Episode 96

How to Write Better Than AI (Part 2)

It’s break time, writers. We have a lot of publishing news to get through today, and we’re continuing with our four-part series on how to write better than AI.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

“Gazing Out of a Café Window on a Rainy Day” by The Turquoise Moon

“Jazz You Up” by Julian Gross

Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

It’s break time, writers. We have a lot of publishing news to get through today, and we’re continuing with our four-part series on how to write better than AI. One listener suggested we call the series Beat the Bots, which I like because I’m an alliteration ally. Another suggested we call it Man vs Machine, which reminded me I haven’t discussed the basic conflict types with you yet, so I added that to my to-do list. Man against machine is more frequently being called Human against Machine for the sake of inclusion, and if there is one thing I like more than alliteration, it’s the Key West concept of One Human Family. So, somewhere therein lies the title of this series, which is aimed at making you an irreplaceable writer.

It is a rainy day in the studio today, so we will not be traveling to a bookstore during this episode. While airplane flights might be grounded, flights of fancy are cleared for take off. So, we will be spending our time together in the Writing Break cafe, indulging in coffee and conversation.

PEN America canceled its:

One event that should have been canceled but wasn’t was the 2024 Readers Take Denver convention. This event was a disaster due to poor organization, insufficient staff, and serious security issues. Many attendees were disappointed by long waits, some reporting having to wait 3 hours just to register. Some authors said their books were stolen and claimed volunteers were hostile to them. The conference also ran out of water. The event has a no-returns policy, so disgruntled attendees were not even able to get their entrance fee back. Despite all of this, the event is still expected to be held next year, and tickets are already being sold for it.

Since this podcast began, I have been updating you on the US Copyright Office’s stance on copyrighting material written using AI tools, and today we have a big update. Elisa Shupe, a disabled veteran, wrote a novel with the help of ChatGPT. As it had done in every such instance before, the US Copyright Office rejected her initial copyright application, but Shupe lawyered up and appealed, claiming that she would not have been able to write her book without AI tools due to her disabilities. While the US Copyright Office did not directly address Shupe’s disabilities, Shupe eventually won a copyright registration for the selection and arrangement of AI-generated text in her book. This is one of the first creative works to receive any type of copyright protection for AI-generated text. The Copyright Office did not recognize Shupe as the author of the text but only as the person who arranged the text. This means no one can copy the book without permission, but the actual sentences and paragraphs themselves have no legal copyright protection.

A new AI book publishing platform called Spines raised $6.5 million dollars this month. Spines’ platform allows authors to self-publish their books in just two weeks and reduces publishing costs by a supposed 30%. Spines uses AI to automate many tasks in the publishing process, including editing, proofreading, and cover design. After a book is published, Spines can also help distribute it and market it. I have no experience with Spines, so please do not consider this a review for or against Spines. Check the show notes if you want to learn more.

Publishers, librarians, and agents are noticing a trend towards shorter children’s books. This might be either because publishers are looking for ways to reduce production costs and raise profits or because reading levels and attention spans have dropped since the pandemic. Which do you think it is? Or do you think it’s something else?

In an article dramatically titled “The Life and Death of Hollywood,” Harper’s Magazine reported on the current state of affairs for writers in Hollywood. According to the article, studios are now run by conglomerates and financial firms focused on reducing costs and maximizing profits, which has led to a decrease in residuals and fewer opportunities for mid-career writers. Screenwriters are caught in a cycle of having to constantly produce content to stay afloat financially, yet the industry itself is no longer set up in a way that makes it viable to have a career as a Hollywood writer.

Fake DMCA notices from AI-generated law firms are being sent to authors claiming copyright infringement on website images. These notices try to trick the author into linking to the scammers’ websites, which are full of junk content. Real DMCA notices do not ask you to link to other websites. It is important to secure the licensing for images that appear on your website, but even if you think you might be in violation of copyright law, you should not respond to suspicious notices. If you're unsure about a DMCA notice, consult a lawyer or a trusted resource, like the Authors Guild, before taking any action.

I have some good news for authors and small publishers who prefer to manage the printing of their books. After a three-year break, Amazon Advantage is accepting new applications again. This is a consignment program that allows you to sell your pre-printed books on Amazon, bypassing their print-on-demand service. This program might be a good fit for those who already have inventory or prefer more control over the quality of their printed books. Keep in mind that there is still a yearly fee of $99 and Amazon takes a cut of the sale price. Check the show notes for a guide to help you decide if Amazon Advantage is the right choice for you.

As always, you can find links to all of today’s news stories as well as links to free writing tips and writing templates in the episode show notes. And now, let’s take three minutes to get another drink and stretch our legs before we reconvene on the Overthinking Couch for today’s writing tips.

Continuing on from last week, I have several more tips today on how to write better than AI. One thing I expanded on last week was the concept of “show, don’t tell” in order to provide the reader with necessary background information in an engaging way. Another aspect to the “show, don’t tell” concept that is often overlooked is showing emotions. This could mean showing a character’s emotion in fiction or guiding a reader’s emotion in nonfiction. It is easy to write “she was distraught” or “I was fuming”, but that doesn’t make it good writing. What does being distraught look like for your character in particular? A distraught lion in The Wizard of Oz looks very different from a distraught Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. Showing us what these emotions look like in your characters will make your story more memorable.

As for nonfiction, let’s say you’re writing a memoir; you could simply say “I was fuming”, or you could bring the reader into your lived reality by describing how that anger felt in your body. Regardless of genre, work to make the story you’re telling feel real, and do not summarize the interesting parts. That is something I see authors do often, and if you’re not sure what the interesting parts of your story are, ask a writing buddy or your beta readers. For more information about working with beta readers, check out episode 10 and episode 78.

Another way to show and not tell is to avoid analysis. Let the readers come to their own conclusions. This is a hard one because some authors want readers to feel and think exactly what they are feeling and thinking. That is not something that you can control because we are all different people with different values and life experiences. Once you understand that you cannot control exactly what your readers will think or feel, you can start having fun by just telling your story well and hoping that there is enough reality and humanity in your words to elicit true feelings and deep thoughts in your readers, whatever those feelings and thoughts may be. Whether you’re writing a mystery or a manifesto, you want readers to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions before getting to the ending. What makes reading fun is the meeting of two minds, that of the writer and the reader.

I also encourage keeping sentence structure simple. Some writers enjoy writing flowery, complex sentences, but few readers enjoy reading them. How do you like your sentence structure: simple or complex?

Break time is over, writers. I’ll be back with you in two weeks. Until then, write your hearts out. Thank you so much for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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Rosemi Mederos


Rosemi is the founder of America's Editor, a book editing company.