Why A.I. Will Take Over Fiction Writing

The Decade of the 2020’s might be seen in the future as the beginning of the end for “human-written-from-start-to-finish” fiction novels. With all the causes thereof rooted in the events of this decade, the 2010’s.

I myself had a front row seat to witness the declines of unique “outside the box” novels, diversity of shelf content in local bookstores, and the fortunes of small presses; all in the face of relentless homogenization to hew to the Big Five New York Publishers’ risk-averse formulae. A brief ray of hope that expanding numbers of video streaming channels would open up the doors for more “outside the box” television projects has now also been dashed in the face of relentless reboots and remakes to reduce risk. 😐

Humans’ greatest asset in a world where Artificial Intelligence improves almost daily is the ability to think outside of the (A.I.) box.
The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes.

Top 10 Skills in 2020

These are the exact skills you would think would be important to create a novel worthy of major publishers’ and Hollywood’s attention.

How did my work fare in these respects? (Review quotes for a previous edition published in 2014, now out of print.)

Jack Wendell is a character unique to modern fiction.”
Welcome, “Jack Wendell’s Vampire Syndrome.” I promise, you have never read a vampire book like this one.”

I wrote a novel, for which its creation was the very exemplification of complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

A Vampire with Down Syndrome, not coming off as a caricature?

“…not once did I feel the author or his story pandered. This is a compelling work.”
“…in lit(erary) circles fully drawn characters with Down Syndrome have been rare.
Surely, this genre is well-worn; what can possibly be done to rejuvenate it? … Somehow, Daven Anderson makes it all work.”
The conflicts inherent therein make for the best of fiction. This is one of my very favorite novels that I’ve read all year.”

Problem is, due to risk aversion and narrowing formulae, “This is a compelling, unique work” and a dollar won’t buy me a Starbucks in New York or Hollywood… 😉
But that dollar plus tax will buy me a McDonald’s coffee in Denver, so back to the working life I went, where my complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity skills are ironically more valued than they are in the publishing or television worlds.

And as for the plans I had to write as a hobby, after retiring from full-time work: 538 + 296 = Zero
Not making money off of books is one thing. But no reviews is quite another. Without even a minimal dialogue with others in any way, shape or form, there is no reason to publish a work. 😐
Naturally, that drop-kicks the “muse” to the curb, meaning that “muse” might well become one of the most endangered occupations of the 2020’s… 😈

So, in a world where “complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity skills” are increasingly important in everyday life, yet these same qualities can become liabilities to the New York Publishing (and Hollywood financing) sectors, where will that lead New York Publishing to?

To A.I., of course.

Since, after all, The First Novel Written by A.I. Is Here…

Not only is A.I. writing here, “predictive text” is already starting to improve in line with human interaction.

In the next decade or two, New York Publishing could well evolve into “Best-Selling Authors” entering outlines and synopses into A.I. predictive text programs, then proof-reading and editing the resultant text into book form.

Think that’s impossible? James Patterson and other best-selling names are already working this way, with hired human authors acting as the “predictive text generators”.
James Patterson How

In another ten to twenty years, A.I. predictive text should be refined enough to do this sort of “grunt work.” And fill out a whole bunch more Marvel story arcs, to give just one Hollywood example.

Then the Big Five (or Four, or Three; by then?) Dream will come true. There will be even more tight hewing to formulae, as previous work defining that criteria is incorporated into the A.I.’s databases, and the apps can “predict” what the Big Five will want from the text, formula-wise. As in this Harry Potter fan fiction example, “signature” stylistic examples from the human authors’ previous work will also be rolled into the databases.

And the basic modus operandi is already in place for all this.

Publishers Weekly: Is Publishing Too Top-Heavy?

(A literary agent at a major firm) Citing the fact that major authors of today publish at an increased “velocity and frequency,”, he feels that this rarified group now gets an outsize amount of the limited spoils: bigger advances, more of retailers’ limited space, and more of publishers’ time and attention. “The more big authors a house publishes, the more they take away from all of the other authors,” he added.

Rise Of The Machines“, indeed.

Rise Of The Machines

“Rise Of The Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World” by Kristen Lamb (Amazon Kindle)

Kristen Lamb’s “cyborg author” on the cover is so prophetic, even she doesn’t know how on point this will be. Problem is, the sequel for the 2020’s would have to be subtitled “Digital Authors in a Human World”… 😈

And, as with “James Patterson” books today, very few of the readers will suspect 95%+ of the actual text in their shiny New York Times Bestseller copy was not generated by the name on the dust jacket. 😈

Maybe there’s hope for my retirement hobby yet. If all “writing books” will take in the next decade of two is an outline or a synopsis, then we can all create 100,000 word novels in just a couple of days, and lack of money or reviews won’t matter so much when it only takes a few days to generate the work. 😎😈

No, wait, that’s too easy. 😝 There has to be a catch. 😈 And here it is:

If you think Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing is crowded now, with over a million books a year being added to K.D.P. even at the present time, just wait a decade or two for when no one even has to do the “grunt work” of typing the majority text. Everyone’s “idea” for a novel will suddenly become a novel. Even now, there are at least a hundred people with “ideas for a novel” (for every person who has finished a novel) who have not finished their novels due to the grunt work required to create the text. What happens when all those “ideas” can become novels in a day or two, without all the “heavy lifting” of typing out text? Predictive text A.I. programming fed by human ideas will bring its own version of the “infinite monkey theorem” to life.

Think “discoverability” is a big problem for new works now?
Just wait until there are over 500 million e-books floating around in cyberspace. Maybe even over a billion, who knows? 😈

Winning the Powerball jackpot or being struck by lightning will seem like quite reasonable odds by comparison.

With all this on the horizon, what authors will really need are A.I. generated reviews. Then, A.I. can review its own predictive text output, and we humans need not even be in the loop… 😈

Instead of being an asset, thinking outside of the box was a liability for me in the publishing and Hollywood development financing Worlds in the 2010’s decade. But this also enables me to see how things can get worse in these worlds, in ways that few are even imagining right now.

Yes, the one activity most people associate as being the most creative and uniquely human of pursuits, fiction writing, will be taken over by the bots, the programs and the apps.

It is a given that the first generations of A.I. text completion programs/apps will require more human input than later, more advanced versions. “A.I. Fiction App 1.0”, for example, might require humans to write a synopsis, chapter outlines and opening sentences. By generation 4.0 or 5.0, the App may be able to construct an entire novel from a “back cover blurb” style outline consisting of several paragraphs.

One constant will remain true as the programs/apps evolve:
The more human input received, the more “human” the end results will seem. More ambitious writers will still human-create chapter outlines/synopses, add and delete sentences, edit the A.I.-created sentences, etc.
And the A.I. will learn from all this! 😈

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars Episode II):
Well if droids could think, there’d be none of us here, would there?
Dex and Obi-Wan in diner

The “droids” in the Star Wars universe or ours might not be able to “think” (creatively), but as we all know, creative thinking is not in itself a prerequisite to writing. 😈😄😈😝
And even E.L. James-style tripe embodies a uniqueness future generations will likely never see; pure unfettered every-single-word human output unfiltered by any concerns of “taste” or decorum. The upcoming A.I. will write “better” than her in technical terms, but it will never match the best (or worst, in her case) of human prose.

The next Shakespeares, the next Hemingways and even the next E.L. James-es will all be at their day jobs; never to entrance, entertain us or even repulse us with their words, because it won’t be “their words”…

Welcome to the future.

The Rejection Window Part III: Toxic Positivity

One of the big reasons why I stayed in fiction writing as long as I did was the encouragement from my fellow creatives. Little did I know back in the early 2010’s that enthusiasm for my creations amongst fellow authors would not necessarily correlate to same-level enthusiasm among general public readers. If it had, “Vampire Syndrome” would have made it to the multiplexes, or at least Netflix.

From beginning to end, I had always received strong encouragement from my fellow creatives to keep writing. Even if I never made a dime from the books, and failed to get any reviews ever from general public “non-author” readers for years on end, there was a uniform, unwavering chorus of “keep writing”.
And I was asking myself why they keep doing this.

I found the answer on my Facebook wall. An author friend of mine complained that she had tallied up over six hundred rejections, and wanted to quit.
Of course, she received several hundred comments all following the standard “creatives’ party line” to the effect of “keep on querying, don’t give up.”
Why? So she can hit the lofty “thousand rejections” milestone? Or press on even further for an eventual Guinness book world record? 😈

(Highly relevant blockquote from my previous post):

How many authors today are willing to get rejected (or ignored) hundreds of times?

Only the crazy ones, I’d guess.

Naturally, I had to step in and give my two cents:
Obviously, the Big Five do not want what you’re writing. This in no way impunes you or the quality of your work, this is just the reality that your work does not meet the Big Five’s narrow formulae for what books they think will be “successful”. Keep on self-publishing and don’t waste any more time with further querying, or you will soon literally run out of people to reject your work. The phrase ‘beating a dead horse’ entered the cultural lexicon for a reason, and it’s fitting here.”

People who actually care about you will not give you sugar-coated advice when they know better otherwise. They will tell the truth as they see it, even when it seems blunt and/or harsh, because their wishes for you to be your best, and do your best, are sincere.

So why would a couple hundred other authors keep encouraging her to query, even after six hundred rejections, when I’m certain they’re all aware of the harsh realities of the publishing industry?

Toxic Positivity.

Also known as “avoidance coping”.

Relentless focus on positivity isn’t just ineffective.
Research has shown that it’s actually harmful.

Such as encouraging someone already frustrated over six hundred rejections to accumulate a few hundred more rejections “for her collection.”

Encouragement is normally a wonderful thing, but there are times when we all better off when we buckle down, ask the difficult questions, deal with the difficult answers, and let the deceased horses rest in peace.

The Rejection Window, Part II

Back in October 2011, I wrote “The Rejection Window“, a treatise about the big publishing industry’s future.

The rejection window is the length of time an author will keep submitting and revising their unpublished manuscript to agents and large traditional publishing houses.

What will define the future of the major publishing industry is the length of time for which the authors who do still submit manuscripts to agents and publishers will keep their rejection windows open.

The Big Five’s traditional position of strength, even as Amazon KDP and Smashwords were building their e-book empires, was that the major publishers got the first shot at the “quality” pre-published manuscripts. In other words, prospective authors submitted their queries to the major houses first, then they would pursue alternatives after the Big Five’s rejection of their work. I know this very well, for I was one of those authors. 😉

Of course, even back in 2011…

Some authors are already slamming the rejection window completely shut. They aren’t even bothering to submit their manuscripts to agents and publishers. These authors upload an eBook the moment it’s finished.

Their numbers now include many former Big Five mid-list authors (such as Joe Konrath) who are now making more money from e-books than they ever did when they wrote for the major publishing houses.
These romance writers ditched their publishers for ebooks — and made millions

(if only people gobbled up like sci-fi like they do romance… *sigh* 😉 )

2011:

The sea change I predict is: If the traditional industry rejects a first-time submission, they’ll never “sea” it again. 😉 In other words, if the publisher said “We love your story, but we want you to re-write one of your characters,” few if any authors would bother with such re-writing.

By then, the majority of authors will be likely to e-publish their manuscripts immediately after the major publishing industry’s first rejection. Revisions of manuscripts just to fit the ever-changing whims of agents and large traditional publishing houses will increasingly be seen as a waste of time and effort.

This one didn’t take five years to come true. Even the relative few authors left who won’t settle for anything “less” than being published on the Big Five will most likely start working on a new story they think will be more to the agents’ and publishers’ liking, rather than revising any existing stories. Any authors still patient enough to slog through the old-line process of querying agents before they do anything else, would also be willing to devote the keyboard hours necessary to charm their would-be masters with a story hewing as close to Big Five “formula” as possible.

Back here in the real world, the situation is now evolving beyond “the Big Five will never see the manuscript again”, to “they’ll never even see the author again.” Authors’ prose tends to improve along the lines of the “ten thousand hours of writing” rule. Years ago, if an author’s first “green” submission to the Big Five was mediocre, this was not an important factor. The author would take the rejection in stride, then query their newer and better works, until one of those works was of sufficient quality to pass muster. This archaic process was called “author development.” 😉

Now, the “newbie” author, whose first work has been rejected by the Big Five, is much more likely to head straight for the “greener” fields of Amazon KDP and Smashwords, taking all of their future works with them. Their better future works. Thus, the Big Five lose the author’s “dynamite” second or third novel, and the author is able to sell the e-books of their first work while they wile away their typing hours on the better work they had inside them all along..

Another big problem the Big Five now has, that I did not foresee in 2011, is of their own making: The narrowing of categories that they will even consider for publication. I recently read an interview with a Big Five editor where he spelled out what categories were being considered by his company, and those that were not. The shocker was that over two-thirds of the titles issued by my publisher, PDMI Publishing, LLC, are in categories his large company was no longer accepting submissions in! PDMI is, of course, reveling in the opportunities presenting themselves, now that entire categories of books are essentially being handed to them on a silver platter. PDMI was even forced to cancel their most recent open submissions period, due to the overwhelming number of manuscripts awaiting review in the system. The irony of this situation is not lost on me. 😈 When the potential exists to build a fairly large publishing operation simply by publishing books in categories that the Big Five are rejecting, something in the major houses’ system is obviously broken.

And that “something” would be their formulas. So we now have a few authors still trying to hew to the Big Five’s formulas, even as top-selling e-books continuously disprove the validity of these same formulas. And, to be fair, could anyone in New York have predicted the commercial success of the Fifty Shades trilogy? The same series Random House turned to for a quick and easy cash grab, because none of their “formula” books were selling as much as Fifty Shades?

Now, I ask you, what happens if you are a pre-published author, and someone in the Big Five thinks you should change your book to suit their formulas? Think of Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey, who got their Big Five contracts precisely by proving they didn’t need them. Hocking and Howey would almost certainly still be “not-yet-published” if they had waited for the Big Five to accept them through the age-old traditional vetting system. Hocking and Howey didn’t meet the Big Five formulas, and (better yet!) they still don’t, contracts notwithstanding. 😈

2011:

The more this happens, the stronger the case will be for major traditional publishers to accept novels they would have rejected before. The old business model of waiting for the author to re-write a rejected manuscript over and over again will no longer work. This is when the wall of large traditional publishing house formulas will at first start to crack, then finally crumble under the increasing pressure of the marketplace’s realities. The large traditional publishing houses will have to evolve, or die alongside their old business models.

Hocking, Howey, E.L. James et al have backed the Big Five into a corner, and forced them to publish novels that would not have passed the traditional vetting system. In the case of Amanda Hocking, they were also forced to publish several works they had rejected previously. The Big Five still lack the intestinal fortitude and vision to break out of the “formula” pattern on their own, ensuring more cracks will permeate their walls. So far, they have only “evolved” when forced to, resorting to base tricks such as suckling on the revenue streams of Fifty Shades, just for a quick infusion of life support. The day will come, however, when the Big Five approach a best-selling author, and said author will want nothing to do with them, no matter how much money they offer.

Kristen Lamb: Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World