The Future of Writing Fiction in the AI Revolution

(Image Made with AI at PlaygroundAI)

Right now many writers are freaking out about the advent of AI that can also write fiction.

Yet before you start freaking out too much, remember that technology is amoral. The AI we have right now is not sentient. It’s not Skynet. It’s actually a very simple tool that is as good or bad as the people using it, and as good or bad as the input it gets. So whether it puts people out of a job, or gives them more opportunities, is not dependent on the technology, it’s dependent on us and our choices.

It can become a corporate tool to generate mass amounts of cookie cutter content, or it can give a refugee the ability to tell their story to the world. Maybe it’ll do both.

I am aware there was a controversial article published in the New York Times about an AI that tried to get a journalist to leave his marriage. But if you look closely at the article, you’ll see that the journalist was asking the AI to respond as if it had a Jungian concept of the Shadow. I am sure the AI simply combed the internet for dark ideas, and replied in kind.

Basic Tools AI Can Provide Fiction Authors According to ChatGPT Itself

If you want to know something about someone, the best way is to go and ask them. It’s Journalism 101. When I asked ChatGPT how it can help authors write fiction, it told me the following:

AI can help fiction authors in several ways, including:

Idea generation: AI can be used to generate ideas for stories, characters, and settings. There are various AI-powered tools available that can generate prompts and ideas for authors to build on.

Writing assistance: AI can assist authors in writing by providing suggestions for sentence structures, grammar corrections, and even predicting the next word in a sentence. These tools can help authors improve their writing and catch mistakes they might have missed.

Character development: AI can help authors develop more complex and dynamic characters by providing insights into their motivations and personality traits. There are tools that use machine learning algorithms to analyze large amounts of data to provide personality insights.

Plotting: AI can help authors create more compelling plots by analyzing existing stories and identifying patterns that work well. AI can also help generate story arcs and plot outlines based on a set of criteria.

Translation: AI can help authors reach a wider audience by translating their works into different languages. There are translation tools that use machine learning algorithms to provide accurate translations.

Overall, AI can help fiction authors by providing new ideas, improving their writing, and assisting in character and plot development.

Thanks ChatGPT.

Generating Fiction Content with ChatGPT

I have spent much time messing around with ChatGPT. As someone who makes my living through writing, what do I think about it?

A tool like ChatGPT functions as an aggregator of data and information. It cannot have creative thoughts, wisdom and personal insight like a human being can, but it can comb the data it was given to aggregate the creative thoughts and insights of already existing texts.

Here is more detail about how it works: ChatGPT is a transformer-based neural network that provides answers and data with human writing patterns. The AI has been programmed with endless amounts of text data to understand context, relevancy and how to generate human-like responses to questions. (

I have asked ChatGPT to write me a few short stories. These stories tend to read like a synopsis rather than a story itself. They don’t go into much depth. Or when they do get into emotional details, they read as very cliche. But it makes sense that the language is cliche, because instead of providing something fresh, it’s making a composite from the existing content of the however many thousand stories it read to generate my request.

I’ll share with you a 500 word story I had ChatGPT write about pirate romance to demonstrate how it works:

As the sun began to set over the vast ocean, the sails of the ship caught the warm, orange glow of the sun, making it look like it was on fire. The crew aboard the ship was made up of rough and tumble pirates, men and women who had spent most of their lives on the open sea. Among them, there was a young woman named Isabella, who had joined the crew to escape her mundane life on land.

Isabella was the youngest and only woman on the ship. She had always been drawn to the sea, and the pirate’s life seemed like an adventure that she couldn’t resist. Her life on the ship was rough, but she loved it nonetheless. The crew, at first, was hesitant to accept her, but as they saw her determination and skill, they began to welcome her as one of their own.

One day, as they were raiding a merchant ship, Isabella was tasked with keeping watch on deck. As she stood there, scanning the horizon, she heard a voice behind her.
“Beautiful night, isn’t it?” The voice belonged to the captain, a rugged and handsome man named Jack.

Isabella turned to face him and was taken aback by his piercing blue eyes and his rugged features. She had seen him around the ship, but they had never spoken before.

“Yes, it is,” she replied, feeling her heart flutter in her chest.

Jack stepped closer to her, and she could feel the warmth of his body. “You know, Isabella, you’re not like the other crew members. You have a spirit and a fire that’s rare to find in someone.”

Isabella’s heart skipped a beat as she heard his words. She had never thought that someone like Jack would pay attention to her. “Thank you,” she replied, her voice barely above a whisper.

They stood there in silence for a moment, watching the stars above them. Isabella couldn’t help but feel drawn to Jack, and she could sense that he felt the same way.
As the night went on, they found themselves stealing glances at each other, their eyes locking for a moment before quickly looking away. They knew that they couldn’t act on their feelings, for fear of the crew finding out and causing trouble.

But as they sailed on, Isabella and Jack found themselves drawn together, unable to resist the magnetic pull between them. They stole moments together when they could, stealing kisses and sharing secrets.

As their ship sailed into the sunset, with Isabella and Jack holding hands on deck, they both knew that their love was forbidden, but they also knew that they couldn’t resist it. They were pirates, after all, living life on their own terms, and they were willing to risk everything for the love that they had found.

It’s not bad for something written by a computer in less than a minute. But it would definitely not be accepted for publication by any quality short story fiction publisher. In addition to part of it reading like a synopsis, there are a lot of cliches, including Captain Jack’s “piercing blue eyes.”

For now, I think the technology will function in conjunction with authors, rather than replacing them. Just like a calculator doesn’t get rid of the need for mathematicians, it has just increased the amount and sophistication of math that is done by mathematicians, while decreasing the grunt work.

The Current Rise of Slush For Publishers

Neil Clarke recently released an article discussing how the number of submitters Clarkesworld magazine has had to ban has escalated to an all time high this year because of people submitting stories written by AI.

When it comes to paid publishers, people are going to be more tempted to just copy paste an AI written story, submit it and see how far they can get.

Publishers may be challenged to think of new ways to prove that the story wasn’t entirely written by AI. Or the process of verifying the writer and building a relationship with them as a person might get more thorough.

My writer friends aren’t going to like this, but another reality is that publishers might become less open to the public. They might develop a team or network of writers they already know in order to decrease slush and output human written content.

Predicting The AI Revolution By What Has Come Before:

If we want to understand the future, we must understand the past.

Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have found ways to use technology to decrease the time it takes to do a task and to rapidly increase output. The thinking at the time was that this would decrease the number of people doing labor. Instead, we’ve seen the very opposite. People now work longer hours than they did before the Industrial Revolution.

When we found a way to use factories to make textiles, this didn’t mean that less people were involved in making textiles. This just meant that the process became much more streamlined, sophisticated, and that the output of textiles dramatically increased.

Also, when the photograph was invented 200 years ago, this didn’t put artists out of work. Instead, this changed the nature of art itself. As the use of photographs became much more prevalent in the beginning of the 20th century, so too did we see the sudden explosion of the modern art movement. Before photographs, art was about capturing the likeness of an image. But as photographs made realism less impressive, art became more about creativity and expression. There is also definitely an art and skill to photography itself.

And during the Information Age, we’ve seen that spell checking, grammar checking and online publishing has also dramatically increased the output of fiction. As a result, the Information Age has dramatically increased the output of books compared to where things were in the Pre-Information Age. The creativity and style of an author is now way more important than their ability to spell check and grammar check their work.

AI Could Function as a Tool to Rapidly Decrease the Time it Takes to Write a Book.

If we learned anything about technology, it’s that it decreases time to do a task, streamlines the process and dramatically increases output.

Right now, it can take an author anywhere from 6-12 months to write a book. And if the author is writing a sci-fi or fantasy novel with a very creative and in depth world, it could take much longer. I myself take 2 years to write a book (but I also do this in addition to having a full time job and other adult responsibilities).

What if an author could feed the AI algorithm a plot synopsis for their book, character descriptions, world building, and have the algorithm generate a 300 page book in an hour? It’s likely the author would still have to go in and provide oversight, get rid of cliches, make the language fresh, add personal flair to the dialogue, and so on.

But still, it’s possible that this technology could dramatically decrease the time it takes an author to do the grunt work of writing a book, maybe decreasing that time from 12 months to 1 or 2 months. What it would be doing is providing the labor of choreographing a fight scene, or describing a setting rather than making the author take the time to do it.

Lessons From James Patterson and His Writer Factory

People are often impressed that James Patterson can publish 14 books a year. This seems especially impressive after I just mentioned the average writer can pump out at most 1 book in that time (if they are lucky). But here’s the thing about James Patterson—he has streamlined the process. He has a whole team of writers available to write his books based on his outlines and feedback. He has other writers available to do the grunt work of the writing, while he is free to provide the creative oversight.

I imagine this would be a similar dynamic when it comes to a person streamlining their own creative process with the use of AI bots.

In the same way that photography made creativity more important in art, perhaps creativity will become more important in the fiction world as well.

AI and Fiction in the Corporate World

When analyzing the nature of our corporate, hyper capitalist, neoliberal world, one possibility is that publishing companies will have an AI that reads 1,000 of the best selling novels, and then churns out some cookie cutter content that is a composite of all those novels. They would still need a person to go through and provide oversight. But it would be one person pumping out a 1 novel in a month, rather than in a year. People like James Patterson who are good at providing creative oversight will become very valuable, grunt work will become less valuable.

A current example of this dynamic is that the author Erik Hoel at Electric Lit fed his novel to an AI, GPT-3, to see if the AI could write something better. He was shocked and horrified when the AI wrote something almost as good. There were some mistakes the AI made and weird descriptions Erik had to go in and fix. But Erik still said the AI wrote a facsimile of his book in 1000x the speed.

The Capability of AI to Democratize Writing

Above I’ve mentioned the corporate capitalist response, but there is another reality as well. Technology could go the other way and help those who historically have not had access to writing their book because of limitations on education or money.

A quarter of the world’s books are written in English even though a quarter of the world’s population does not speak English.

An overwhelming number of authors are white.

Education is also a barrier to many people being able to tell their stories. I’ve heard English as second language speakers be told that they should give up their hopes of writing a book in English, because it just wouldn’t be good enough to be published.

Is a refugee or a homeless person less worthy of telling their story than a college graduate? If anything, the people in the aforementioned group might have a much more interesting story to tell.

Language, education and societal bias could be less of a barrier to people getting their creative ideas out there.

The Personality of the Author May Become More Important

As publishers begin to churn out a tidal wave of books that are all very similar to one another in order to make a profit, people may turn against this by finding an indie author with an authentic voice and a unique personality they find interesting.

Matt Giaro on Medium made a good point that there is a reason people spend more time on social media than Wikipedia. People are more interesting than piles of information, or what he called “steamed broccoli.”

As Our Output Increases, So Will Our Ability to Consume It

As our ability to generate output dramatically increases, I think parallel technological movements will evolve to enhance our ability to consume it. Perhaps this is the cyberpunk writer in me. But if we consider the possibilities inherent in neural nets and brainware, I think we are going to start developing technologies that will rapidly enhance peoples’ ability to read quickly and mentally digest copious amounts of content. A person may able to read one novel a day, instead of one novel a month.

This could fundamentally change the human being, just as the Industrial Age and the Information Age has dramatically changed the human being.

Larger Questions About How AI Will Affect Society

Above I mentioned that technology is amoral. It’s only as good or bad as the people using it.

I think for those of us white collar folk who make our living through writing, this moment in time could give us a little humility, and a little sympathy for our blue collar brethren who had their jobs traded away due to technological trends, globalism, and Neo Liberal economics.

Technology has the capability to build us a post-work utopia where people can indulge in their hobbies all day.

Technology also has the capability of creating a hellscape where we’re all replaced by machines and the .001 percent of richest people let us starve off and die while they enjoy their new free, mechanized laborers.

This new AI writing technology could enable a refugee with a limited grasp of English tell their story to the world.

This new technology could also produce writing factories that pour out the same sounding tripe for the masses.

It’s all about what we as a society prioritize as important.


This is all heavy stuff. For now, maybe just have fun writing a steamy pirate romance? You could call it, “She Walked the Captain’s Plank,” or “Secrets Below Deck,” or “Passion on the Seven Seas.” Those were my ideas.

Here are some additional suggested titles from ChatGPT

  1. “The Pirate’s Treasure of Love”
  2. “Rogue Waves of Passion: A Pirate Romance”
  3. “Tides of Desire: A Swashbuckling Love Story”

Honestly, I think “Tides of Desire” is the best title here. So, you win, ChatGPT.

By the way, I intentionally showed how I used AI to help me generate content for this article, showing how…for now…AI was a tool that helped my process.

Here’s the remainder of my conversation with ChatGPT:

Me: “Do you think AI will remove the need for human authors of fiction?”

ChatGPT: “While AI has made significant strides in the field of natural language processing and machine learning, it’s unlikely that it will entirely replace human authors of fiction. AI language models can generate texts and even entire stories, but they currently lack the creative thinking, imagination, and emotional depth that humans can bring to storytelling.

Human authors have a unique perspective, and they can convey experiences and emotions in a way that AI language models cannot. While AI can assist in the writing process and provide new insights and ideas, it’s unlikely that it will entirely replace the role of human authors. In fact, some experts argue that AI may enhance the creative process, providing new tools and techniques for human authors to explore and experiment with.

In summary, AI language models may have a role in assisting authors and enhancing the creative process, but they’re unlikely to entirely replace human authors of fiction.”

How to Write a Character with Cancer – From a Cancer Patient

We’re all familiar with the depiction of cancer on TV. Someone goes to the doctor for a couple of tests. In the very next scene, they are in the doctor’s office. The grave faced doctor gives them the bad news. A minute later, they are in the hospital hooked up to an IV in their arm. Shortly after that, they lose all their hair and spend most of their time bed ridden.

Unfortunately, this isn’t everyone’s cancer experience. Some of this is also an oversimplification of the whole cancer experience. I will tell you about what I learned from my won experience. However, I encourage you to do your research, because everyone’s cancer experience is different.

Why should you listen to me? Because I had cancer myself and went through a very strong chemotherapy regimen.

Disclaimer: You might not want to read this if you are currently going through chemotherapy or about to start. This article has emotional triggers. It discusses much of the hardship that can happen during chemotherapy.

First, let me go through some of the things fiction often gets wrong.

Chemotherapy is not often delivered through a needle in a vein in the arm.

If someone is getting chemo on a regular basis, they would most likely be given a device called a port.

The port is a device used to draw blood. It is surgically placed under the skin, usually in the right side of the chest. It is attached to a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) that is guided (threaded) into a large vein above the right side of the heart. It is placed there because that is the biggest vein in the body. During chemo sessions, a needle is inserted through the skin into the port to draw blood or give fluids.

The port must be cleaned with a saline flush every few weeks. The port will stay in the patient for many weeks, months or even years. When I had a port, it looked like a bump beneath my skin. My doctors gave me a heart-shaped port–as if the heart shape was supposed to make the whole experience of cancer more cheerful. I was put to sleep when the port was surgically put in me. Yet when it was taken out, they actually did the surgery while I was awake. My doctor simply used a local anesthetic to numb the area.

Getting surgery while awake was a very bizarre experience. Even though it wasn’t painful, the pressure on my chest and the noise of the drill made it all very unsettling. I cracked a lot of jokes with my surgeon to put myself more at ease.

Giving your character a port can serve as a way to dramatize the experience of cancer while also showing the audience that you did your research.

Cancer patients don’t always get their diagnosis right away.

In the movies, a patient gets their diagnosis in like five minutes. In real life, it often takes a month of tests and waiting to hear one’s results. People in the cancer community call the anxiety induced by this waiting period, “scanxiety.” Even though I understand that things can’t happen in real time in fiction, overlooking this waiting period is a missed opportunity. This waiting period is an opportunity to build tension.

Many forms of cancer today are survivable.

Of course this all depends on the type of cancer and the stage. But often in fiction when someone gets cancer, the immediate assumption is that they are going to die. The reality is that for a well researched and well funded disease like Breast Cancer, about 85% of patients will survive. Especially if they are young and have no other pre-existing conditions.

Survival is less certain for people with a Stage IV cancer. So if you want to heighten the drama or the risk of death, give the character a rare form of cancer or a late stage where the cancer has metastasized throughout the body.

Chemotherapy patients can live healthy, normal lives

A common fictional depiction of a chemotherapy patient is that they have lost all their hair, or are stuck in bed for months. While this is the case for some cancer patients, this isn’t the case for all of them. There are many different types of chemotherapy treatment, and different people have different reactions. And not all patients need chemotherapy. For some, surgery or radiation is good enough.

Some chemotherapies don’t cause hair loss. Some chemotherapy only makes a patient sick for a few days, and then they go back to work afterward. Some chemotherapy doesn’t even make the patient nauseous. It really all depends on the person’s diagnosis, treatment plan, as well as their own health.

I did lose my hair and become nauseous. But I was actually able to work throughout the majority of the chemotherapy process. Usually I would be nauseous for a couple of days after treatment, but then feel normal for the next few weeks until I got another infusion. I got one infusion every three weeks.

Overlooked Realities of Cancer:

Below I will list the realities of cancer that are often not captured in fiction. And yet these realities can still make for good drama, characterization and story telling.

Even though there are many forms of cancer that can be survived, there is drama to be found in the struggle after survival.

Many people assume that once the patient is finished with chemotherapy, all the hardship is over and they go off to live happily ever after. Yet the reality is that there are struggles to be found in the aftermath of cancer. Some patients experience a decreased quality of life. Some patients had to make large sacrifices in order to survive their prognosis: giving up a job, leaving an unhealthy relationship, surgically removing a body part or even giving up their own fertility.

Medical Abuse:

While I am sure that most medical professionals have a genuine interest in “doing no harm,” there is the unfortunate reality that medical abuse does happen. Often it’s not out of malevolence. It’s from medical professionals being tired and overworked, or it’s from inept employees keeping their job because the practice is short-staffed.

Regardless of the reason, many people with chronic illness have had a case of their health providers making a mistake, not taking them seriously, not being professional, or causing a problem by trying to rush.

I myself had a chemotherapy nurse who made mistakes on me three times. After the third time, I reported her to the clinic’s supervisor. He said that they basically had an entire book of complaints about this woman, but that there was nothing they could do since they needed the staff. I then even wrote to my state medical board to complain about her, since other patients and nurses privately told me they were unhappy. And yet nothing happened.

Medical Racism:

In the U.S., black women have the highest rates of death from breast cancer and cervical cancer.

Studies have shown that the African American community faces discrimination and implicit bias in the medical setting.

Dayna Bowen Matthew’s book, Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Healthcare (2015), explores the idea that unconscious biases held by health care providers might explain racial disparities in health.

If there was an author who wanted to highlight this disparity, I think that would make for a compelling and powerful story that needs to be told.

Cancer patients can experience denial about their illness.

Facing the reality that one has a deadly illness is not easy. There are different reactions to threats. Fight, flight, or freeze. Some people choose to ignore the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Some people engage in magical thinking or buy into snake oil solutions. Even Steve Jobs (one of the wealthiest men on the planet) refused medical treatment for his cancer, because he thought he had other solutions. He ended up dead.

My doctors have told me sad stories about patients who had entirely treatable cancers, but ended up dead because they refused treatment.

There are people who try to control a cancer patient’s treatment.

When I was undergoing treatment, I had the experience of people pressuring me not to get chemotherapy or surgery. I had to tell these people in the most polite way to leave me alone.

Cancer patients often have to make a series of life altering decisions in a short amount of time.

This is another reality of cancer that could make for good drama in a book. People often have just a few weeks to make choices about their surgery, radiation treatment, chemotherapy regimen, and fertility preservation procedure. Surprisingly, there are many different options to choose from, and doctors often make their patients choose instead of telling them what to do outright. This can definitely lead to decision fatigue, as most people are not used to making a bunch of life altering decisions about their bodies in a matter of weeks.

Romantic partners can become MORE abusive after a diagnosis.

Most people would imagine after a cancer diagnosis that a person’s romantic partner would become more supportive. It’s hard to imagine a person being abusive to a cancer patient. It seems downright rotten in fact. And indeed, many people do have partners that step up and become extra supportive after a diagnosis.

However, this is not the case for everyone.

Unfortunately, what I have learned from being part of the online breast cancer community, is that partner abuse can actually escalate (rather than de-escalate) after a diagnosis. This was something I saw numerous women discuss. They often had stories about how once they started going through chemotherapy and surgery, their husbands would start becoming more distant or abusive.

What explains such horrible behavior? My own theory is that if a person is in a partnership where they are doing much of the housework, child care, or finances, and then they suddenly stop, the other person can become more stressed out as they take on a greater load. Not everyone is capable of taking on this extra load without becoming stressed out and toxic in the process.

There are also people who cheat on their partners or leave them after diagnosis.

Men more likely than women to leave partner with cancer (Reuters)

Divorce Risk Higher When Wife Gets Sick (The New York Times)

Cancer patients and domestic violence: More common than you might think (MD Anderson)

The Loneliness of Cancer

After I shared this article, many other people who experienced cancer also mentioned the loneliness of cancer.

On TV they often make it look like cancer patients are constantly surrounded by a large, supportive group of friends and family members. This certainly is the case with some people. But this isn’t always the case. There are often people who go through cancer alone. There are also people who had family members supporting them at first. But then when these family members realized that the ordeal was going to go on for months or even years, they backed off.

Cancer patients have to spend a ridiculous amount of time consoling OTHER people about their own illness.

Cancer is a scary thing. And when the loved ones of a cancer patient find out about their illness, they do a number of things. They freak out, cry, and go into panic mode. Indeed, most people aren’t taught how to deal with the reality of a loved one having a chronic or deadly illness. So unfortunately, many people can start unloading on the cancer patient themselves with the expectation that the cancer patient is supposed to do the emotional labor of dealing with all their fears and woes.

And yet the cancer patient does NOT want to hear someone tell them, “You’re gonna die! I’m so scared you’re gonna die!” People would say this stuff to me all the time. I had enough of my own worries to deal with, I didn’t need other people unloading on me at the same time. I had to tell people in the kindest way possible to STFU.

Some women lose their fertility after their battle with cancer.

The battle with cancer is already traumatic enough. But it’s an extra stab of the knife afterward when a woman may have to give up her dreams of being a mother. This isn’t always the case. If a woman is young, there is still a good chance she could give birth, but it becomes harder the older a woman gets.

There are medical treatments that can potentially preserve fertility, but they are not full proof.

Egg freezing, for example, is ridiculously expensive. It usually costs over $10,000, and most of the time, health insurance won’t cover it. Also, when I did my own research, I found that the results weren’t even that effective. The overall chance of a live birth from a frozen egg is 39%.

Many cancer patients become more spiritual as a result of their struggles.

So far, much of what I said was negative. But, there are some positives as well.

As the old expression goes, there are no atheists in foxholes. When someone has to face their own mortality in addition to going through scary and uncomfortable medical procedures, the belief in a higher power can go a long way.

Many cancer patients end up realizing what is truly important in life.

There’s nothing like confronting your own mortality to make you realize what’s truly important. Many cancer patients change their lives for the better after defeating their illness. This can involve making healthier choices, getting out of a toxic relationship, pursuing a job that they always wanted, prioritizing family and friends, and becoming internally stronger overall.

Despite all the negatives I’ve mentioned, cancer survivors are often very emotionally strong people.

I hope this was helpful to you. Now go write something cool and feel free to share it in the comments.

Related Articles:

Coping with Global Pandemic – Thoughts From a Cancer Survivor (Stories From Tomorrow)

My Stories About Illness:

“Artisanal Cancer” (Teleport Magazine)

How far will an influencer go to get likes? In this short story about a post scarcity future, people are literally killing themselves out of boredom. Chemotherapy treatment has become the next edgy fad.

“The Red Devil” (Vine Leaves Press)

This is a 50 word story about chemotherapy treatment.

“Fibromyalgia Fire” (Cuento Magazine)

This is a microfiction about fibromyalgia.

Seven SMART Writing Goals for 2023

(Image Source)

As the new year approaches, it’s a good time for writers to revisit their goals. has some good advice on how to set smart, reliable, achievable goals. They use the acronym SMART.

SMART is all about the properties of a good (“smart”) goal.

It stands for:

Specific. Make your goal or objective as specific as possible. Say exactly what you want to achieve in clear, concise words.

Measurable. Include a unit of measurement in your goal. Be objective rather than subjective. When will your goal be achieved? How will you know it has been achieved?

Achievable. Be realistic. Ensure that your goal is feasible in terms of the resources available to you.

Relevant. Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.

Time-bound. Give yourself a deadline within a year. Include a time frame such as a week, month or year, and include a specific date if possible.

Here are seven goals I can think of that match this acronym.

  • I will finish my outline for my work in progress by (insert date)
  • I will set aside (insert amount of time) to write each day, for at least 5 days a week.
  • I will finish my work in progress by (insert date)
  • I will join a critique group and commit to it (insert number) times a month.
  • I will submit my work to (insert number) of publications each month.
  • I will read for (insert amount of time) a day.
  • I will share my content on social media (insert number of times) a week.

You will notice I did not write things like. “I will finish my work in progress.” Or. “I will get published.” Or “I will write 12,000 words a day.” The best way to accomplish a goal is to make it specific, realistic, to create firm deadlines, and to break it down into small achievable pieces.

Committing to the process is also more important than making “getting published” a goal. There’s no way to know for certain that you will get published, but instead it’s better to make the goal something like, “I will submit to 2 publications a month,” because that is something you know you can achieve.

I added a social media component, because an important aspect of writing in today’s world is having followers who are interested in your work.

I also added reading and critique groups because these things help you to get better as a writer.

Check out this article on for more information.

Do NOT Write a Book

Image Made With DALL-E AI Art Generator

The title may seem like odd advice since this is a blog for writers.

Isn’t the first step of being a writer to … you know… write?

That may be true, but there are several good reasons not to start off your career as a writer by writing a book.

I just read a great article by Medium author Akshay Gajria called, “Please Do NOT Write a Book.” I highly recommend it.

The point Akshay makes is that a large number people have dreams of writing a book. And many of these people often have unrealistic expectations.

While there are all sorts of workshops and books out there training people how to write “12k” words a day, Akshay reminds his readers that much much more goes into a book than simply getting words down. There’s also editing and research.

While it may take 6 months to simply write a first draft, polishing that first draft into a quality product can take years. For me, it takes 2-3 years on average to write and finish a book. And that includes working on said book about 5 days a week.

Writing a book is not a mere passion project. It’s a major commitment. And it’s something that takes skill. One must know how to structure a story, create compelling characters, have a logical plot, good pacing and quality description.

A great point that Akshay made is that one should build their skill by writing short stories first. Short stories require a much smaller time commitment. They are also much easier to get published than novels. A publisher takes a smaller financial risk on a short story than a novel.

Many of the most famous authors today got their start with short stories, including Stephen King and George R.R. Martin.

Short stories are also a good way to build your portfolio, get your name out there and build an audience before you make the major commitment to write a book.

If you enjoyed this advice, please read Akshay Gajria’s article, “Please Do Not Write a Book.”

Why I Won’t Rush The First Draft of My Next Novel

One of the conventional pieces of wisdom fiction writers hear is, “Write a quick and dirty first draft. You can always fix it later!” As someone who has been writing fiction since 2014, I have heard this advice a lot from both professionals and amateurs. It’s practically canon, up there with, “Show. Don’t Tell.”

I myself have cranked out a first draft for a 120,000 word cyberpunk novel in a mere two months. Many people use the month of November for this very purpose.

Now some people swear by this model. It may work great for many folks. But it doesn’t work great for everyone. For me, writing a first draft is like laying concrete for a sidewalk. Once the concrete dries, it’s difficult to go back and repave it later. A story evolves naturally from character motivations. If key components of your characters’ motivations have to be changed later, then you are going to have to do massive rewrites of the plot itself, practically writing a new book. It’s like building a road to one location and then discovering you are going to have to build a whole new road because the location has been changed.

And apparently I am not the only one who thinks this way. There are several other writing sites out there that explain the pitfalls of rushing a first draft, which I will link to at the end of this article.

Rushing a first draft may work very well if you are a planner. If you have all the key plot points, scenes, and character motivations written down in an outline or in your notes, then rushing the first draft itself could work very well for you. Things like setting and the choreography of action in a fight scene can always be improved upon later. However, if you are like me, and write things by the seat of your pants, you may end up with a manuscript that takes way too long to revise because you didn’t think through key story components beforehand. Much like building a house with faulty components, and then having to build over the weak material–which is often harder than just building a whole new house from scratch.

Things you should think about before you write your manuscript:

  • Main characters and their motivations.
  • What makes your characters likeable? What do they struggle with? Why should people want to read about them?
  • What is the arc of the characters?
  • What is the key conflict of the story?
  • What is the premise of the story?
  • Key plot points. “Tent pole scenes.”
  • Genre and conventions of the genre.
  • Research key components of world building.

Problems that can happen with rushing:

  • The rewrite process takes much longer than it should.
  • You may end up rushing your book to publishers before it’s ready.
  • You may lose interest and end up working on something else. If you wrote something that takes so much time to fix that you basically have to write a whole new novel on top of it, you may just prefer to write a whole new novel instead.
  • You have something that is fundamentally not marketable.

Anyways, that’s why I’m not going to rush my next first draft until I have key components of the story thought through. This will be difficult for me, because the writing process itself is what is fun for me, and not the planning process. But I think if I can force myself to do a little more planning beforehand next time, it will pay off in the long run.

And also, it’s OKAY to write something that doesn’t sell or get published. Ultimately doing something is better than not doing it at all. Perfection is the enemy of the good. However, as we evolve in our craft, we should also work at getting better with the planning process as well.

Why Fast First Drafts Aren’t for Everyone (The Write Practice)

3 Ways to Avoid Rushing Your Book (Writing Cooperative)

5 Pitfalls of Rushing Your First Draft (Script Wrecked)

Top 10 Books on Writing

Below are the top ten books from Best Books on Writing – Recommendations from 36 articles, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and 53 others. (Read This Twice).


(Sorted by most recommended)

On Writing by Stephen King

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Story by Robert McKee

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell


Best Books on Writing – Recommendations from 36 articles, Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Elon Musk and 53 others. (Read This Twice)

Reddit Thread on Top 100 Books

When Writing, Assume Your Reader is a Woman


“Try to write for a single reader who’s sitting across the desk from you…and if you’re smart, make that reader a woman…women buy 70% of the books.” – James Patterson

Currently I’m listening to James Patterson’s master class. I’ve just gotten started, but I think this is probably the most brilliant thing he’s said so far.

Why? Because with so much of the media I, as a 31-year-old woman, have grown up consuming, (TV, Movies, Video Games), has been made assuming that the target viewer is male (although that’s definitely changing).

Back in the 1930s, Hollywood made their basic formula for selling movies. They assumed that the average person buying movie tickets was going to be a white male.  Movies were made predominantly to target the male ticket buyer, and to treat the female viewer as accessory, with the exception of the occasional “chick flick.”

And even in very recent times (like this decade) many Hollywood producers refused to make movies with a female superhero, or female lead, claiming that it would get low viewership, never mind the fact that Wonder Woman was a box office success. Marvel CEO Doesn’t Believe in Female Superheroes

What’s interesting is that there is a tendency to see the under-representation of women as the norm, and to overestimate the presence of women when they’re actually being underrepresented, or normally represented. For example, there was a study that found that even when women did 50% of the talking in a group, they were perceived as talking too much (PBS).

The tendency to see the under-representation of women as the norm, and to underestimate the value of their contributions, is due to longstanding exclusion. When a group has been excluded from representation for a long time, this exclusion becomes seen as normal. And thus we are trained to see the male experience as the norm, and to see the female experience as accessory.

I think when many men write (and many women too), they automatically think their reader is going to be a male, because male is the lens we’ve all been subconsciously taught through which to view the world. People don’t think this way for malicious reasons, these are just very deeply ingrained stereotypes that are difficult to dismantle.

But the literary world is not like Hollywood. As James Patterson said, women buy most of the books. According to Author News , women buy 60% of books, and 65% of ebooks. Also, I’ve noticed a vast majority of literary agents are women, and most of the people who are going to be involved in producing a book are women.

Does this mean that men shouldn’t write, or that there shouldn’t be male characters, or that there shouldn’t be books with a more gritty, masculine vibe? No, I think people should write what they want to write, and anyone who feels compelled to write should do so.

But I think the point is that when people write, they shouldn’t do so assuming their reader is only going to be male. Writers can’t afford to think like that if they want to be successful.

I think what many people, male and female, need to realize, is that if their book has language that turns off women (because it’s overtly chauvinistic, or seems to go over the top in promoting sexual violence against women), it’s going to be a hard sell.

As a beta reader, I had an experience with reading a scene where the male lead character (who was supposed to be the good guy) committed an act of sexual violation against the female lead, an act that made me (as a woman) very uncomfortable. When I told this to the author, and then told him he should change it, someone else said, “Well maybe he just won’t write it for women.”

Well…maybe he just won’t get published then.

And what about those who self-publish? That’s hardly a loophole. Women are buying most of the ebooks, so trying to self-publish a sexist manuscript probably won’t go over that well either.

I’m not saying there can’t be books with sexual violence and chauvinism. Those are challenges that people deal with everyday. And in particular, when writing about an older time, chauvinistic ideals may simply be part of the time period.

But the point is that a writer shouldn’t write a story that seems to promote these ideals. The main character (if they’re the hero) shouldn’t be making sexist comments against women, or sexually violating women, unless he’s some kind of antihero. But that’s a balance that should be handled very carefully. If the antihero’s sexism is supposed to be a negative aspect of their personality, that should be made very clear.

Long story short. Write what you want, but make sure it doesn’t alienate women. And value the opinions of the women who beta-read your material. 

What I Learned in Dan Brown’s Masterclass


By the end of this, I’m going to tell you something about myself that no one else on Earth knows…

See that, that’s an example of hooking the reader and generating suspense. This is also how Dan Brown started his Masterclass on writing, which hooked my attention immediately.

Even though I’m a Sci-Fi writer, and not a Thriller writer per se, I think there are lessons about Thriller writing that all authors can benefit from. Thrillers tend to have faster pacing and more tension than other genres, but honestly, I think all stories need tension and good pacing. It’s just a question of degree. All I know, is that when I pick up a Dan Brown novel I can’t put it down. Sometimes I’ll have issues with the characters or plot, but the man is a master of tension and pacing, there is no doubt about that.

So here is a short summary of some of the key things I learned. I’m not going to say everything, because you should pay for the Masterclass to get everything. And there’s a lot of great stuff in the class. But these are just a few of my favorite topics.



When writing a Thriller, or really…any novel…keep these three C’s in mind.

The Contract, The Clock, The Crucible. 

The Contract is the implied promise you make to the reader about what they’ll discover by the end of the book. For example, in Moby Dick, the promise is that the reader will find out whether or not Ahab catches the whale. It would be very disappointing if Melville left that question unanswered.

The Clock refers to the fact that adding time pressure to the character’s struggle will create higher stakes and more tension. A lot of thrillers do this by having a bomb, so there is a literal ticking clock the protagonist is working against.

The Crucible refers to your character’s struggle, a box you put them in so they have a difficult time getting where they need to be. Whenever I beta-read a story that ends up being really boring, it’s because the character doesn’t have enough (or any) struggles. Happy people doing happy things isn’t interesting. Don’t just put your character in a tree and then let them climb down to safety without struggle. What are the obstacles that make climbing down difficult for your character? Is there a beehive? Are they getting splinters? Is it a long way down if they fall? Is there something scary, and ominous waiting for them at the bottom?



Dan Brown spoke a lot in his class about raising questions that you don’t immediately answer. Of course, there has to be a balance. Not all of us can pull a George R.R. Martin and say that “winter is coming” for like six seasons of a show before finally paying off that promise. (Does it ever get paid off in the books?)

A big mistake I see new writers doing is that they try to immediately answer every single question that pops up, or tell you everything about a main character as soon as they arrive on the page. First chapters like this read as infodumps and don’t pull me into the story. The process of pulling someone into a story is raising a question, with the tacit promise that the question will be answered in an interesting and exciting way as the reader progresses through the story.

As Dan Brown says: “Suspense is all about making promises. It’s about telling a reader, ‘I know something you don’t know. And I promise, if you turn the page, I’m going to tell you.’”



One thing Dan Brown said that I really like is: (I’m paraphrasing right now) well written POV makes your reader feel like they’re a character inside your story, and the reader forgets that they’re reading.

Another mistake I see from new writers is that they write in POVs that bounce all over the place. This can give the reader whiplash.

If your story needs lots of POV characters, try to have one POV per chapter, or per scene.

Personally, I like it better when there’s only one POV the whole book, but that’s just me.

If you give your POV character a strong voice and personality, this can really help to draw in the reader and provide a more colorful depiction of the world you’ve created.

Also, when choosing a POV character consider the following: Who has the most learn? Who has the most to lose? Alice in Wonderland is interesting because Alice is a stranger in a strange land. But if Alice in Wonderland was written from the perspective of the Rabbit, or the Queen of Hearts, it would be a completely different story.



Once again, not all of us can be George R.R. Martin with a cast of like a hundred something characters with impossible to remember names. It seems that High Fantasy can get away with this a little more than other genres, but most readers don’t want to think too hard, and they definitely don’t want to read a story that feels like a homework assignment.

And if one character already accomplishes a certain thing, why have two that do the exact same thing?

For example, if one character is a quirky wizard who makes sarcastic wisecracks, having two characters exactly like this would just seem redundant and unnecessary.

Or maybe you can economize. Have one character who accomplishes multiple things to downsize the need for further characters.

Too many characters is actually in the “17 Reasons Why Book Manuscripts Are Rejected.



“Writing a novel is not all about inspiration and craft. It is about process…about making sure that you set aside time every day to do your work.” – Dan Brown 

Protect the process and the rest will follow. 

What does Dan Brown mean by protect the process? Every successful writer has their own process. And not every writer’s process will be the same. Dan Brown’s process is that he sits down from 4am-11am everyday to write, with no connection to the internet, no distractions, and he forces himself to get up every hour to do a few brief exercises, so that he keeps himself energized.

Your process doesn’t have to be like this, but this is a process that works for him. Your job is to find what process works for you. Do you like writing in the early morning when no one else is awake to distract you? Do you like to write late at night for the same reasons? Do you jot ideas down on toilet paper and shove them into your pocket?

There’s no writer’s block. There’s simply failure to put your butt in the chair and write.

Writing is like going to the gym. We don’t always feel like doing it. But if you’re someone who is serious about getting published, you can’t just write only when you feel like it, or treat it like a hobby. You have to treat it like a job.

Also, be fiercely protective of your process. Sometimes the people you love the most will be the ones to (inadvertently) undermine your process (because they love you!). I suppose this is why a lot of writers like to write in the early hours of the morning, or late hours of the night, or go to a location where there won’t be any friends and family members around to distract them.

Of course there has to be a balance. You can’t ignore your responsibilities to your family, spouse, and friends. But if you’re serious about being a published author, you should probably try to set aside some amount of time each day (or five days a week) that are your writing time.

Dan Brown suggests committing to an amount of time rather than a word count. Some days you might feel drained, and struggle to put a mere 100 words on the page. Other days you might feel super inspired, and whip about 6,000 words together in no time flat. It’s going to vary day by day, based on your energy and creativity levels. So, it’s more important to commit to X hours, rather than X words.

Also keep in mind that it’s okay to make mistakes. You might write a scene that sucks. You might end up writing a book no one wants to read. That’s okay. You learn from your mistakes. You be kind to yourself. Reflect. Move on.

Yet the time to be tough on yourself is when it’s time to protect the process, when you wake up at the appointed time and think, I’d rather sleep in. Or when you’re struggling to write, and are tempted to binge watch the entirety of The Punisher in a single weekend. (No…I didn’t do that…Of course not.)

Mistakes will happen. And there’s no guarantee your writing will even be good. But if you commit to a habitual process, you’ll at least become a better writer than you were yesterday, and have something to show for your efforts.

If you like what you’ve read, consider getting a Masterclass subscription so you can see the rest of what Dan Brown has to say. Because he discusses much, much more, than what is merely summarized here.