Can you use AI to write a non-fiction book?

The new kid on the writing block is AI – or, more explicitly – ChatGPT. But can you use AI to write a non-fiction book? Is it the answer to our book-writing prayers, helping us to churn out more books per year than UK prime ministers in 2022?

Hmmm… Let’s explore, shall we?

Using AI for non-fiction writing

Like any new kid, everyone wants to be AI’s best friend or give it a wide berth. There’s been a lot of talk on social media about the future of writers now that AI has come to town. Will human authors be redundant? Is it time for copywriters to find new jobs? 

Change does that, you see. People fear it, and panic sets in. Visions of the robots from ‘I, Robot’ spring to mind, all lined up perfectly, waiting to take over the world. Time to build a panic room and buy 3428 tins of baked beans, right?

Well, let’s be frank about this. Artificial intelligence isn’t going anywhere – particularly when Microsoft has pledged billions to improve it over the coming years – but I don’t think we need to go all Jodie Foster about it. Getting to know it, on the other hand, seems sensible.

And so I did. 

I joined ChatGPT and asked AI the following question:

“Can you use AI to write a book?”

And its answer?

“Yes, AI can be used to write a book. AI tools can generate text based on specific inputs and write simple, straightforward narratives. 

However, these AI-generated texts lack the depth, nuance, and creativity that come from the human experience and imagination. 

The current state of AI technology is not advanced enough to produce writing that rivals the work of a human author. So while AI can assist in the writing process, it cannot replace human authors.”

I won’t lie. I did let out a little cheer at that last part. Even though it’s a response created by bots who are devoid of human emotion.

My cheer was not only because AI recognises – and reassures – writers that the human touch still matters but also because it will hopefully stop people from simply using it to churn out books with no soul. 

AI and author voice

Now you may assume that I’m going to advocate leaving AI behind when writing non-fiction, but I’m not. I actually think it can help. More on that in a minute.

But can you use AI to write a non-fiction book and then simply publish it without your input? Yes, you can, but it would be awful. Because what makes writing work is the author’s voice. That touch of personality that draws the reader in and helps them see themselves as the hero in the transformation story. 

Without it, books become dull. Instead of inspiring the reader, they end up unfinished, gathering dust on a bookshelf, never to be reopened. And as an author, that’s the last thing you want! 

So what’s the answer? How can you forge a good relationship with AI when writing non-fiction and use it to your advantage, yet still maintain that sense of personality? 

Well, I thought I’d ask AI that question…

Using AI to write non-fiction books

Before I asked ChatGPT to tell me its thoughts on how to use it to write a book, I already had a few ideas in my head. Would it agree with me?

I asked: How can you use AI to write a book?

It suggested the following:

  1. Text generation: AI can generate text based on specific inputs, such as a prompt, keywords, or previous writing samples. This can help authors generate ideas or complete sections of a book they are struggling with.

  2. Grammar and style correction: AI-powered writing tools can provide suggestions for grammar, style, and word choice, helping authors to refine and improve their writing.

  3. Research assistance: AI can gather and organise information related to the book’s subject matter, saving authors time and effort in the research process.

I think you’ll agree that those responses/suggestions seem reasonable. I already use AI in the shape of Grammarly anyway, so there is no significant change there. And research assistance? Yes, please!

So rather than fearing AI, we can feel confident that, when used as a tool to help us, rather than a tool to do it for us, it will provide some valuable support in the book-writing process. As authors, it’s our job to take this support and use our author voice to bring the personality and warmth that non-fiction sorely needs.

So I’m ready to embrace AI, safe in the knowledge that it’s my very humanness that will make my books a success. With just a smidge of robot help.

And you can’t say fairer than that. 

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