Whether we like it or not, AI is revolutionizing how we do work, and will likely continue to do so, regardless of any future changes or regulation that might happen.
So it’s important to stay on top of the AI developments to ensure that we know how to work with AI and apply it in our own process.
Not only will this make us a better and more productive writer, but it will also make us more attractive to employers.
So in this article, I’m going to walk you through how to use AI, specifically ChatGPT, to write a book, along with my review of the platform as an AI writing tool, and what sets it apart.
- What ChatGPT is
- What sets it apart as an AI writing tool
- How to write a book in ChatGPT
- A few other resources I recommend
Table of contents
- What is the ChatGPT?
- What Are ChatGPT’s Strengths (Compared to Other Tools)
- How to Write a Book in ChatGPT
- Other Resources
What is the ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is one of the leading “chat bots” that use AI to produce content, answer questions, etc.
It was first released in late 2022, and is basically responsible for launching AI written media to a whole new level, with big tech companies like Microsoft and Google engaging in a hot race to see who could win the “AI wars”.
Yep, ChatGPT started all that.
But for authors, ChatGPT is a valuable resource for brainstorming, outlining, helping you when you get stuck, and even producing prose for your book (although it will likely need to be heavily edited).
As of this writing, ChatGPT uses two different AI models:
- GPT 3.5: a faster but less advanced model, available for free to all users
- GPT 4: a much more advanced model, only available through ChatGPT Plus
How Much Does ChatGPT Cost?
There are two ways to use ChatGPT. You can use the free version or subscribe to ChatGPT Plus.
The free version gives you access to the basic GPT 3.5 model, which is what ChatGPT launched with in 2022. It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly as useful as GPT 4, which you only get with ChatGPT Plus.
ChatGPT Plus costs $20/month and gives you access to a lot of other features, including GPT-4 (most notably), Code Interpreter, various plugins, and access to any new beta features as OpenAI develops and releases them.
Is ChatGPT Plus worth it? If you plan to use the AI for advanced plotting or prose writing, then yes, I recommend ChatGPT Plus. However, if you’re just occasionally using the AI to brainstorm, summarize long passages, or to get some ideas, then it’s not necessary.
That said, if you plan on using ChatGPT extensively in your process, ChatGPT Plus is well worth the cost.
What Are ChatGPT’s Strengths (Compared to Other Tools)
So what makes ChatGPT unique?
Well, after having written tens of thousands of words with a variety of tools and platforms, I have several unique strengths that I’ve seen in ChatGPT that keep me coming back.
Better at Following Directions
One of ChatGPT's standout features is its ability to follow directions. While many AI tools can process instructions, ChatGPT does so with a precision and context-awareness that is hard to get with other tools like Claude (even though Claude is better at other things, like the quality of the prose).
This means fewer errors, more accurate outputs, and less chance that the AI will wander off of the guardrails you’ve given it.
Better at Defined Structures
This is a little harder to pin down, exactly, but those who have been using ChatGPT for a while, and comparing to other platforms, will agree that ChatGPT is much better at structure, and providing structured answers.
Again, it’s hard to find a way to say it better than that.
ChatGPT usually provides answers that are easier to scan, are broken down nicely into a format, plus it’s also much better at following directions when you provide specific frameworks or examples to follow.
Code Interpreter is a feature that ChatGPT Plus users can use. It’s actually kind of mindblowing.
Basically, you can ask it to perform any reasonable task, and ChatGPT will write the code it needs to perform that task. It actually writes its own code.
For authors, this is particularly useful if you have some documents to upload to ChatGPT, then ask it to perform a specific task with those documents. The possibilities are quite extensive.
Every user is unique, and so are their requirements. Recognizing this, ChatGPT offers the ability to provide custom instructions. This means you can tailor the AI's responses to fit specific needs, ensuring personalized and relevant outputs.
It does this by giving you a field where you can input your custom style or information you want the AI to know, and it will remember those things for the entire chat, no matter how long the chat continues.
This is great, because previously it would eventually forget the things you told it in your initial prompt. With Custom Instructions, that doesn’t have to happen.
ChatGPT Plugins allow the AI to perform specific, niche tasks that require additional setup. While only a handful of these plugins are useful, they do provide access to a lot of functionality you don’t get with other AI plugins.
Incidentally, here are some of my favorites:
- Video Captions: For transcribing YouTube videos
- Prompt Perfect: For helping you come up with prompts
- Bookworm: For book recommendations
- WebPilot: For accessing the contents of a specific link.
How to Write a Book in ChatGPT
My steps for how to write a book in ChatGPT are similar to how you would do so in other AI programs, especially Claude and the OpenAI Playground.
The only major difference is the use of tools like Code Interpreter, Custom Instructions, and the like.
That said, here is my 7-step system for writing with ChatGPT. As always, you can use the AI for just one of these steps, or for all of them. Just pick where you have the most pain associated with the step, and use it for that.
For instance, I love doing the outlining, so I don’t use AI for that. But I’ve found it to be a great help in other areas.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Brainstorming is the creative groundwork for your novel. Here, you'll gather ideas, themes, and concepts that resonate with your story.
It's all about letting your imagination run wild and capturing the sparks of creativity.
Personally, I always start by brainstorming my premise and my ending, if I don’t know what they should be already.
Here are some prompt I’ve used:
Give me [NUMBER] high-concept pitches for a bestselling [GENRE] story with a unique twist, intriguing characters, and gripping emotional stakes.
Given the following premise and story information, give me [NUMBER] possible endings to this [GENRE] novel.
Step 2: Synopsis
The synopsis is a concise summary that encapsulates the main plot points of your novel. It helps you understand the flow of your story and ensures that the critical elements align cohesively.
You can expand upon your brainstormed premise and ending using a prompt like the following:
Given the following premise and story information, give me a highly detailed synopsis for a [GENRE] story in the traditional three act structure. Each act should be clearly labeled and should build toward the ending I've described.
Step 3: Characters and Worldbuilding
Characters are the heart of your story, and worldbuilding sets the stage on which they perform. There are many prompts you could use here, but here is a sample prompt for developing a character profile:
Write a character profile about the protagonist/antagonist/mentor of this novel:
Here is what we know so far about this character: [INSERT CURRENT SUMMARY OF CHARACTER]
Include the following elements: [INSERT DESIRED ELEMENTS HERE]
Step 4: Outline
Outlining offers a structured view of your novel's framework. It can be as detailed or as broad as you need it to be, providing a plan that you can follow as you write.
From your synopsis, you can expand it further into a fully fleshed out outline:
Using the following synopsis, create a detailed summary of the story, fleshing out additional details, and breaking it into parts using the [OUTLINE METHOD OF CHOICE]: [INSERT SYNOPSIS HERE]
Step 5: Story Beats
When creating a story with AI, it helps to have an intermediate step between the outline and the actual writing. So fleshing out the outline into individual story beats (essentially a highly-detailed outline), can look something like this:
Take the following chapter summary, and generate a list of 12 highly detailed action beats for a script with additional STORY INFORMATION to fully flesh out the chapter. Make sure to always use proper nouns instead of pronouns.
[INSERT CHAPTER SUMMARY HERE]
Step 6: Style
A style prompt is possibly the most important prompt on this list, as it will affect how the prose sounds when you use AI to generate prose.
Style prompts can be lengthy, depending on how you use them. I've seen some that go on for hundreds of words, but here is one example of a shorter one that could work:
First person past point of view of [MAIN CHARACTER], show don't tell, deep point of view. Realistic dialogue. Stronger verbs. Lots of conflict, drama, and description. Avoid mushy descriptions/dialogue.
Step 7: Prose
Last but not least, it's time to create the prose prompt. Now many, if not most, authors will not be using AI for this step, and that's okay. In fact, I would say that AI is best used as a brainstorming tool.
However, there are many who DO want to write prose with AI, and I would do it something like this, using 2-3 story beats at a time.
Write 600 words of a chapter using the following details:
Genre: [ENTER GENRE HERE]
Tone: [ENTER TONE HERE]
Point of View: [ENTER POV/TENSE HERE]
Setting: [ENTER SETTING HERE]
Key Characters in This Scene: [ENTER CHARACTER DETAILS HERE]
Style: [ENTER STYLE HERE]
Story Beats to Cover: [INSERT STORY BEATS]
AI is an ever-shifting resource, and so there are a few additional resources that I would recommend if you want to stay on top of it.
The first, is my own YouTube channel, The Nerdy Novelist (a personal project, not associated with Kindlepreneur) where I provide almost daily videos about the goings on in AI.
The second is Future Fiction Academy, which is a paid subscription that gives you access to daily labs that are constantly exploring and keeping subscribers up to date on what AI can do.
Plus, it gives you a TON of instruction if you’re just starting out and just want to learn the basics.