Episode 97

How to Write Better Than AI (Part 3 )

Rosemi Mederos:

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

Tourist season is over in my beach town, which means I have reunited with the Atlantic Ocean. It also means hurricane season is looming, and it’s time to stock up on paperback books. If a hurricane blows me away from my podcast booth, I vow to find my way back to you in time.

For now, I am here once again, bringing you news from the land of publishing. The Writing Break cafe is open, so let’s get to it.

On April 23rd, the Federal Trade Commission announced a rule banning non-compete clauses, saying they stifle competition and hurt workers. The ban applies to most workers, including authors and editors. The FTC estimates the ban will increase worker earnings, lead to the creation of thousands of new businesses each year, and drive innovation with tens of thousands more patents filed annually.

Previously, 30 million workers (nearly 1 in 5 Americans) were subject to non-competes. These clauses often cause workers to stay in jobs they disliked or limit their career options. With this new rule, previous non-compete clauses become unenforceable, with an exception made for some senior executives. So, what does this mean for authors?

Non-compete clauses are common in writing agreements and prevent authors from publishing similar works with others. The Authors Guild believes these clauses are too broad and harm others by limiting their writing opportunities. With this new ban on non-compete clauses, writers are free to write whatever, wherever, whenever, with whomever.

unced the cancellation of the:

Speaking of canceled festivals, the disastrous Readers Take Denver book festival I reported on in the last episode has now been canceled for 2025 after significant internet activity, with attendees calling it the Fyre Festival of books.

Counting print books, ebooks, and audiobooks, Americans buy over a billion books a year. That’s good news. The bad news is that there is a notable and worsening decline of children past the age of nine who read books for fun. The reasons why appear to be the usual culprits. Children are spending more time looking at screens than reading books. The in-school focus on testing and reading excerpts rather than whole books makes reading less enjoyable. Libraries are being defunded and librarians are being laid off, making it harder for kids to discover new books, and teachers are hesitant to keep a classroom library due to the rise of book bans.

If you’re trying to get a child to read, take them to see some books with sprayed and stenciled edges at Barnes & Noble. Barnes now has a section in their bookstores and on their website showcasing books whose edges have been beautifully decorated. Fore-edge painting dates as far back as the 10th century, and it has been in and out of fashion since then. The most recent resurfacing of this trend started with freelance artists purchasing and decorating book edges and reselling them for profit on sites like Etsy. There is nothing illegal about that, so since they couldn’t beat them, booksellers decided to join them.

A new Farshore research paper shows that reading for pleasure can help with a person’s wellbeing. This is true for both adults and children, but we already knew that, didn’t we? The findings report that teenagers claim they have too much schoolwork to read for fun, and that the majority of YA readers are adults, with more than a quarter of them being over the age of 28.

There are currently more than 40,000 AI-narrated audiobooks on Audible. While they are labeled as ‘virtual voice’, there is currently no option available to filter these out. Customers have indicated that they would want this option, and Amazon has replied with a noncommittal, “We hear you.”

Before we get started with today’s writing tips, we need to talk about you and me and what we’re doing here. My technical director has indicated that certain shows have better flow than others, which started me overthinking, of course. Rather than ruminate into a whiskey glass or start a brawl in the studio, we created a survey to see what you thought. Please, please, check the show notes for a link to the survey, which should take a reader such as yourself one minute to complete. I’ll go ahead and give you a couple of minutes of music so that you can complete the survey right now if you’re able. In the meantime, I’ll head over to the Overthinking Couch for today’s writing tips.

For today’s third installment of How to Write Better than AI, I’ll start with a writing tip that rankles some writers, which is, avoid passive voice. Active voice is where it’s at, and even AI is good at active voice. Don’t trail behind the bots for this one. However, it is a matter of what you are writing. For example, journalists and researchers often write in passive voice, but if you’re not just reporting but also engaging the readers and bringing them into your story, be it fact or fiction, you’re going to want to use active voice.

There are limitless active vs passive voice examples online, and but a simple one would be, You listened to this podcast rather than the podcast was being listened to by you. We usually use active voice when we are speaking, but it can be easy to mix up when you’re writing. Remember to describe action in real time. If you see the words are, was, were, or had in your manuscript, check that sentence for passive voice.

Similarly, check for the words "see" and "hear". Those words are mostly dead weight in first person point of view stories. For example, I heard thunder can be changed to thunder rolled. If your character is the narrator, then we know any sights and sounds mentioned were heard and seen by your character. Does that make sense? If not, email me and let me know.

And the final tip for today is to harness the power of suggestion. Suggest subtle things to your reader. This can be done in the narration or the dialogue. It can also be done using a theme or a color or even a symbol. Be creative, always, and be subtle often.

To end this episode in a non-subtle way, please complete the survey linked in the show notes. Those who complete it will affect the future of this show. If you don’t complete the survey, the show might change in a way you don’t like, and I don’t want that to happen. That’s all for today. 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.