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Writing Fiction With AI. Sudowrite With Amit Gupta

    Categories: Futurist

What if you could use an AI writing tool to help you come up with ideas for sensory detail, character descriptions, story twists, and more? Amit Gupta explains how authors can use Sudowrite in this episode.

In the intro, I explain how I'm using Sudowrite, plus AI for Authors: Practical and Ethical Guidelines from the Alliance of Independent Authors; Wu Dao, 10x bigger than GPT-3 [Towards Data Science]; Open source model by EleutherAI; The Computers are Getting Better At Writing [The New Yorker]. You can find other AI episodes here, and a list of AI writing tools here.

This episode is supported by my wonderful patrons at Patreon.com/thecreativepenn. Thank you!

Amit Gupta is a science fiction writer and entrepreneur. He's the creator of Sudowrite, an AI creative writing tool. You can watch a demo of Sudowrite here on YouTube.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below.

Show Notes

  • Why GPT-3 is a significant step forward in tools for writers
  • Features of Sudowrite including the character generator, Describe function, Twists, Expand, Wormhole, and more
  • Tips for how to use Sudowrite to help your writing
  • Avoiding copyright and plagiarism issues
  • What the future might hold for writing with AI

You can find Amit Gupta at sudowrite.com and on Twitter @superamit

Transcript of interview wth Amit Gupta

Joanna: Amit Gupta is a science fiction writer and entrepreneur. He's the creator of Sudowrite, an AI creative writing tool. Welcome, Amit.

Amit: Thanks, Joanna. I'm glad to be here.

Joanna: I'm so excited to talk to you.

Before we get into the more technical stuff, tell us a bit more about you and your background in writing and technology and how it led you to creating Sudowrite.

Amit: I have been involved in technology most of my life. Years ago, I started a company called Photojojo that was all about helping photographers be more creative and have more playful fun with their work. I sold that company several years ago.

At that point, I decided to make more time for writing science fiction, because it was something I'd always been interested in. In particular, I'm really keen to explore ways technology can improve our lives to push back against the dystopia that's become so common in science fiction these days.

So when I was starting, that is when I met my co-founder, James, he had also been in tech, and we both independently left that world behind. And we both ended up reading science fiction, which is fun to find someone else who's like, on the same journey.

We ended up forming a writing group with a few friends. [Sudowriters] We were all getting started around the same time, dealing with the same issues like imposter syndrome and how do we do this? How do we learn how to do this from the ground up?

And slowly, but surely, we started getting better, started getting published in different places, and nominated for awards and all this stuff. And then last year, when the pandemic hit, like so many people, we were looking for ways to both connect with others, and also to write our ways out of the confusing mess the world was in.

It was around that time that a few of us started hosting this thing called Short Story Club, where we brought these prominent authors together to raise thousands for social causes, COVID-19 PPE, stuff like that.

Which is all to say, I think we were all looking for ways to contribute to the writing community, and eager to play with new ways of doing things. And when we came upon the idea of using AI in writing last year, it just felt like it could fit both of those things.

Early experiments were really promising. We started sharing what we were working on with some of the writers we respect in the field. And it became clear really quickly that there was something exciting here that could really benefit writers. So James and I started working on what became Sudowrite back in August of last year, 2020.

Joanna: I've been trying out in the beta and I love it. I'm also in the beta of the standard GPT-3 and listeners know, I've explained GPT-3 before, so we don't need to go into that technical side.

What did you see at this point that was different to you before? Because obviously, you've been in the writing space, the technology space. The GPT-3 and the stuff that open AI is doing. Was GPT-3 the catalyst that made you think it might work this time?

Amit: I think GPT-3 is definitely the catalyst. I think it showed us that the technology had gotten to a point where it could really do something for writing that I think many of us had started to assume was true in all these other creative fields.

You can't really be a photographer today without using digital editing tools. You can't be someone who makes video or someone who makes music without a vast array of tools to help you make the sound and the video that you were creating to execute on your vision.

But as writers, we've really had pen and paper, we'd have typewriters, we had word processors, but there was a very steady migration from one to the other. And the tools are basically the same thing.

With GPT-3, we saw that there was a potential for something that really leapfrogged what was possible for writers.

Joanna: Definitely. I totally agree with you.

Let's get into the tool and talk a bit about it. And very importantly, upfront, I want to say I feel like people have, as you mentioned, the dystopia. People have in their mind, oh, well, you just press a button and it will spit out a novel, and it will replace all writers. It really isn't like that.

So let's explore some of the features so we can help people understand what's there. I've been playing a lot with the character generator, the describe function, and the expand function.

[Watch the demo video from Amit on Sudowrite here on YouTube.]

Let's talk about the character generator, the describe function, and the expand function.

Amit: Sure. The character generator is something we built for when you're getting started with a new piece of work. And perhaps you've got an idea for one or two of the people who might inhabit this world, maybe you know how the world works. But you don't know who else is going to be in it, how the interrelationships work, and what happens.

This is mainly a tool to help you brainstorm and to help you flesh out the worlds. You put in a few characters in your world, you maybe describe their age, or their physical appearance, their occupation, whatever else is relevant to those characters.

And then Sudowrite will take those and spit out almost an infinite array of other characters who could also inhabit that world, and also suggest interrelationships between the characters.

I often will take bits and pieces from different suggestions and amalgamate something into a character I like. But the idea is really just to get your mind spinning and get you moving. And that's true for a lot of what we've built with Sudowrite.

We see it as something like having a writer sitting next to you who you can spitball ideas with and get something good when you're stuck.

Joanna: I've been having real fun. And I want to keep emphasizing the word fun. Because I have been having fun with this. I just was like, ‘Oh, I'm going to add this to my character.' Like you said, taking bits and bobs.

I started with three characters. And then as it generated more, I would add those things back into the original three, and keep generating things.

Together, we came up with some really cool things that I would not have thought of alone. And I must say that for me, I'm strong in setting, I'm strong in plots. But for me, with the diversity of characters, I love this help. So I wanted to say, I think that's brilliant.

You mentioned the twist. Let's do that next.

Amit: Twists is, again, similar to something that you might use at the beginning of the writing process, but also potentially if you're stuck in the middle and you feel like the work needs some kind of a twist or new life.

You write a short description of the story that you have going, maybe a paragraph or so, and you hit twists. And you can choose the genre, we have a few options right now. But we might add more in the future.

Twists will basically look at that and try to come up with ways to send the story in a direction that you don't expect.

This one's a little off the wall, sometimes it'll do something really interesting. Sometimes it'll suggest something that makes no sense at all.

That's something you'll discover, as you start using AI tools in general for writing. They're trying to understand what you've written as best as they can, but sometimes they're going to miss what you're going for. But yeah, twist will come up with some pretty interesting diversions to where you've taken the plot.

And again, it's like having somebody next to you who's got a whole different set of experiences, a different life trajectory, who's potentially got something new to offer, and something that it brings back will often spark a direction that you end up taking.

Joanna: I want to talk about the describe function. To me, there's this brilliant thing where it covers smell. Explain the describe function, because I'm just loving it.

Amit: Describe is one of our most used features. I love it because I often struggle with finding a way to describe, very evocatively, something that's a person, place, thing, whatever.

So basically, you highlight a word or phrase, you hit describe and Sudowrite will look at the text surrounding the phrase or the word that you've selected. And it'll suggest ways you could describe that word.

And, like you noted, it'll categorize it suggestions by the five senses sight, sound, smell, etc. And even take a few attempts at giving a more metaphorical or poetic description.

Joanna: I love it. I think of it more like an expanded thesaurus. So I use a thesaurus a lot in my editing pass, really. It's sort of, okay, I've really overused that word or I need a better word. So I often use a thesaurus.

But to me, this describe function, it's actually, as I said, I'm terrible at smells. I just don't notice smells. But in order to bring our writing alive, it can't just be sight all the time. And I love that it has all these different things. And to be clear to people, it doesn't just populate it in the text, does it? Explain how they have a choice.

Amit: Whenever you use any of these functions in Sudowrite, it'll show some suggestions on the right of the documents. So you can look at those, you can run it a few times if you don't like what it's come back with. And then typically, people will copy and paste a piece of it or just type out something that they're inspired by what Sudowrite has suggested.

So when I select something like the word ‘prism' in something I'm writing, it's not going to just going to describe the prism and put it in my text. It'll say a bunch of stuff along those five senses on the right side, and something will inspire you that you might end up using.

Joanna: I was doing something earlier. I wanted some descriptions around eye drops. It's just fun to try different things. Eye drops, seriously, how do you describe eye drops? It was just fantastic stuff I just never would have thought of.

I think that's, as you said, it's like a different mind. Again, we don't have enough language for this. But it's, as you say, sitting next to someone else who's got a different mind than you, and then picking and mixing from their brain.

Amit: Exactly. And I think you mentioned a thesaurus, and I think one of the interesting things about the describe feature as it is very similar to a thesaurus, but it has more context, because it has the work around the word or phrase that you've selected. So it can try to narrow in on what the word is that you're really looking for.

Joanna: The other thing that's interesting is the expand function, which I can see is, A, great for outliners. But also, I'm not an outliner. I'm a discovery writer. But I'm finding that I am almost outlining in order to see what it will expand. So explain that one.

Tell us about the expand function.

Amit: Oh, interesting. By the way, I say, ‘This tool is for people who this,' or, ‘This tool is for people who that,' but of course, people use these in all sorts of different ways that we didn't imagine.

Initially, we thought expand was for people who perhaps struggled with their first draft, just getting something out that could be terrible, it could be rough around the edges. But once it's sketched out, it's easier to edit and to make better. And that's definitely me, I love editing, I love revising. But I feel a lot of inertia when I start.

So, with expand, you can summarize your scene, characters, plot, setting, whose point of view it should be, whatever is important. And Sudowrite will attempt to write a very, very rough first draft of it.

You may not love it. It may go in a completely different direction than what you imagined. But, and even if you love it, you'll need to revise it, but it'll help you get started and get rolling.

Joanna: That is helping me change my thinking around mini outlining. And I'm just working on a short story at the moment, and that's what I'm testing it on.

For people listening, I want them to get the sense that there are lots of different tools within Sudowrite. It's not just one thing, but I guess one of the things that is what the main GPT-3 is, which is this text generation. So you've called it the wormhole.

Explain why you call it the wormhole and what that actually does.

Amit: The reason we called it the wormhole is because we're obviously science fiction writers and we like to think of it like we're going into the multiverse and asking five parallel versions of ourselves to write what comes after what we've written so far.

So how it works, basically, you've started something, you're writing something, you're in the middle of it, and you get stuck. And we want to help you get unstuck. When you hit wormhole, wormhole will look at everything that you've written so far or as much of it as it can manage to look at, and it'll try to understand the voice of the piece, the characters, and the plot, the character arcs, whatever it can discern.

Then it'll try to continue from where you've left off. And it'll only do a few paragraphs or so from where you left off. And it'll give you five different options for where you could go with it next.

People have been pretty surprised by how interesting and useful the responses can be and how closely they can mimic both the voice and the structure of what you're writing.

Joanna: Absolutely. And again, it is not just, press a button and out comes a thriller at all. How many words do you have to put in for the wormhole?

Amit: I think at least 100, but the more the better.

Joanna: So you put in a couple of hundred words, and then you can press the wormhole and it will continue your writing using your voice. But again, as you say, it's like a first draft, it needs work. It might not be anything at all based on what you want. You have a mood, don't you?

Amit: Yeah, we have a few different tones you can choose whether it's more ominous or extraordinary or whimsical with varying results. It can be a fun way to kind of mix up what you're doing.

Joanna: I've been using the ominous tone, which, again, is really fun.

I've been playing with GPT-3 for a few months, and I found it very difficult. Obviously, what you've done is built a tool on top of the engine. So you've got like a frontend with all these different ways of using it, which is why I think this is so fantastic.

But one of the interesting things is, the quality of the input prompt makes a huge difference to the output. And I felt like I had to really change my brain to understand this.

What are your tips for the best prompts or inputs to get the best out of Sudowrite?

Amit: Definitely, like you said, garbage in, garbage out. And if you put in something beautiful, Sudowrite will try its best.

I think figuring out how to use tools like this is going to become part of the creative undertaking. No two people are going to use it the same way. And we're so early in figuring out how to use tools like this.

I think the best way to learn and the best way to figure out how to use it is just to tinker. There's no wrong way to do it. And the people who take time to play with this technology as it evolves, they're going to figure out the best ways to use it.

To give you just one example, we were talking about the character generator, which is obviously there to help you create new characters in your work. But we have writers in our beta who've also used it by giving it lists of imaginary places and descriptions of those places, and then the character generator will create new places in the world.

And they've used it for magical spells where they give Sudowrite a few examples of spells, what goes into those spells, how they're made, who they affect, how long they affect those people. And then Sudowrite will go and invent a whole mess of additional magical spells that they can potentially choose from.

Your imagination is the limit. And I think that's the challenge here. You need to imagine it for Sudowrite to help you with it.

Joanna: Exactly. And I was just thinking there that it's kind of, ‘Here are three things. Now give me a fourth and a fifth and a sixth thing that is similar to the first three things.' That's really what you're talking about.

I love that people are using it for different things other than characters, which is fantastic. I think what I started with and probably many people will do is copying and pasting our own writing from published work, for example, into Sudowrite and then using it to play with, instead of sort of starting from scratch. That's how I've been playing with it.

Amit: That makes sense. Yeah, that's a good way to play with it. And I think this is a little bit harder to figure out when you're getting started, but one of the other ways to play with it is to, again, think of it as somebody who's sitting next to you and you're brainstorming with.

A few months ago, I was working on a short story and I had actually finished it. And I had sent it out to some friends for critique. One of the pieces of feedback I got was that the main character felt a little flat. So I tried to figure out how I could fill out this character using Sudowrite.

I tried to give Sudowrite the amount of background I might give to a friend who hadn't read the story. So I give them a little summary of the plot, who the characters are. And then I said, ‘Here are the characteristics that make this person unique according to her; she was an Indian-American, so her Indian-American heritage.'

I hit wormhole after that. So the story description, and then an outline format of the character traits I saw on this person. Wormhole then filled in those character traits and gave me a selection of a few dozen things that I could potentially use.

And then from that list, I actually end up choosing a couple of things that I thought did make sense for the plot, did make sense for that character, and which I hadn't actually thought of myself. Despite being an Indian-American, they hadn't occurred to me.

Joanna: Exactly, ‘Haven't occurred to us,' because our brains have been ‘trained' with our experience and the books we've read. And what we've got here is this powerful engine, which has got a lot more training, I guess, from all of these works.

You are accessing something that will never be exactly like you, which is the magical thing.

Let's talk about copyright. Okay, so, first of all, with copyright you mentioned your short story.

What are the copyright ramifications with using text that Sudowrite creates?

Amit: It's a good question. We, as a company, don't claim any copyright over anything that's Sudowrite generates. So if you're using it as a writer, anything that comes out of it is yours to use.

That said, we strongly recommend that everyone treat it as a rough first draft and use it as inspiration, not for final material. And I think that's how you're going to get the best work out of it. But that's also just, like, for your own peace of mind.

On many occasions, we've taken particularly delightful lines or passages that Sudowrite suggested, run them through a plagiarism detection software, search for them online, and we haven't found any matches. And just by virtue of the way the software works right now, it's non-deterministic. Every time you run it, it comes up with something new.

It's very unlikely that you'll end up getting someone else's work, and we've never seen it happen. But who knows what could happen?

We always want people to treat this with caution. And the final version of the product will probably have some sort of plagiarism detection in the app, just in case.

Joanna: Another question would be, what response is there from publishers, if any? I know there was something in The New Yorker. So they knew that Sudowrite was involved, I guess?

Amit: Yeah.

Joanna: Are there any problems you see in publishing?

Amit: We haven't come across any. That's not to say that there couldn't be in the future. But we have had authors start to submit work. And we don't have a general guideline about whether or not they should say that it was something they wrote in Sudowrite.

Of course, we're thrilled if they do. And some of them have said that. I think we had one of our writers publish a poem in ‘Strange Horizons,' which is a speculative fiction magazine, yesterday, which was really cool to see. And the author of that ‘New Yorker' piece as you mentioned, had also published some fiction.

We're hoping we'll see more and more fiction in collaboration with Sudowrite start to come out. But we haven't heard of any publications specifically saying they're in support of it or not in support of it. I think eventually, stuff like this, because it's something that helps inspire the work and develop the work not so much create the work, it'll start to feel like a spellcheck or a grammar check.

It wouldn't feel right if I wrote something and said, ‘Oh, this was spellchecked by Microsoft Word,' or something. It just doesn't matter. I think we'll probably get to the same point with software like this.

Joanna: I agree with you at the moment. But as you said, we're very early in this. And right now, definitely playing with Sudowrite, as you said, there are some sort of terms of phrase and some interesting ideas, but it's going to turn into my work. And if I gave you the stuff I had taken from it, you would write a different story, even though the input was the same.

But we don't know where it will go. Coming back to photography, because of course, that was your first business, with photography, you still need a raw photo that you then manipulate in software, right?

Amit: Yeah.

Joanna: I feel like with AI writing, we will always direct the creative experience.

Amit: I think that's right. And similar to photography, given a landscape, given a subject, everyone's going to interpret it in a different way. Even though you imagine photography is just taking this device and pressing the shutter, there's so much more to it.

I think the photographer's task is really to execute on their creative vision with the tools they have available, and no two photographers are going to take the same picture. And the same is true here.

I think that the writer's job is to identify the thing that's worth writing about to bring their humanity to it, to bring the emotional pathos and the feeling to it. And that's not something that a device can do. But hopefully, it's something that can help them with it and maybe take some of the harder drudgery work out of it.

Joanna: Coming to some of the other issues, I've had emails from people saying it's unethical to use AI writing tools, or it's cheating somehow, or it will result in a tsunami of crap generated books on Kindle Unlimited.

I'm sure you've heard all these objections. What are your thoughts on those?

Amit: I want to respond with a parable, but I'll also try to respond to each of the questions.

There's this parable of the wise man and the village. One day, a young woman goes to the wise man because the village river is flooding its banks for days longer than it has ever before. And she's worried.

She asks the wise man what they should do. And the wise man says, ‘Not to worry. The river always floods its banks this time of year, and it will,' he says, ‘eventually recede.'

So the young woman goes away still worried, she learns how to build a small boat, just a floating platform really, and she starts to use it to float supplies from one end of the village to the other. A few days later, the waters recede.

But a year later, the rivers flood again. And this time, water enters the village. At one point, it's rising several inches above the ground. And the young woman goes again to the wise man and asks him what to do.

This time the wise man invites her into his hut, and shows her how he's made a hole in the wall and he's dug this trench so the water flows through his home now. And he takes a spear. And he thrusts the spear into the stream running through his home and lifts the tip before her eyes.

There's a fish flapping at the end of the spear. ‘This flood is a blessing,' he says. So the young woman leaves and she decides to build a sailboat. She sails away. And one day, many, many years later, she returns.

This time, she's on a much larger boat with many more people. She finds her village submerged in deep water, and the wise man sunning himself on his rooftop. The waters have risen so far he can't stay inside anymore. So he sleeps on the roof, fishes on his roof, spends his days in the sun on his roof. But all these years later, he's thrilled when he sees her because he likes her. It's been a long time.

He asks where she's been, and she invites him aboard the boat. So he climbs up onto her ship. And she tells them of the distant lands she's seen on her boat, the strange and wondrous people she's met, and the stories of their village that she's brought to these people and those lands and the wise man is pleased, and he joins her on the voyage.

What does all this mean?

Well, we all know, change is inevitable. Everything's always changing.

We're always changing. And we're incredibly adept at adapting to change. It's just something humans are good at.

We can take the new and we can form it around ourselves, we can overcome the obstacle, and even derive some small benefit from it. And so many of our stories are about this, too. They're about obstacles and how we adapt to it and how we changed around it and become better people as a result of it.

But if the change is big enough, I think it's really an invitation to transform, to remake ourselves, to leap forward. And I think writers have that opportunity today.

Joanna: That was great. I love that story. I've quoted Kevin Kelly many times on this show, but he says in The Inevitable, “You'll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots,' and of course, robots, AI, technology, I guess. And like you said, it's a leap forward. I love that.

And also, you're right, we haven't had enough technological change really helping us with the creative process. I feel like the music industry and film and photography and all these other areas are way ahead of us. So it's fantastic that we're finally getting something.

Amit: I know, it's so exciting. I feel like the future's so bright for writing.

Joanna: I'm so glad you feel that because I do too. We are techno-optimists, aren't we?

Amit: Yeah.

Joanna: I do have a couple of other things. So obviously, you're excited. You mentioned, for example, I think the what-ifs or the twists are only certain genres.

What are you looking at developing next within Sudowrite? And when will it be out of beta?

Amit: Oh, yes, the eternal question. Well, there's all sorts of features we're looking at. I think we draw a lot of inspiration from the community as well.

Outlining is something that people have asked us for, so it's something you could do today using wormhole, but it's something we'll probably build upon in the future. And as you noted, genre support in different tools is probably something we'll add as well.

We're really trying to play it by ear and just watch what people do with it, see where they run into trouble with their work and how Sudowrite can help.

Joanna: So really, just sort of seeing how it goes. One of the things I'm really interested in, so we assume obviously, we don't know, but GPT-3 is trained on publicly available words. It's not meant to have works in copyright, although, who knows.

What would be interesting, I think, is to fine-tune a model with works in copyright. For example, I write action-adventure and a number of other indie action-adventure authors would be interested in putting all our novels into a corpus, for example, and using it to fine-tune some kind of version.

Now we know that some authors have done this with GPT-2 and the new EleutherAI, the GPT-Neo, I think it is called.

What do you think about this idea of fine-tuning the model for Sudowrite?

Amit: I think it's super interesting. When we were getting started, I remember we showed this to Ken Liu and Robin Sloan and they had both experimented with using… I think Ken was using GPT-2, I don't remember what Robin was using.

They both experimented with taking their own work and, as you said, training the model to help them tell their stories in their own voice more quickly. I think it's super, super interesting.

We've been talking a little bit about photography. My first thought is that it's like those kinds of filter packs that photographers will sometimes sell to help others achieve similar effects to their own work. There's a lot of potential not only to create your own work more quickly but to help other people get off the ground, and get started more quickly with developing work similar to yours.

Unfortunately, today, that's not something Sudowrite can do. And the tech we're building on right now doesn't allow us to fine-tune our model. But I think it's super interesting for development in the future.

I'm hopeful that not only for writers, individually, but maybe for teams of writers working within like a shared universe, that could be a useful tool. That's aware of everything that's been written in the world and is able to help you write in a way that's consistent.

Or you could even imagine writing rooms for TV shows wanting something similar for writing episodes that are, again, consistent within the world of the show, and take some of the work off the research required to make sure things are kept consistent.

Joanna: What about coming out of beta? If people are interested in joining, how's that going?

Amit: We're slowly letting people in. We just want to be careful. As you've seen, it's pretty rough around the edges at this point. And we want to make sure the product is useful, so when people arrive it's something they know that they can actually benefit from.

We're letting new people on every day. If anyone wants to sign up, they can go to sudowrite.com, and sign up. We'll ask a few questions when they do that and if they mentioned that Joanna sent them us, we'll try to bump them to the front of the list.

Joanna: Thank you so much.

One final question. Obviously, AI and technology is much bigger than just writing and I always remind people of that. There's a lot more going on. It's not just AI and writing.

What are the other things you're excited about in terms of how authors and other creators can use AI and other technologies? What do you see coming over the horizon? We might have GPT-4 soon. Who knows what GPT-10 will be doing.

Any other things you're excited about with AI?

Amit: GPT-3 is definitely very text-focused. And I think the future of GPT-3 is largely text. But the company that's developing these models, OpenAI, also experimented with image and sound models. I think it's going to be really interesting in the years to come as these models both get better, and you're able to integrate them with each other.

So you could imagine trying to develop music for the first time as somebody who's never made music. Or someone who's never made a movie, trying to author a story that's then, at least in rough form, created through multiple AI models, both the video and the sound, and help with the writing.

I feel like there's just so much potential to help people tell the stories they've always wanted to tell, the stories they need to tell, using tools that bring this to any person's desk.

Joanna: I think that multimodal idea, like your describe function is, highlight a word and it will generate some more words. But, if you could highlight a section and it would generate music to go with your section or generate video or other modalities, as you say, that they're really interesting ideas in that way.

When do you think this might be more mainstream? At the moment, we've got tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid, and Scrivener, for example, that a lot of authors use and have been around for a decade, really.

When do you think this type of tool will become more mainstream?

Amit: I think it's going to happen in bits and spurts and we really won't almost notice as it happens. Even today, you can go on to the App Store and you can download apps that will help you create music from your voice and from your creativity in ways that we couldn't at all five years ago or even a couple years ago. So I think these little pieces will develop independently.

As for when they're all tied together and I can just imagine a full feature film and have it spring to reality through a single tool. It's sort of self-driving. We always think it's right around the corner, but it's just not here yet. It's hard to predict.

Joanna: And it's funny because you think you're expecting X and Y turns up.

Amit: Exactly. You never know which direction it'll actually go, that's true.

Joanna: For example, I was interested in blockchain last year, but NFTs suddenly just appeared almost out of nowhere. But then, you find out that some musicians and artists have been using NFT's for years, it just suddenly became more mainstream.

Amit: Exactly.

Joanna: Brilliant. That was so interesting, Amit. So just tell people one more time where they can find Sudowrite.

Amit: Sure, the website is sudowrite.com.

Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time.

Amit: Thank you, Joanna. This was a lot of fun.

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (10)

  • This is fascinating, Joanna and Amit! I've signed up for the beta to try it. It's a thing of wonder!

  • Wow! This sounds and looks brilliant. Thanks for doing this interview. I'm always into the futurist shows, and this one has something I can put to use right away (or at least as soon as I can get into the beta). New and better ways to describe things, people, emotions is always something I need to so I don't sound the same all the time. This looks like it'll give prompts to think in different ways to create richer stories. I'm looking forward to playing with Sudowrite and seeing how I can integrate it into my creative process.

  • I am conflicted.

    The art of creative writing is the process and thus working through the challenges such as story, ideas, structure, character and narrative. The very essence of writing is voice and readers are attracted to your voice.

    The software helps with prompts and even structured sentences which can be inserted and thus useful for short circuiting the process.

    Is this your voice? Hence my conflict. This is short circuiting your creative process where AI can now write your book adding to the growing view that many titles are we see now are genre rubbish. Is this a form of plagiarism and is it really your work?

    I am sure it will be very helpful for those who would rather produce titles than create art. I am tempted to play with it, but then ... conflict.

    • Hi Richard,
      As I mention, I use it as a prompt but it is my voice, my words. I don't think my readers will know any difference in my next ARKANE book.
      Some people will copy and paste things in, for sure, but that is a choice — similar to cowriting with a human when sentences are often not your own, but still have value.
      AI CANNOT write your book for you, and I don't believe it ever will. It needs direction.
      You are, of course, free not to use AI tools — it is a creative choice.

  • This sounds like so much fun! I immediately signed up and got in today! Looking forward to using the tool and seeing what it can do for me. Thanks!

  • I signed up today. I love these types of prompts. And I know myself quite well. No matter what the suggestion I might get, I always end up putting it in my own terms whether I want to or not. But that might be a function of age. The closer I get to 80, the more I express myself, when I was younger, I often parroted my parents' and elders' views. Not so anymore. Now I state my tried and true views.

  • I signed up for the trial after reading this and personally I think its been great the little I've played with it (life with my dad's dementia got in the way I wish the trial had been a month as I will run out of days before I get to do too much more) But the ideas its throwing back at me and the wording have been positive--I think.
    I was a bit worried about plagiarism because it throws up peoples names and authors at some points so I had to check it wasn't direct passages from their work. But doesn't seem to be and I'm only using it like a development editor and rewording what's there anyway. I can see definitely see the potential use for it--especially for someone like me who struggles with narrative between dialogue. The cost might be prohibitive for me personally, especially at the moment, but I will possibly sign for a month when I'm at the editing phase. Defo worth a try and it's pretty simple to learn to use.

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