI a lot and you can delve into everything she's discussed about ChatGPT on this page.
Sandra Beckwith used the QuickWrite AI writing software for authors to write her blog post on 5 important reasons to use YouTube for book marketing (and how to do it. She says, "I wrote the first four paragraphs without the software, but most of the rest of it came from the tool. I edited it –the software started way too many sentences with, “You can…” for example–but in general, the text was in good shape."
Dan Shipper's (Every) post is simply fascinating. Can GTP-3 Explain My Past and Tell My Future? I loaded journal entries from the past 10 years into GPT-3—and started asking it questions)
Just for fun
My dad and I went to the theater last week to see M3GAN, the movie about an AI doll even though "horror-light" isn't really our thing. We found it entertaining and thought provoking. If you saw it you might remember that M3gan, when she was criticized for her behavior, complained about the lack of parameters. In the case of AI, as in any programming, it is definitely all about parameters, so ambiguity can confuse it and bad results may happen, though not likely chainsaw attacks.
What are your thoughts about AI writing apps?
What is your opinion about getting information from posts and other writing that uses AI? Do you feel it's a research tool or a copout? Will you try it out? Use it for writing, copywriting, images, etc.? What else do you want to know about writing and AI?
I'll be interviewing experts about AI on the Nonfiction Authors Podcast.
Learn how to publish your book
Please share this post!
Did you find this post useful? Share on social media or forward it to a writing friend!