How Do Writers Approach AI in Their Work?

According to a recent The Authors Guild poll, about 13% of authors reported using AI in their work, while others reported only using it for brainstorming character ideas and creating outlines.

According to NPR News, AI technology is a controversial topic in the literary world. While many are rightly concerned about using their copyright-protected work as AI training material, some authors are said to be using and even attempting to train AI models on their own.

Author and novelist Chris Anderson, told NPR news that he has been testing AI in his workflow. “He fed parts of his first novel into an AI writing platform to help him write this new one. The system surprised him by moving his opening scene from a corporate meeting room to a karaoke bar.”

I wanted to see whether in fact AI can do more than just help me organize my thoughts, but actually start injecting new thoughts. And I was like, you know? That could work!. I ended up writing the scene myself. But the idea was the AI’s.

He didn’t use a single actual word the AI platform generated. The sentences were grammatically correct, but fell way short in terms of replicating his writing style. Although he admits to being disappointed, ultimately he’s OK with having to do some of the heavy lifting himself: “Maybe that’s just the universe telling me that writing actually involves the act of writing.”

– Chris Anderson on NPR

According to an NPR article, off-the-shelf AI models like GPT and Claude struggle to emulate contemporary literary authors’ styles because they are primarily trained on standard, non-literary prose such as news articles, Wikipedia entries, and how-to manuals. However, some authors have managed to adapt these systems to suit their stylistic needs.

Poet and AI researcher Sasha Stiles told NPR that she has successfully customized AI models by inputting her own finished poems, drafts, and research notes to create a “bespoke poetic alter ego.”

There are moments where I do ask my machine collaborator to write something and then I use what’s come out verbatim. All with the intention to sort of mentor a bespoke poetic alter ego.It’s been really a provocative thing to be able to use these tools to create poetry.

– Shaha Stile in NPR News

This process has allowed her to collaborate on various projects, including Technelegy, a volume of poetry published by Black Spring Press, and “Repetae: Again, Again,” a multimedia poem for Gucci. Stiles’ work with her AI persona has led her to contemplate the nature of poetry and the boundary between human and machine creation.

Mary Rasenberger, CEO of Authors Guild, told NPR that she’s not opposed to authors training AI models on their own writing.

If you’re using AI to create derivative works of your own work, that is completely acceptable. If the output does in fact contain other people’s works, that creates real ethical concerns. Because that you should be getting permission for.

– Mary Rasenberger, CEO Authors Guild in NPR New

Creating an AI system that responds fluently to user prompts demands extensive training data, which often includes copyrighted works. This has led to lawsuits from authors who claim that AI companies have used unauthorized copies of their articles and books to train these models.

Ethical Problems of Using AI

Ken Liu, an award-winning speculative fiction writer, as well as former software engineer and lawyer, discussed about the ethical concerns as well as explore new artistic possibilities of AI. He told that he trained an AI model solely on his own writings, knowing it would fail due to the limited volume of a single author’s work.

I don’t care how prolific you are. It’s just not going to work. It barely generated any phrases, even. A lot of it was just gibberish. So what is the point of experimenting with AIs?. The point for me really is about pushing the boundaries of what is art.

– Ken Liu

The resulting AI-generated text was mostly gibberish, such as “Dinoted concentration crusch the dead gods,” which Liu used creatively in his short story “50 Things Every AI Working With Humans Should Know,” published in Uncanny Magazine in 2020.

Despite the AI’s limitations, Liu continues to experiment, seeing potential in the technology and reaffirming the value of human art.