This article’s canonical home is on my author site, and can be found here: https://matthew-mccray.com/posts/theres-no-holding-back-the-tide
I’ve seen many contests or submission guidelines pop up where people are trying to disallow creative work with “any AI involvement.” A lot of this has to do with the fact that we’ve reached peak Hype/FUD factor. I think we’re close to 1:1 now. For every article that claims AI is the most important human creation, there is an article claiming it will steal our jobs and kill us all in our sleep. AI has now reached Nickleback levels of popularity. Backlash is inevitable.
But trying to limit submissions in such a way is not only foolish but also impossible. With AI being integrated into Word, Google Docs, and any-freaking-thing-else-you-can-think-of, it’s basically going to be impossible to find stories that don’t have some AI involvement.
It may already be impossible.
I have to ask, what does “no AI involvement” even mean? Do you use ProWritingAid or Grammarly? Do you use a mobile phone and auto-complete? Hell, even spell checkers could be considered a rudimentary form of AI (given that what we call AI isn’t really Artificial Intelligence. What used to be considered AI has to be called AGI now because of language drift and coopting of terms.).
The point is you can’t prevent AI usage.
For the moment (pretty much a literal expression, in this case), you can run text through an “AI detector,” and it’ll give you a pretty good guess whether the text is generated whole cloth from an LLM. But it’s not great. And, there are already tools to make AI writing “more human” and detector-proof. That shouldn’t be needed for long, however. Based on previous advancements, ChatGPT 5 will probably be able to beat the AI detectors without any help.
So give up on that idea and embrace the inevitable. It’s happening. You can’t stop it.
However, I’m not a fan of people trying to get AI to “write a book” for them. Mainly, I’ll admit, because the people doing this rarely read books and just like the idea of being an Author. Fuck that noise. They aren’t even good enough to realize the rank pablum they’re peddling is actually worse than pablum; it’s utter garbage. Incoherent nonsense. They want to make a couple of bucks and call themselves published. Granted, it’s unlikely they’d make more than a couple of bucks.
But, somewhere between “no AI involvement” and “press button, get book” there must exist a happy medium. A place where authors can leverage AI to help them write better and faster without completely outsourcing the creative process.
Where is that line? That’s the real question. I don’t have an answer. As a writer, I’ve thought about this, though. It’s probably going to be a personal choice. There will be those who would be ecstatic to have a bot just write all the prose for them.
I’m definitely not that kind of writer. I’ll admit I consider myself more of a storyteller than a writer. Which is to say, I love telling stories, but I don’t necessarily love the act of writing prose. I’m not sure who said it, but there’s a common author refrain, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” That resonates with me. Nothing feels so good as finishing a book. Be it a novella, novel, or graphic novel. It’s the story told that enriches my soul.
That having been said, I don’t want a bot to do all the grunt work. It would feel empty. I’d feel like the author’s equivalent of walking out on a bodybuilder stage wearing a rubber muscle suit. From a distance, if you squint, I’d look like I fit in. But I haven’t done the work. I don’t belong there. Or I don’t feel like I would if I had a bot do all the work.
So I don’t want to write my stories. But I don’t want the AI to write them either. What the hell is wrong with me? The truth is, I do want to write my stories. To mold them. To think of clever dialogue and scene cappers that make me feel like I’ve nailed a perfect high dive with no splash. But I don’t want to spend years on a single story. I’m not old, exactly, but I’m sure as hell not young.
I wrote a list of all the stories I have bouncing around in my head, stories that I really want to get written, and… Well, it was a pretty long list. If I did one a year, I’m not sure I’d get them all released before I punched my ticket. I might… Ok, I probably would. That was a little dramatic. But it feels that way.
So, I too am looking for the middle ground. The point at which I can co-write with an AI and feel like it’s my story and not our story. I will always keep a firm grasp on characterization because that matters a lot to me. I have specific tastes in story pace and style, too. So it’s likely I’ll never be able to hit a magic “write book” button, even if I wanted to.
I think when I finish a book, I’ll know which side of the line I’m on. Am I proud of it, or ashamed that there’s more bot in it than me? If the latter… Well, that’s what revisions are for, right?
As for the upcoming tsunami of AI written/assisted fiction… Just remember, the cream always rises to the top.
So if you are a writer, you can leverage AI tools to enhance your speed and efficiency in generating good stories. I don’t have a problem with that. And you shouldn’t either. Because what we all want are good stories to read, right?
If you are an event organizer who wants to gatekeep out all of the AI-assisted work, just know that it’s an uphill battle that you are guaranteed to lose, eventually. And also, if you get submissions that claim to be “100% AI Free”…
They’re probably lying.
Perhaps, in less than a decade, LLMs will be able to write complete novels that are interesting, engaging, and entertaining. When that happens, I have no doubt there will be a “customized novel” service from Amazon that will completely cut out the writers entirely.
Seriously though, I’m not worried about that. Because even then, we’ll prefer stories written by humans.
A common example to back this up is chess. We’ve been losing to computers for years. Decades? But that doesn’t matter. People still play chess. People still watch humans play chess. Nobody watches computers play each other.
Because we don’t care. We’re interested in human drama and intrigue. Will the master lose to a kid? Is that player using a vibrating anal bead to cheat? (No, I didn’t make that up.)
It’s ingrained in humans to care about humans. To watch humans. To read humans.
So even if computers write as well, or heck, even better than us, they will still lack that human something that we all crave. There might not be many rich authors left (there already aren’t), but there will always be authors.
So while we wait for the torrent of terrible trope-laden prose, let’s all use AI tools to help us write those stories that are burning inside us to get out. Because we don’t have much time. 🤣