If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
In this episode you’ll learn how to write better than any AI-generated content. I’ll also share the latest trend in wellness books.
The bookshop we are visiting today has a full menu. It’s located on the outskirts of Brussels, so let’s hop on the metro and head to the bookstore.
It is a cloudy, rainy day in Brussels, with a high of 48 degrees Fahrenheit, 9 degrees Celsius, a bit warmer than the last time I was here.
Today we are visiting Cook & Book, which is a supermarket-sized bookstore. I believe Cook & Book now has two locations, but the one we are visiting today is in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert. The bookstore is divided into themed sections. You’ll always know what section you’re in based on the maximalist decorations. For example, vinyl records decorate the music section, superhero toys decorate the comics section, and Union Jack ceiling lamps decorate the English section. While the train running around the colorful children’s section is only a model train, there is a real Airstream caravan inside the travel section, and the nature books are in the greenhouse. As for the real Fiat inside the cooking section, that one makes some sense once you know that the bookstore refers to the cooking section as La Cucina, Italian for the kitchen, and FIAT is an Italian car manufacturer.
As the name implies, the cook part of Cook & Book is as important as the book part. They have several eating areas, both indoor and outdoor, and a full menu, including a kids menu, and they accept reservations. For drinks they have milkshakes, wine, beer, cocktails, and, of course, coffee.
So, let’s place our order and get into some publishing news.
To the parents, guardians, and caretakers of young readers, get your library cards ready. HarperCollins has bought the rights to publish books connected to the Elf on a Shelf universe. The toy company Mattell, makers of Barbie, Hot Wheels, and much more, is starting an in-house publishing imprint, which is expected to launch next year. And Rebel Girls, the digital media and children’s book publishing company, just raised $8 million, and Penguin Random House is one of its lead investors.
If you are currently writing a wellness book, you gotta have faith. According to Publishers Weekly, demand is up for wellness books that discuss spirituality and faith-based books that discuss wellness. Books appear to be trending away from the message to live your best life, promoting instead the message that says, life is hard, you’re not always going to be happy, and that’s ok.
How long do you think it’ll be before they resume telling us that we need to change everything about ourselves? I suspect not long because if we all feel content, we’ll buy less personal development and wellness books, but we can enjoy the I’m Okay, You’re Okay trend while it lasts. And maybe you can even write a bestseller in the meantime.
Comics retailers are reporting that people are buying more comics than ever, with manga leading the pack. As for graphic novels for kids, some standalone ones do well, but what young readers seem to like the most are series.
The science fiction and fantasy magazine Clarkesworld is now closed to new submissions because they were receiving too many AI-generated submissions. They are trying to figure out a solution, but in the meantime they found the process of running every submission through an AI checker expensive and unreliable.
Check the show notes for links to these stories.
Before we get lost in this wonderland of a bookstore, let’s sit at the piano in the music room for today’s Overthinking Couch. Because who knows when we’ll have the opportunity to do that again?
So, let’s talk more about the problem with AI-generated junk. Yes, people are trying to get rich quick with poorly generated AI-content, but the bulk of this is coming from outside the publishing and writing world. These are not true artists. They are con artists. In addition to wanna-be writers oversaturating fiction markets, students are turning in AI-generated essays, and media sites are publishing AI-generated news stories.
Now that you’ve been taking Writing Breaks with me for a while, you’ll know I love AI. I think what humans do with technology is fascinating. There are downsides to everything, and I know there are downsides to AI that are much more serious than bad AI-generated fiction, not the least of which is the fact that the artwork of many talented illustrators is being illegally used to create AI-generated work.
You know those scenes in movies and TV shows where there’s something disastrous happening, something like a fire or an accident, and there’s a crowd staring in horror? Then a police officer says, “Move it along, folks, there’s nothing to see here.” But there obviously is something to see, that’s why we’re all gathered looking at it. Well, when I say that I love artificial intelligence, I feel like that cop. I’m just saying the wrong things in front of a disaster.
So maybe there is a fire, and maybe some of us are okay watching to see what happens next.
If you’re also okay standing near the fire once in a while, you will like today’s gifts. There are two gifts today, which makes up for last week, and they go together. In the show notes, you’ll find links to two sites that let you create AI-generated children’s stories with pictures.
As it is with AI at the moment, the pictures are weird. You’ll see what I mean if you try it. One site is called Story Wizard and the other is called Stories for Kids. You set parameters about what you want the story to be about, and it writes it for you and creates corresponding images. The characters can have whatever names you choose, so if you have a child in your life, you can create a story about them.
I do not recommend creating and selling an AI-generated children’s book. One person tried that and received seriously negative backlash, primarily from illustrators whose work is being violated. Check the show notes for a link to that story.
Now, it’s time to hike around this mega-bookstore and check out an independent author who works with AI and thinks the AI bubble will burst soon.
Smart Until It’s Dumb: Why Artificial Intelligence Keeps Making Epic Mistakes (and Why the AI Bubble Will Burst) by Emmanuel Maggiori, PhD. The author specializes in machine learning and scientific computing. He builds complex software and has developed AI for a wide variety of applications.
“Artificial intelligence is everywhere—powering news feeds, curating search results and invisibly steering our lives. We talk to it and, increasingly, it talks back. And sometimes its answers seem eerily smart.
… Until they don't.
Billions of dollars have been poured into AI yet it keeps surprising us with its epic fails—confidently wrong chatbots, inadvertently racist photo apps, well-meaning autonomous cars that fail to recognize traffic cones.
Industry insider Emmanuel Maggiori cuts through the hype, revealing the deceptively simple mechanisms behind AI’s impressive results—and its spectacular blunders.
Learn the dark secret of the AI industry—how unreasonable expectations, shady practices and outright lying have inflated a bubble of monumental proportions.
Read Smart Until It’s Dumb to discover how AI really works, why it’s not always so smart, and why the AI bubble is about to burst.”
Released just three weeks ago, Smart Until It’s Dumb is currently #1 on Amazon in the category of AI & Semantics. And it’s free on Kindle Unlimited.
This time you choose a spot for today’s writing tip.
I think of AI as a tool, but I can understand how writers might feel that AI is the competition. So, how can you gain a competitive edge over AI-generated content? If you look at some of AI’s blunders, you’ll see that computing is not the same as understanding. AI can compute from what has been input into its database, but it doesn’t understand the way a human does, and it certainly does not understand how truth can be individualized. Yet, humans turn to books over and over again seeking a new truth, the author’s truth.
Ernest Hemingway told us that the writer’s job is to tell the truth. In A Moveable Feast, which is about his time in Paris, he wrote, “I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.”
There is such a thing as facts, but truth as Hemingway talks about it, is honesty laid bare. We crave honesty, even in fiction. Write with as much truth and honesty as you can. Even if you’re world-building, write the truth as you understand it. Understanding, truth, and honesty, are key parts of human intelligence that have yet to be replicated by artificial intelligence.
May you have seven satisfying writing days. Until next week, 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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.