AI: Preserving human creativity in writing and publishing - Mo Fanning Author
AI writing and publishing

AI: Preserving human creativity in writing and publishing

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Yesterday Apple announced it was weaving ChatGPT into it’s mobile operating system, sending one of the world’s richest men into a tailspin, threatening that he would ban the iPhone in any office he owns (and there are many) or insist visitors place their device ion a Faraday cage.

Many authors, designers, and publishing professionals view artificial intelligence in much the same way. We refuse to believe any talk of ‘guardrails’ or promises of ethical data harvesting for training. In our mind, AI is going to start writing, publishing and marketing our words and claim credit. Jobs will vanish overnight. Our copyright breached and human creativity devalued.

The use of AI in the writing process, whether for generating plot ideas, creating characters, or even helping design covers or social media marketing assets, is seen as cheating.

AI learns what went before

Husbands by Mo FanningAt this point in time, AI can only base its output on what has already happened, on what it has been told. It can’t create something new. At least that’s what we’re told to calm us the hell down. But that’s how we all learn, isn’t it? We read books, we’re taught history, we listen to what’s going on around us and form our own words or write our own versions of the world.

When we say AI is copying one of our books, it’s a bit like saying someone who read one of our books is doing much the same. At least in theory. What makes a book something worth reading is the talent of the writer. AI-generated content lacks the depth, nuance, and emotional resonance human writers bring to their work. If everyone who read a book by Marian Keyes could sit down and write anything half as good, we’d have no need to ever buy another book. We could just push a button and create one of our own.

And I’m not saying this won’t happen in some Jetson-self-cleaning-house vision of the future. But right now, it’s not the case. Nor does it appear it will be, because the people who need books to make money won’t let that happen. And the people who need books to make money are mostly in the pocket of big media companies. And who rules the world really? That’s right. They do.

Not all bad

And AI is not all bad. Platforms like Amazon and Goodreads use the technology to suggest books that readers are likely to enjoy, increasing discoverability and potentially boosting sales. There are tools to help author-publishers get more from limited marketing budgets by analysing data on reader demographics, interests, and behaviours.

Writing is an intensely personal and introspective process. I get that authors fear relying too heavily on AI to tell us whether our plot works or help create character profiles could result in formulaic, generic stories that lack the spark of originality. If this is your bag, agent slush piles and self-published book lists are overloaded with this right now.

I’m always surprised when a fellow writer tells me they fear their ideas might be stolen. I usually launch into a ‘nothing new under the sun‘ sort of thesis. But I also understand why many writers are reluctant to embrace AI-driven tools. Everything you input for feedback or ideas becomes part of the training data.

AI algorithms are trained on vast amounts of existing content – words, pictures, drawings, photographs, copyright books. There is a risk they may  reproduce or mimic the work of other authors. This has led to concerns about intellectual property rights and the need for strict regulations governing the use of AI in creative industries.

Free copy of The Armchair Bride by Mo Fanning

AI still needs the human touch

The use of AI in the editing process has also come under scrutiny. But tools like Grammarly, Sudowrite and Hemingway Editor help writers identify errors, awkward sentences, and other issues in their manuscripts. When I go to an editor, I get to present something halfway readable. Again, author-publishers have limited budgets, so these sort of applications help us out.

Despite this, the human touch remains essential for understanding the subtleties of language, tone, and style. That intangible thing every agent or publisher craves – voice – will never come from ChatGPT or Claude.

I can’t talk about AI and not mention machine-generated artwork. It’s almost always obvious – count the fingers or limbs or stare into the empty eyes. I’ve seen professionals aim barbs at writers who use AI-powered tools to create marketing material – accusing them of being a part of the problem.

Authors – even those signed to big publishers – are increasingly being told they need to ‘help out’ with the marketing budget. We’re told to treat writing as a business and invest in what we do. Our pockets have bottoms. They are not deep.

The idea DALL-E can generate visuals by analysing and mimicking existing works rightly raises questions about the value of human creativity and the potential to dilute the market with derivative or unoriginal content.


Despite all of these concerns, it’s important to recognise that AI is a tool, and like any tool, its impact depends on how it is used. There may be ways to ethically incorporate AI into the creative process. ChatGPT is able to generate ideas or prompts that inspire human creators, rather than replacing them entirely. If you hit a creative wall, ask for ideas. You might dismiss every single one of them, but you’ll know why and likely the wall will crumble.

For me, the key to navigating ethical concerns surrounding AI in publishing is transparency, collaboration, and a commitment to valuing human creativity.

As the publishing industry continues to evolve,  authors, editors, designers, and other professionals need to engage in open and honest dialogue. The genie is out of the bottle. By approaching this technology with a mix of curiosity, caution, and creativity, we can harness its potential to enhance our craft while safeguarding the human touch.

Now is the time to work together to establish ethical guidelines and best practices. Not condemn it strongly or try to battle something that’s coming. Like it or not. Let these tools support and inspire human creators rather than replace them. It is up to us to shape the future of publishing in a way that is both innovative and sustainable.

Together, we will navigate new landscapes with a shared passion for the written word.

By Mo Fanning

Mo Fanning is a British author of dark romantic comedies including the Book of the Year nominated bestseller 'The Armchair Bride', 'Rebuilding Alexandra Small' and 2022's hit holiday romcom 'Ghosted'.

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