The Romance Writers Association endorses the use of ChatGPT for writing… or not.

Will the use of AI to write books deform them as badly as this pic of AI-generated yummy chocolates which needed my artistic intervention to look halfway decent?

I recently became aware of how far the use of ChatGPT as a writer’s aid has come. NOT the use of it to write a whole book without human aid, because that is very far from the technology that’s available now. But this current trend towards it has a lot of fiction writers upset.

The workshop in question was advertised by a chapter of the RWA on their Facebook page.

Dive into the exciting world of AI-assisted romance writing with Rachelle Ayala, a multi-published romance author working on book #100.

Rachelle has been using AI for a year, and she’s happy to cut through the hype and show you insider tips–from sparking new story ideas to refining your manuscript, generating scenes, or penning compelling marketing copy.

This session is packed with live demos of how Rachelle uses AI, practical advice on how to get started, and a glimpse into the future of how AI will impact writing and storytelling.

(NOTE: Alaya was not advocating writing a whole book with AI, just using it for plot ideas and such.  She’s also published several workbooks on how to do so. Those interested can check out her website.)

Don’t look for the post, it’s been since taken down from Facebook and the RWA site itself. But screencaps are available on Xitter, I’ve heard.

There’s been a lot of outrage over the very idea of this workshop, that AIs can replace human sweat-and-tears in writing fiction. Some of it’s unfounded, while other points are valid. What’s interesting is that it’s come to a head in the market niche of Romance, which is heavily female (writers and readers both) and, these days, heavily self-published.

The strange thing is, many of these novels read like they’re already written by AI. Certainly the two Romantasy books I reviewed in February 2024 do. I’m sure they’re not, because they were published prior to 2023, the year the technology improved to the point it could generate entire books. But they certainly read like it with plots and settings cribbed from recent works, overly simple writing, and the spoon-feeding of the reader at every turn. They read like AI as much as a human-written work could.

It’s already been baked into the Romance genre, for good or for ill.

The large market is huge, readers are voracious, and the story arcs are formulaic. (I’m not sneering at it, just relating what I have read and seen. I lurk on Romance and Romantasy forums.) Some readers just skim or skip to the sex scenes. Others read for leisure, then forget what they’ve read when they put the book down. The reading itself is the leisure, like doing a crossword puzzle, and I’d say most people don’t remember the crossword puzzles they do because there’s no reason to. Others like to read because they like the satisfaction of completing a series or line. I had an aunt who kept lists of Harlequin and other romance imprints, checking off each one as she read it (they were numbered at the time.) She even scrounged at flea markets and church sales for them. It was easy to make fun of her and her reading material, but it was her hobby. She didn’t read for enlightenment or outstanding insights of human nature. It was for relaxation after a day of work, the loss of a husband who died of lung cancer, and a drug-addicted daughter.

There are plenty of savvy writers turned businesswomen who have capitalized on this. Jenna Wolfhart, for example (whose book I reviewed here) has written an astonished 94 books in 12 different series since 2017… that’s a little over one book a month.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that there already is a group gestalt there which functions like the proverbial greedy AI chomping up different books and spitting out prose in imitation of them.

In the Romantasy field, even professionally published books fall prey to this tendency. Certainly there’s been a lot of complaint and pushback on the r/romantic fantasy subreddit about it. Readers fuel this market, and not all of them are indiscriminate gluttons. On the other hand, there’s a large majority who want story settings, characters, and plots that appeal to them, which may be what’s trending at the moment, like enemies-to-lovers or dark romance. I’ve read countless forum threads from readers asking for a specific kind of main character or kink. In this they took a cue from fanfic readers, who’ve been requesting recs with this element or that for decades, with the unspoken hint that fanfic writers fulfill them.

So, playing Devil’s Advocate, I guess for a certain reader, why not use AI to create stories? It matches a consumer need for them and would likely be no worse than the novels humans already pop out twice a month. I read a firsthand account of a ghost writer for a YA romance imprint a while back – she was given, from the editors, a long list of writing points to meet very much like a detailed prompt, and from those instructions, she turned out a book. Or several. How is that different from what an AI would do?

(Of course, the truth is the human writer’s getting paid. But likely so would whoever’s babysitting the AI churning out the prose, which at this point would need heavy edits and snipping and tucking even after grammar software does its thing.)

I can see a market developing for it, with customized prompts, tropes, and character types.

But… then there’s the issue that the writing AI was trained on the scraped and digested work of human authors, who were given no choice in the matter and not paid for it either. I’d be pissed if it happened to me.

What’s going to happen next? As always, it’s a frontier.

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