How can fiction authors use Sudowrite to assist with writing tasks they need help with? What functionality does Sudowrite have that will be useful to different types of writers? Amit Gupta gives his tips in this interview.
I use and recommend Sudowrite as part of my creative process. You can try Sudowrite through my affiliate link: www.TheCreativePenn.com/sudowrite
Amit Gupta is a science fiction writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Sudowrite, an AI-powered creative writing tool.
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.
- What is Sudowrite and how can it help authors
- Using Story Engine to write faster
- How to train AI tools to write in your voice and style
- Dealing with criticism of using AI as a writer
- Possible legal issues when using AI tools as a collaborative approach
- Should authors discuss their AI usage?
- The changing view of AI tools as they become mainstream
You can find Amit and more about Sudowrite at Sudowrite.com
Transcript of Interview with Amit Gupta
Joanna: Amit Gupta is a science fiction writer, entrepreneur, and founder of Sudowrite, an AI-powered creative writing tool. So welcome back to the show, Amit.
Amit: Thanks, Joanna. Happy to be here.
Joanna: So you were last on the show two years ago in June 2021, when we talked more about your origin story. So we’re just going to get straight into the topic today. So if people don’t know—
What is Sudowrite? And how can it help authors?
Amit: Sure. Sudowrite is an AI writing partner for authors.
It’s the first AI tool built specifically for writing fiction.
My co-founder, James and I, we’re both writers ourselves, we began experimenting with writing with AI back in 2020. Initially, we built it to help us with some of the problems that we encountered ourselves, like getting unblocked or, for me, suggesting rich, evocative description, or automatically rewriting passages to improve pacing or conflict or tension, that kind of thing.
Over time, it’s grown a lot as people have suggested new ideas. We have thousands of authors who are always kind of suggesting what we should be doing with it. So now, it also helps with a bunch of other things, like creating or fixing outlines, or writing dialogue, or even taking writers step by step from idea all the way to first draft with AI assistants.
So the way we think about it, musicians, photographers, filmmakers, other artists all have had powerful tools like Photoshop, or Final Cut Pro, and so on, to execute on their creative vision for decades now. And our ultimate goal here with Sudowrite, is to create something just as powerful as those tools, but for authors.
Joanna: It’s so crazy, because two years ago when we last spoke, ChatGPT had not launched. So AI for writing wasn’t so well known, although I’ve been covering on the show for many years.
How have things changed in the last six months or so, since AI for writing has pretty much gone mainstream?
Amit: Well, as you know, two years in the AI world is like 20 years in the real world. There hasn’t been a moment in the last couple of years of AI development that hasn’t been exciting.
The release of ChatGPT was definitely a big one because it opened up so many people’s eyes to what a powerful tool AI could be. It also had a big effect on our business.
Initially, I think we had some fear, because ChatGPT was out there. It’s pretty good. It’s not as good as Sudowrite, but maybe it’ll be good enough for people who don’t know the difference. So we were really kind of interested to see what was going to happen. What we found was that as authors tried ChatGPT, some of the people who are initially skeptical began to see how it could help with their workflows, too.
Many of those people went on looking for something purpose-built for fiction. So that’s when they would invariably find their way to us. It literally doubled our growth rate overnight. Now there are five times as many authors using Sudowrite, today, as were six months ago.
The other thing that’s changed with the release of ChatGPT, and so much of what’s been going on in the last six months, is the level of energy and attention around AI and writing.
And you alluded to this, it’s really gone mainstream. There are a lot of fears when ChatGPT came out, whether it would take people’s jobs, would it replace people, would students use it instead of thinking for themselves? And those fears are still out there, of course, but I think we’ve come to see that some of them at least were a bit hyperbolic of the doom and gloom variety.
AI is absolutely changing the world, but we’re also adapting to it.
In the best cases, I think we’re taking advantage of it to do more. So Sudowrite, in particular, and I think ChatGPT too, are both are being incorporated into writing curriculums at the high school and college level now, which I think is really exciting.
And large language models, like those that power Sudowrite and ChatGPT, are being woven into so many of the apps and services we use every day to help them work better. So I think it’s, I mean, obviously only the beginning, but I’m incredibly excited for all the change that’s yet to come in this year and next.
Joanna: And obviously I’m with you. And it’s encouraging that I mean, again, with teachers, there was this initial, ‘oh no, all the students are going to cheat.’ And then it was, ‘oh, okay, then we’ll just teach in a different way.’
Also, students have to learn these things because of their future. I mean, it might not be the things we’re using, but there will certainly be something.
I love that you’ve used the word ‘partner.’ I guess the word ‘copilot’ has been used in many cases. But one of the big fears is, as you mentioned, ‘AI will take my job.’
It’s so funny when you think about it from our perspective, because we know about this. But it’s like, my job and my life, it’s not one thing. Maybe you can explain how we should be breaking down what we do into smaller tasks. And then thinking, as you said, about the workflow—
What kind of tasks can Sudowrite help with?
Amit: Sure. So I think every writer has got something about writing that they struggle with.
It could be writing description, like me. Or one of the things I also struggle with is getting an idea for a world and then figuring out what’s the conflict in that world, and what’s the way it’s going to emerge once the story begins, like what happens. And once I know where the story’s going, I’m great to write it, I actually enjoy that.
So every writer’s got their pieces of this puzzle that don’t quite work as well as they want them to.
Well, I should say, not every writer, I know there are some who don’t, and for whom it just flows out like music without stop or interruption. And I know this because my partner is one of these people, and I envy her so much. But everyone else, all us mortals, have something that we get stuck with or something that we have trouble with.
I think the trick here is figuring out which are the parts of writing that are uniquely us or uniquely our own. Where are the parts that we bring our voice to the story?
Where are the parts that are draining for us, and that are really holding us back that stop us from finishing? And how can we get AI to help us with those parts?
So that’s kind of where we’ve been focused with Sudowrite.
Initially, it was really about getting unblocked and having a collaborative partner that could bat ideas back and forth. As we’ve developed, we’ve added all these other parts of the picture because different writers have different struggles.
So writers can pick and choose which are the features that are going to help them, and which are the parts that they just want to do on their own.
Joanna: And again, it’s so funny, because I feel like some people say, ‘oh, the writing is all just crap because you just click a button and output a book, and it’s terrible.’ And it’s like, seriously, why don’t you have a go with this stuff?
I mean, I feel like having been playing with all kinds of tools now, I don’t think I’m any faster in my process. I mean, I may get faster at some point, but I find myself going deeper.
So for example, on Sudowrite, using the describe function, the metaphorical stuff that it comes out with, I often will kind of be like, ‘oh, that’s amazing.’ It doesn’t suit this particular piece of writing, but I’m going to write it down because I want to think about that more.
I find the ideas that it comes up with generate more ideas. It’s almost like a creativity booster.
Amit: Yeah, totally. And like you said, I think some authors find that it helps them go deeper and build a richer, more grabbing a story.
And other authors are really focused on volume, they really need to get the next book out. So they’re using in very different ways, I imagine, than you’re using it.
Joanna: Well, another difference is I’m a discovery writer. I write out of order, I kind of write this scene and this, and then I use Scrivener, and I put things in different orders, and then I try to figure out what goes in the middle.
One of the interesting tools that Sudowrite has just put out is Story Engine.
So tell us a bit more about that function—I’m finding it fascinating—and how it can help authors.
Amit: Sure, yeah. So we’re always talking to authors using Sudowrite. We do these weekly conversations over Zoom, we teach free AI writing classes every week.
One of the things that we hear from them over and over, especially from our most successful and prolific authors, was that they’d finish a book, they’d put it up for sale, and then the very next day, their readers would start asking them for the sequel. They just literally could not keep up.
Story Engine is helping these types of authors [with a ravenous audience] write dramatically faster.
They’re able to get to that first draft two to three times as fast. And in some cases, it’s taking them days instead of months.
What we didn’t expect with Story Engine is how helpful it would be to authors just starting out. So people who started novels and set them aside time and time again are telling us that Story Engine got them over the finish line. They were able to finish that book that dreamed of writing. Those types of stories really get to me.
But what is it? What is Story Engine? So we think of it as an entirely different approach to writing.
Story Engine takes you step by step from your initial idea, those scratch pads or napkin scribbles about what the idea is behind the story, the germ of the story, to fleshing out a synopsis, to bringing to life with characters, to building a plot, to beating out each chapter. And then finally, to actually writing the first draft. It’s highly interactive.
At each step in this process, you write what you know, you can get the AI to fill in gaps, and you can revise what it provides before moving on.
It’s actually really, really fun, but very different from how I think most writers work. The way I think about is if you’re the type of writer that puts together character sheets and story bibles, or Excel sheets of plot lines and character arcs, or the type that hates planning, Story Engine is like a version of that planning process that feels a whole lot less like homework.
So you do all this setup, you kind of architect it, and when you get to that final step, you’ve already planned out your whole story.
Now you get to write it in collaboration with the AI. It can write a few beats. You can stop it and edit them, give it some direct and tweak some settings, and then incorporates those changes as it continues to write. So we found that as you get better working with it, it can write more and more of the prose for you, in your voice and style.
I like to think of it like architecting a story. You’re creating the structure, bringing the elements together, and then directing its construction.
But you don’t have to pound every single nail or lay every single brick, only the ones that you care about.
So that’s kind of in a nutshell what Story Engine is. It’s been a whirlwind since we launched it. It’s been kind of exciting to see all the new writers flooding in to use it. It’s been challenging just to keep up.
Joanna: Yeah, and it’s so interesting. Again, as a discovery writer, this is not how I write.
But what I’ve really found with Story Engine is it has kind of helped my brain think about things in a different way.
And I’m someone who loves to learn. And also, I have read so many books on plotting over the years, like I’ve read all the books, I’ve done so many courses, I’ve been to classes, and I think I’m someone who doesn’t read instructions, so I don’t take instruction well. I kind of learn by doing. I found with even just playing with Story Engine, I was like, ‘oh, this is how it can work.’
I want to go back to it. I found that my brain needs to kind of figure it out. And I think that’s another tip isn’t it, don’t expect to just come into Sudowrite or any AI tool and just, bing, it works. I say bing, Bing being another AI tool, of course.
But you know, suddenly everything’s in and you don’t need to do anything else. That’s not it.
It’s very iterative. You have to learn how to use these tools.
And I guess playing and not taking it too seriously are important.
Amit: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we’ve really discovered that some people are willing to put in that work right at the beginning and figure it out. And some people are trying a few tools here and there. Like they’ll try description and get those metaphors out and then slowly they’ll learn the rest of it.
We also encourage them to take the classes. We now have weekly classes multiple times a week, where we show you how to use the product, show you how to get it worked into your workflow so that it works the way that you want.
We also have people in our community who hold author hours multiple times a week, where they share how they use it. So I think those classes are a great way to understand what this type of tool can do for you. And of course, there’s YouTube videos and documentation and stuff like that, too.
Joanna: Which is great, because I remember when we first met a few years ago, and I was like, I really think you need some videos. You put it out there, and it was so early. But it’s wonderful to see the growth. I want to come back—
You said it will write in your voice and style. So how is that possible? Explain how that works.
Amit: Yeah, sure. So the way it used to work was that you’d have to describe your style. And yesterday, we pushed out a new feature where you can put in up to a couple thousand words of your writing, and from that writing, it distills down your style, the elements of your style.
Then it’ll show them to you, and you can take that description and edit it or just use it wholesale. But basically, that description becomes a reference for the Story Engine.
So maybe you’re someone who uses very punchy dialogue or very short declarative sentences, or whatever it is, it will suss that out from what you gave it, and then it will use that as it writes prose. So it tries to mimic the voice that you’ve got.
Joanna: That is good. This is the other thing, I mean, you have to know what you want.
And I feel like people listening, I mean, we’re authors, we’re writers, we genuinely know what we want on a big scale. Like we know the story, we know the kind of vibe we want, we know the tone, and eventually we figure out our voice. So it doesn’t change any of that, and I think that’s really important, isn’t it?
You drive the tool as the author. As the creative director, you are driving. So it’s not like it’s taking over.
Amit: Yeah, exactly. I think you’re still very much in control, setting tone, direction, giving feedback, and revising wherever it’s necessary.
Joanna: So the demo of Story Engine, particularly on Twitter, attracted a lot of negativity.
Many of us who were AI positive writers, that’s how I describe it these days—I am AI positive, and this is an AI positive show. But many of us have received criticism. I know you and James have had to deal with this.
How do you deal with the haters and stay positive about the impact of AI for creativity and writers?
Amit: Yeah, so you’re right.
When we announced Story Engine on Twitter, some writers reacted with fear. I saw a lot of claims being made, things like that we trained our models on authors’ writing without permission, or things that were completely untrue.
It was pretty hurtful. If I’m being honest. You know, James and I spent the last couple years making something to empower writers, and we wanted to help them take advantage of AI instead of being replaced by it.
And even though I could tell myself, oh, this is negativity coming from a place of fear, it was hard not to take it personally.
I think what helped for us, especially after that first day or two, was just seeing how much support we were getting from our own community. We have thousands of writers using Sudowrite now, and they’ve been unequivocally encouraging.
We hear so many stories of how Sudowrite and Story Engine are changing their lives for the better. One writer told us that she’s not an emotional person, but she literally burst into tears the first time she used Story Engine because she’d been blocked for years and had felt hopeless, and Story Engine finally got her through it.
Another person wrote in, he’s a newer writer, a man in his 80s, and he told us he started writing his first novel, and it had been on his bucket list. He had had a stroke, he’d retired, and two months ago, he found Sudowrite. Now he’s 20,000 words into that novel, and he says he couldn’t have done it without it. So those stories are really exciting. I think those are the kinds of stories that we’ll hear more and more of, and those help us stay positive about the effect that we’re having on the world.
Joanna: Yeah, and I think that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you again, because I feel like people assume that people who found tech companies, like yourself, are a particular type of character.
And yet, when I talk to you, I feel like here’s another writer who cares about the creative process, who is, yes, more technical than me, but is excited about creativity and technology. Thus, we have a lot more in common than we don’t.
I feel like this is so important, and that what I don’t want to happen is what happened when I first became an author back in 2007/2008, when there was this, ‘self-publishing was evil, self-publishing was a load of crap,’ a tsunami of crap, it was called. This is also being leveled at AI. It’s like, well, all the stuff being generated is going to be so terrible.
How long do you think it’s going to take before all of this calms down?
Amit: It’s a very good question. I think given the types of people you’ve had on the show, I think you probably have a better answer than me, because I think you’ve got a broad perspective on all the different sides of this type of issue.
But for me, I’d say things are moving so quickly, and the next version of Microsoft Word, the next version of Google Docs, Gmail, all these tools have the same [AI] models under the hood. They’re not tuned for fiction, but they’re going to be able to write prose for you. They’re going to be able to write business documents and stuff. Even the next version of Windows has a sidebar that’s going to be following you from app to app, like a little version of ChatGPT always available.
So I think that it’s going to become ubiquitous. I think more and more people will use these tools, and they’ll just become a part of how we use computers and how we create. I think it’s going to happen very quickly. I think especially the Windows, and Word, and Google Docs implementations coming this year will make a huge change.
Joanna: I agree with you. I think this is moving so much faster than the self-published versus traditionally published thing, which probably took about five years.
It was 2012 when I first got to speak at a conference where I thought, okay, yeah, this is really happening. So it was five years. But as you say, once everyone is using AI within Word, within PowerPoint, Google Docs, all of this stuff, and all the designers are using Firefly, Adobe, this kind of thing, it just becomes more normalized. I totally agree.
Just coming back to when you mentioned the guy with the medical issues. I’ve heard also from a lot of people who have long COVID, or who have various issues like chronic fatigue where they can only work an hour a day.
But even myself, like I don’t have those issues, but —
I suddenly feel like I might be able to create all the stories I want to create in my lifetime.
Which before I’d kind of thrown out as I will never be able to write all the stories I want to write. Now I feel almost released around what I can do. So I feel like that’s the exciting part of it.
Amit: Yeah, totally. And I think it just gives me so much joy to think about people like this man who wouldn’t have been writers before. They just wouldn’t have gotten over that hump. And so it’s people like you who can get more of your stories out, and people like him who might never have been able to tell their story at all, who now can.
Joanna: Well, in fact, my mom who’s in her mid 70s, I helped her write some romance books a few years ago, and then basically she stopped writing because it’s too hard for her to be on the computer for very long. So again, she’s an example of someone who like only has maybe an hour before she just can’t deal with it health-wise. So I’m like, okay, once I’ve figured all this out, I’m going to show her and hopefully she’ll be off again.
I did want to come back to—like you and I, we’re so AI positive. But we do need to address a couple of issues that there are legal cases underway around the impacts of copyright, both for the inputs of the training data and for the output, and whether it can be copyrighted under the name of the person who generated it.
What are your thoughts on the input side of the copyright discussion?
Because, of course, Sudowrite is built on large language models, and thus is potentially using this input.
Amit: Yeah, I’m glad we’re talking about these issues.
I think it’s very important that as a society, we come to an agreement on how we want to treat copyright and copyright for training for these types of models. It seems likely to me that we’ll see differences in policy across nations.
For instance, I think the EU will have a different stance than the US. And I saw recently in Japan, there was movement to protect all rights to train models. But ultimately, we need a system that fairly rewards everyone involved. I think it needs to be a standard that operates at a systemic level, at the level of government, or at least at the corporate level for anyone running a sufficiently large language model.
In terms of copyright, I’m not a lawyer, but I believe the current stance is that something generated completely by AI, with no or very, very minimal human involvement, cannot be copyrighted. And that seems pretty reasonable to me.
Our tool is heavily oriented towards collaboration between author and AI, kind of a creative back and forth, so it gives the writer a lot of involvement and say over the final product.
Given that every major creative tool, like we were just talking about Microsoft Word or even tools like Photoshop or the tools you might use to edit this podcast, a lot of these things are now using generative AI.
Having an AI creative partner will quickly become the norm rather than the exception.
I think we’ll start to see a lot more clarity around these issues. It seems very unlikely to me that someone using Microsoft Word the way it was intended would find it impossible for themselves to copyright the piece of work they create.
Joanna: I totally agree with you. So for example, I love Midjourney.
I have great fun on Midjourney, but I don’t consider those images that I create to be my copyright or copyrightable. I mean, like I just did one earlier, it was a kind of macro, incredibly detailed macro image of a blue ring octopus swimming under the ocean. And it was stunning, I mean, absolutely stunning. And I did not take it, it was generated. There was barely any human involvement in this photograph, or not photograph, this generated image.
But when I write with these tools, so when I use Sudowrite, when I use ChatGPT, it is so collaborative, and so much backwards and forwards.
My ideas, it coming back to me, me thinking of some other idea, editing the words, putting them back in, adding some more, editing by hand, putting it back in again.
Like, I just cannot see how anyone could ever question that this is not like my writing. What’s so crazy are these things we’re seeing every day, which are, “this tool can detect AI writing,” and authors are worried that if they publish a book on Amazon or any of the online stores, that it will be marked up somehow and there’ll be penalized. So what do you think about that?
If authors are using AI tools in a collaborative approach, are there any issues there?
Amit: I don’t think so.
I mean, first of all, those detection tools don’t work well. I think there’s been a number of studies where they’ve tried to see how accurate they are, and they seem to have a lot of false positives and false negatives.
It’s hard to say what will happen in the future with this type of tool, but if you’re taking output from ChatGPT or any kind of AI tool wholesale and just slapping it onto a page, probably you’re doing something that you shouldn’t be doing anyways. You shouldn’t expect it to be totally okay.
But if you’re working with the tool and creating something new and putting yourself into it, I think it’s very unlikely that it’s going to be picked up by a tool like this.
As for what Amazon is going to do, I mean, Amazon’s impossible to figure out. Who knows what Amazon’s going to do. I think Amazon has always put the needs of profits and the needs of their customers above anything else.
So they’re very good at squeezing everyone else to make their customers happy, and then to make their shareholders happy. So if people are using AI to write books that customers love, Amazon will probably be happy with that. If they’re using AI to write books that customers hate, Amazon will probably be unhappy with that.
I think it ultimately comes down to if you are creating something that is worthy of being read. Are you creating something that people want?
Joanna: Yes, and this is the crazy thing. I mean, the people listening to this, the people who care about this, you and I and people listening, we want to make good art. This is what we want to do.
And the people who are not worried about this stuff are the same as the plagiarizers, the pirates, the scammers who already don’t care, and already have been doing all this stuff. So I mean, and of course, this is the issue.
There will be a whole load of push button crap that comes out, not necessarily from Sudowrite, obviously, but certainly using some of the other tools which aren’t so themed around fiction or whatever. And as you say, those are the ones that should get flagged.
I just brought up the US Copyright Office, the United States Copyright Office, has guidance around AI. And essentially they say, a work containing AI-generated material will also contain “sufficient human authorship” to support a copyright claim. So a human can ‘select and arrange AI-generated material.’ So essentially, it’s that the resulting work is an original work of authorship.
I think this is a mindset shift that I have had to go through with these tools, which is, suddenly it is more about this back-and-forth relationship than just the straight, ‘I write every single word and that is my job.’ It’s like my job is creating the very best possible version of the thing in my mind.
Amit: Yeah, yeah. I mean, in some ways, it’s always been the job. It’s to have this creative vision and to execute on it. It doesn’t matter if you use pen and paper, or a typewriter, or Microsoft Word or Sudowrite, it’s your vision and you have to find the way to get through the struggle and to get it down on the page.
Joanna: And then I also wanted to ask you, because as I said, I’m very unstructured. And I found writing with GPT-4 to be as chaotic as my brain. Whereas I feel like Sudowrite suits things once I know what I’m doing. And I wondered, you mentioned a bit before, that it does suit those people at the beginning of the process.
How can different types of authors use Sudowrite? And do you see that some people might just suit other different tools?
Amit: Yeah, well, I think it’s so exciting that we get to live in a time with so many amazing tools for authors. ChatGPT, Grammarly, ProWriting Aid, or other forms of AI beyond Sudowrite.
I think every writer has parts of their writing they struggle with, and for some, it’s the things we’ve talked about before, whether it’s like description, or dialogue or pacing. And for some, it’s keeping in flow or getting feedback or staying motivated. I think every writer is going to gravitate towards the tools that help them with the pieces that they struggle with.
With Sudowrite, in particular, I think that Story Engine is being used in a lot of creative ways that we didn’t expect, which has been really cool to see. I think we have this incredible community now that is constantly sharing tips for how to use it and how they use it.
We originally intended as something that would get you from the start to the finish, but we didn’t have a good entry point for people, for example, who already had something in progress and wanted to use a tool like this. And our community has hacked it to make it work for things like that. So now we also teach how to do that.
Similarly, we originally made it just for novels. People are using it for short stories. We originally made it for kind of this structured start to finish, going through the flow that I outlined before, step by step. And now people have come up with ways to do it completely out of order and just start wherever, with what they know, and fill out the rest as they go.
So yeah, I think there’s a lot of ways to use these tools, as you’ve probably experienced with both Sudowrite and ChatGPT. There’s a lot of flexibility there.
It really comes down to how you can be creative to find the ways to use it and to make it useful to you.
I also encourage everyone to join the communities out there. Our community is great, but there are a lot of other AI writing communities out there now too. And people just have so many suggestions and tips and ways that they’re using these products that we don’t even know.
Beyond all that, I think even for those writers where the writing just flows out, like my partner, and they don’t need an AI tool, even for them, we’ve found that many have told us Sudowrite can make the writing process a bit less lonely. So that’s fun to see as well, just that it can be a partner. It can really feel like somebody who’s there along for the ride.
Joanna: Yeah, and I must say, I was one of those people who loved having written. Like, I did struggle, especially with fiction, I find fiction, or I did find fiction, so much harder.
I’ve really found in the last six months since playing with all these tools, I’m really excited to get to the page because I have so much more fun.
And I just delve down these ridiculous rabbit holes.
I think part of the feeling is that when I did everything myself, I was super, super careful. Like super careful not to head off down a rabbit hole because every word was precious, and every word was hard won.
And now I feel like, oh, I could just play in this direction, and then if that doesn’t work, I can play in another direction. Or sometimes I’ll be like, give me a load of ideas as to what could happen next. And then it’s like, oh, this is cool. I guess I’ll go here now, and I didn’t think of that. So I feel like the fun aspects, it is so much more fun now.
Amit: That’s cool. Yeah, that’s awesome to hear. I think for me, too, it’s a little easier for me to kill my darlings when they’re not the darlings that I came up with myself. So if the AI comes up with an idea that I think is very good but it’s not right for the story, I’ll kill it. If I come up with an idea that I think is very good, man, it is hard to edit it out.
Joanna: Yeah, this idea of abundant creativity and abundant words, just feels like a big shift.
One thing I did want to ask you, so personally, I have used Sudowrite for over a year, 18 months, and in the end of the books where I have used it, I have a statement of AI usage.
And I’ve said, I’ve used Sudowrite, I’ve used Amazon ads, I’ve used ProWriting Aid. I put everything in as to what I use. And this has suddenly become something controversial to kind of use an AI statement of usage. Some people say it’s just like Microsoft Word, so why would I have to tell anyone? So what do you think?
Should people be disclosing their AI usage? Do readers care?
Amit: I don’t know. It’s a good question. I don’t think there’s any moral obligation to say what tools you use to create something. Obviously, as a creator of one of these tools, I’d love for people to say that they used it.
Do readers care? I’m sure some do, and I’m sure some don’t. I think it’s up to every author to choose how they want to represent themselves in the world, especially at a time where I think there’s a lot of confusion about how we should or should not be using them. So I don’t think I can make that judgment for others, but I think that it’ll probably become a moot issue in the year to come.
Joanna: Yeah, I agree. And I feel like maybe it won’t be something I do in the future, but I have an author’s note in every book, so I just put a whole load of stuff in there anyway.
And I’ve literally had nobody comment on it. I do think the people who do care right now are things like magazine, short story competitions, some publishers, some author organizations are starting to. This kind of stuff, I just don’t know. I don’t think they know what they’re doing. I don’t think most of them have tried it.
Also, we’ve seen this in the visual art world. Some AI-generated images winning competitions, and then people finding out it’s AI and being very upset about it. So that’s I guess another reason I’m deliberately open about my usage. I mean, I wonder in a year’s time, will we be having competitions for AI-positive writers? Or—
Will everything have moved on and it won’t matter how you write?
Amit: I think eventually everything will move on, but I don’t know if it’s going to be in a year or longer.
We’re already seeing some AI specific competitions. I think you were mentioning those genre of fiction sci fi magazines, I think there are now some magazines that are doing competitions just for AI fiction.
But I think in a year or two, probably it just isn’t as novel as it was before, so that sort of thing doesn’t happen. It’s just part of the toolset. It’s just part of how you write or how some people write.
So it seems very novel today, and I think there’s a lot of interest and excitement around it. But yeah, I just don’t see it lasting when these tools become ubiquitous.
Joanna: Well, just kind of taking things further, we’re writers, so we love words, we like writing, but of course, readers buy our books.
And I’ll tell you one of the things I’m thinking about is, as we’re seeing the text-to-video happen, like RunwayML and things like this. Even Midjourney, like I am on it like a lot every day, generating pictures of characters. And I definitely feel like some of my time is going into that kind of creativity as well.
Do you think that this type of fun creativity will take up kind of more hobby time? It’s like this is a hobby as well as more serious. It is fun to create stuff with these tools.
Amit: Yeah, I mean, we’re artists, right? So we love to create.
Some people really like to stay in their lane stay very narrowly focused on the particular art form that they love, and some people like to dabble on all sorts of different things and bring them together.
I think we are seeing new people trying to create visual art because the tools have made it easier. So people are using Midjourney and other things like that. And we’re seeing new people try to create written art because the tools have become easier and made it easier for them to enter. I think both are really exciting.
I think that certainly you might see some people who thought of themselves as writers become something else. Maybe they start to think of themselves as storytellers in a video form. I think the reverse might happen too. Y
ou’re going to see people who never saw themselves as writers dabbling in writing and then discovering that that is the thing they really love. And of course, you’ll have people who want to do it all, and I’m excited for them too. I think all of it is good.
I think as long as you’re creating, and you’re expressing yourself, and you’re creating good work, it doesn’t matter what format you’re putting that stuff out in. It just matters that you’re creating.
Joanna: And obviously, we’re not touching on marketing because Sudowrite isn’t for marketing at the moment, but I am really excited about things like book trailers and sort of generating all that. Now, you did early on do images, and I created some images with the tool you did. And I think you’ve now put some of that back.
How do you see some of these other multimodal things working with Sudowrite in the future? Or are you going to concentrate on text?
Amit: Well, we really want to concentrate on the needs of long-form writers. So I think that long-form writers do need to create images, like you said, for book covers and other marketing materials.
So it’s possible that we’ll add features like that in the future. But we also want to stay focused on the things that we can do better than anyone else.
So when we started working on image generation last year, we were competing with Midjourney. And we just liked what Midjourney was doing better than the stuff that we were able to do. So we decided to focus on the text.
We would love to bring in some of those tools in ways that are really customized and built purposely for writers, but I don’t think we want to do anything just for the sake of doing it.
So yeah, I think if we can think of a way to bring something really unique and useful for authors, that’s a multimodal interface, or a way to bring video or imagery into their process, we’ll definitely look at it. And if people are asking us for it, we’ll definitely get it. But we want to be careful not to do it just for the sake of novelty.
Joanna: I was also wondering about developmental editing because the benefit of developmental editing is to have someone give an overview of the whole book. So given that the whole book can be in Sudowrite—
Is the developmental side of editing something that you’re looking at?
Amit: Yeah, I think that’s definitely something we want to do. And we’ve had some experiments along the way, where we have like a feedback tool that’s more geared towards a chapter or short story.
And we have a tool called Shrink Ray that will take an entire novel and condense it down to different formats, like a logline and a summary and one page treatment, that kind of thing.
We definitely want to look at the developmental editor side of things. I think there’s a lot we can help writers with there. There’s a lot of unique challenges for narrative fiction there. I think that the models are now getting to the point where we can do some really interesting things in that space that we couldn’t do just six months ago.
Joanna: Yeah, I mean, that’s to do with the amount of input you can put into the model, right? I had a play with the Claude Anthropic, Claude 100k, which if people don’t know, is another model. [Note: You can access Claude through Poe.com.]
And I use this short story and asked it for developmental edits and things, and it was really interesting to be able to get that from a machine. And editors listening are like, what? But then translators use AI, and we use AI for line editing, so I don’t want anyone to be scared of tools. I think this is just a natural thing. It seems to me that it would be a great direction for Sudowrite to go in.
Amit: Yeah, definitely. And I think like you said, the context window of these larger models is one piece of the puzzle. The other piece, I think, is just the variety of models that are now available. So Story Engine wasn’t possible for us to do last year, but it’s possible this year because we can combine GPT-3, 3.5, 4 and multiple versions of Claude to bring this puzzle together.
Even some of those older models—older, you know, two years old or whatever—but they’re actually better at some things than the newer models.
So some part of this multistep pipeline that we have for Story Engine requires an older model, because it performs better at one piece of this. So I’m really excited as more and more models come online, as some of the open-source models get better. I think it opens up a lot of possibilities for what we can do with them.
Joanna: Yeah, and it’s funny you say that, because of course, the older models have more of what people call hallucinations. As in, they make stuff up.
And of course, that’s what fiction authors do. So we kind of want the weird stuff. I do remember playing with, it might even have been GPT-2, I can’t remember, but like some of the stuff was so weird.
Now everyone is like, we don’t want it to make stuff up. We want it to be always exactly right. And it’s like, well, what about if you want more creative stuff? So yeah, I like that you’re combining all these different models. We could talk forever, but we’re out of time.
Where can people find Sudowrite online? And how can they reach out to you if people have a question?
Amit: Sure. Well, they can find Sudowrite at Sudowrite.com. And they can always reach out to us by emailing hi@Sudowrite.com, or find us on our community Slack. We’re there every day listening to feedback from authors and making the product better.
Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Amit. That was great.
Amit: Thanks for having me. This is wonderful.
The post Using Sudowrite For Writing Fiction With Amit Gupta first appeared on The Creative Penn.
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Author: Joanna Penn