This post isn’t about getting ChatGPT to write an entire book for you.
If that’s what you want, then go elsewhere.
This is about ways that fiction writers can harness AI programs to help them write, edit and promote their work.
It’s about using the power of technology to level up your writing skills. Human+AI is now more powerful than merely a human alone or merely AI alone.
In the same way that Microsoft Word, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid helps us out with spelling and grammar and phrasing, ChatGPT can help writers in a more sophisticated way.
We’re not ceding control to AI, we’re using computer programs to accelerate and accentuate our HUMAN version of storytelling.
I should also add that none of this post will be written by AI — nope, got a human behind it, 100%. Hi, I’m John Matthew Fox. Click the About at the top to find out more about me.
1. Use ChatGPT to inspire your writing voice.
Say you’re writing a passage in your novel and it just doesn’t sound right. It’s dead on the page; it’s lifeless.
I would recommend choosing a famous writer in your genre that is similar to your style, and asking ChatGPT to rewrite that passage in their voice. Sample prompt:
Rewrite the following passage in the voice of Neal Stephenson.
Sure, there will be some editing to do (you probably won’t want to use the results verbatim) but it’ll inspire you to get the voice down.
Another option is to describe the voice.
Rewrite the following paragraph in the gritty, hardboiled street language of a 1920s noir novel.
2. Let ChatGPT help you with description
I was having a tough time describing a particular place in my novel. So I asked AI to describe a medical bay inside a cruise ship.
The first result it spat out wasn’t very helpful — not anything that I couldn’t come up with on my own. But then I modified the prompt in this way:
Tell me the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and physical sensations of a medical bay inside a cruise ship. Give me at least 20 details about the room.
It’s always a good idea to include a demand for all five senses in your prompt.
Now, I didn’t use any ChatGPT phrases verbatim in my book. But I did cherrypick one or two details and then wrote my own sentences, inspired by the details it came up with.
You can even use AI to help you with descriptions of an imaginary place.
Describe the color, temperature, weather, animals, plants, geography, topography and atmosphere of a fictional planet in a far away solar system. Include the planet’s name, the nearby star, and a description of its two moons.
3. Use ChatGPT for worldbuilding
Sure, Tolkien spent decades of his life developing all of the background of Middle Earth, including the maps and language of multiple races.
But what if you just have ChatGPT do that for you in a heartbeat? Sample prompts:
Create a language including an alphabet, phonetics, grammar, and the most common 100 words. Base it on a mix of ancient Sumarian, Turkish, and Pawnee Native American dialects.
You could even ask Dalle-E or Midjourney to draw you a map of your fictional land.
Certainly you could ask ChatGPT to do all the worldbuilding efforts for your novel.
Suggest worldbuilding details for a fictional land called Melvenor — include the races, species, languages, cultures, flags, countries, continents, and physical dangers.
4. Improve your Dialogue
Ask ChatGPT for ways to make your characters sound unique.
Suggest ways to make my character’s dialogue stand out from other characters
If you want to get more specific, ask ChatGPT:
Suggest accents, ethnic words, dialects, high/low diction, abbreviations, slang, repeated words, and styles that will set my character’s dialogue apart.
Then you can feed it a page of your dialogue and ask it to rewrite that passage in that tone.
For instance, what if you had a character who often spoke like a Magic Eight ball. Well, you can ask it to rewrite every fifth line of dialogue from that character in the Magic Eight ball style:
- It is certain
- It is decidedly so
- Without a doubt
- Yes definitely
Or ask it to write funny and improper dialogue from a Ukrainian man speaking English, like in Jonathan Safran’s Foer’s “Everything is Illuminated.”
5. Escalate your character’s emotions
Emotion is probably what AI is worst at. But emotions are at the heart of fiction. How can AI help you with the emotional component of your novel?
Well, the best thing is to tell ChatGPT to act like a guide for the emotions (say, a psychologist). Sample prompt:
Act like a psychologist for a 25 year old woman who just lost her boyfriend and her job and has to take care of her cancer-stricken mother. What might she do to act out in strange ways to cope with the trauma?
This type of prompt will help you generate ideas that emotionally resonate with the reader.
If you want to get more advanced, ask for contradictory emotions, complex emotions, or odd emotional responses.
6. Use ChatGPT for researching your novel
Say your novel is set in 1940s China, like “The Distant Land of my Father” by Bo Caldwell. But you’re struggling to come up with the details that makes your novel feel real.
In that case, you want ChatGPT to do the research for you.
- What would be a typical meal eaten in 1940s China?
- What cultural attitudes would seem odd in 1940s China to a western person?
- How was World War II affecting 1940s China in the city of Shanghai and Beijing?
- What was a common smell in the countryside in 1940s China?
Or if you want to put those all together:
Write me a 1000-word passage describing the people, places, buildings, tools, vehicles, smells, sounds, and sights of 1940s China, specifically Shanghai.
7. Ask ChatGPT to find similar passages
Say you want to look at every place in your novel where you discuss a particular theme, object, or person.
Simply ask AI to find all these passages and create a new document with 100 or 500 word excerpts of each.
That will allow you to compare them all side by side and see:
- Is there too much repetition between them?
- Do they escalate from the beginning toward the end?
- Do you really need all of these or can you cut some of them?
8. Have ChatGPT write your query letter
AI has access to millions of query letters. Why not let it use that knowledge to write yours?
Tell it the basic facts necessary:
- word count
- use the summary that it create in the previous prompt
In fact, you can even get ChatGPT to give you comp titles. Sample prompt:
Come up with two comp titles for my novel. They should be similar to my book, in the same genre, written in the last three years, and not too popular.
(about the “not too popular” line: agents don’t like it when you compare your book to Harry Potter and Stephen King — it just feels lazy).
If you don’t like the results, then say, give me 10 more comp titles and you can pick the best two out of all of those.
Also, you can adjust the results: give me results in Romance genre, or Fantasy genre.
Lastly, ask chatGPT to suggest 10 agents right for this genre, who are at the beginning of their careers and are open to new clients, then personalize your query letter based on personal information about the agent.
Look up agent X and mention something about a book they’ve represented or an author they’ve represented.
9. Ask ChatGPT to suggest an ending
When you have writers block, using AI might help jar you out of your rut.
So tell AI where you are in your book, and then ask it to:
Suggest five different ways the plot line can develop from here. Make sure to include a climax and an ending.
Some of the suggestions will be terrible, but it only takes one good one to spark your imagination and allow you to escape the dreaded writer’s block.
I would also suggest to get more specific about HOW to finish the story.
- Suggest an ending to my story in the style of a soap opera
- Suggest an ending to my story in the style of a manga or anime comic book
- Suggest an ending to my story in the style of an epic Greek poem
- Suggest an ending to my story in the style of a blockbuster action movie
- Suggest an ending to my story that’s a tragedy/comedy (or a happy ending).
10. Add Humor to your book
Almost every novel can be improved by cracking a joke here and there. But if you’re not feeling particularly hilarious these, days, why not feed ChatGPT some information about your characters and ask them to write some jokes for you?
What type of joke would a corrupt politician tell, if she was about to enrich herself through bribes in Guatemala?
But you can also ask it to come up with hilarious situations.
Tell it your three main characters and ask it to come up with a description of an ironic or hypocritical situation they could get into.
11. Ask ChatGPT to act like a copyeditor
Here is a sample prompt that you would put into ChatGPT.
Act like a copyeditor and edit this manuscript according to the Chicago Manual of Style. Focus on punctuation, grammar, syntax, typos, capitalization, formatting and consistency.
I tested ChatGPT with my test I give to freelance copyeditors and discovered it corrected about 60% of the copyediting mistakes. Considering most freelance copyeditors only correct about 70% – 80% of the mistakes, ChatGPT is already absolutely incredible at copyediting (and will only get better).
It just has some awful blind spots, like not realizing that you have to spell out numbers under 100. But in general, I was super impressed with the results.
But if you want to self publish, this won’t get your manuscript to perfection. You will still need a human copyeditor to comb over it. But it will catch a fair amount of mistakes that you’ve made, and thus make it easier on your human editor.
12. Ask ChatGPT to act like a developmental editor.
This is one of the most difficult tasks that you can give AI. Copyediting is easy — it’s just rules. Developmental editing is all about judgment and taste. Still, AI will only get better at this task over time.
Act like a developmental editor and give me feedback on the following manuscript. Give me specific feedback about specific places in the manuscript in these categories: Point of View, Character Development, Conflict, Tension, Dialogue, Plot, Pacing, Chapter Length, and Beginning/Endings.
When I tried this out with children’s books, short stories, and other fictional works, ChatGPT didn’t do great. It mainly summarizes the story, while not really understanding how to improve the story. And the advice it gives is about as good as you would get from a random person in a library writing workshop (eg. not great at all).
It understands the pieces of fiction and can mimic the right language (limited 3rd person), but can’t yet discern what’s really working in a story and what isn’t working.
Maybe this could help a beginning writer, but certainly not anyone past the basics.
Another thing to try is to ask AI to act like a “Beta reader” and give you feedback on your story.
13. Have ChatGPT write your jacket copy.
One of the most difficult things a writer can ever do is write the jacket copy for their own book. It’s brutal. It’s impossible. Every writer hates it.
So let AI do it for you!
Upload your manuscript and ask AI to write a summary of the main plot points. Or ask it to write the “jacket copy.” You might need to add that it should NOT give away the ending (or if you’re writing a summary for an agent, it SHOULD include the ending).
Will you have to edit the output? Of course. But this prompt will get you started.
Another choice is to try to write the jacket copy yourself, and then ask ChatGPT to phrase it better, or to make it shorter.
14. Use ChatGPT to generate quotes
Say you want one of your characters to be incredibly smart. Ask ChatGPT for what famous philosopher or psychologist they would likely quote, and then ask it to select five quotes from that famous person that your character would say.
Or say you want a character to love haiku. Have ChatGPT make up haikus about flowers or about hamsters that they would say in various situations.
You can even use AI to come up with fictional quotes from fictional characters. Just give the parameters:
Create a fictional 14th century philosopher who loved to talk about epistemology, and give me ten short quotes
15. Ask ChatGPT for story ideas
You probably already have an idea for your novel, but if you don’t, you could ask AI for fifty novel ideas in the Sci-fi genre that includes aliens.
Here is a sample prompt:
I am writing a romance novel that takes places in Huntington Beach, California. The main character is a newspaper reporter who has insomnia. She needs to be investigating a series of four grisly murders that happened within the last three months. Tell me how those murders happened, why this reporter is interested in the case, give me five suspects, and then tell me who is the murderer.
If you really don’t have any idea what you want to write about, then just ask for 10 fictional novel summaries that will help you to write a novel.
Or ask for 30 Story Prompts that include ghosts and slavery.
16. Ask ChatGPT for Plotting help
Say you’re already into your story a bit, but you’re stuck. You can ask for one of these elements that will chart you a course through your story.
I like to focus on language like “obstacles” and “tension” and “conflict” because those are the three main ingredients to propel stories forward.
- Suggest three obstacles for my main character.
- Give me three suggestions for the main conflict in my novel. Include three types of conflict for each one: inner conflict, conflict with others, and conflict with the world.
- Give me three suggestions for how the story could develop in a world with [summary of the first chapter]
17. Ask ChatGPT to create characters
Here’s a sample prompt to get ChatGPT to create a character.
Create a character for my novel. Tell me their appearance, their attitude toward others, what they like and dislike, mannerisms, what they like to do in their free time, a few sample lines of dialogue, their backstory, and what they want.
If you have a character already, you usually want a new character in opposition to your current one. So ask ChatGPT to contrast the new character with your current one (and describe your current one).
Get more specific with your prompt by checking out my 12 Steps to Create Memorable Characters.
18. Use ChatGPT to brainstorm a title
You really have to play around with prompts to get a good answer for this one.
It’s best to give ChatGPT three examples of titles you like, which are all similar to one another, and ask it for a title for your book in light of your book’s summary.
Give me a title, based on my book’s summary, inspired by these three titles:
- The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
- The Shoemaker’s Wife
- The Weird Sisters
In my experience trying this, you don’t usually get a winner, but what you get is some suggestions that spark the human imagination. AI right now is currently in a stage where human+machine is better than simply human or simply machine.
- You can tell it to include your character’s name or not to include it.
- You can restrict the word count: you want titles under 3 words or between 5 and 6 words
- If you know a particular word you want in the title, ask it to create 10 titles with that word in it
19. Ask ChatGPT to suggest a Chapter Ending
If you don’t know how to end your chapter, ask ChatGPT to come up with 5 – 10 suggestions, after feeding it your chapter’s text.
It’s best to tell it to model the chapter ending after a particularly famous novel that you like, or a particular famous author.
Here is my chapter. Suggest an ending for this chapter based on the way that Stephen King ends a chapter.
You can also tell it to end the chapter based on what happens in the next chapter.
End this chapter by hinting at the fact that in the next chapter the main character will be assaulted by a friend.
You can also suggest a particular type of chapter ending.
- Suggest a line of poignant/snappy/resonant dialogue to end the chapter
- Suggest a cliffhanger that could end this chapter
- Suggest a chapter ending that builds the characterization for my protagonist
20. Ask ChatGPT to compile all your metaphors
It’s so helpful to look at a list of the 50 or 100 or 200 metaphors/similes you used in your book, because you often see that some of them are downright stupid.
Sorry to be so blunt, but it’s easy to write a bad metaphor. Or a cliched metaphor. Or a simile that just isn’t insightful.
When you look at them in isolation, you will be a better editor of your own work. And the more metaphor/similes that you delete, the more the remaining ones will shine.
21. Ask ChatGPT for prompts that help novelists
If you don’t know how to use ChatGPT to help you write your novel, then just ask it!
Ask for 10 prompts that a fiction writer should ask ChatGPT to help them with their novel.
My first result looked like this:
- Generating ideas: If writers are struggling to come up with ideas for their writing projects, they can chat with ChatGPT to brainstorm ideas.
- Improving writing skills: ChatGPT can provide feedback on writing samples, suggest ways to improve grammar and syntax, and recommend resources to improve writing skills.
- Researching: Writers can ask ChatGPT to research a topic and provide relevant information that can be used in their writing projects.
- Editing: ChatGPT can also help writers with editing tasks such as checking for spelling and grammar errors, suggesting alternate phrasing, and ensuring consistency in style and tone.
- Providing inspiration: ChatGPT can generate random quotes, lines of poetry, or writing prompts that can inspire writers to create new work.
But I think you could get much more specific and get some new ideas if you tweaked the prompt.
22. Get Blurb Ideas through ChatGPT
Getting blurbs from authors to promote your book is one of the most miserable experiences of writers. You hate imposing on them; you feel embarrassed, and yet you know you need them for the back of the book.
Ask ChatGPT this kind of prompt if you don’t know who to ask for a blurb:
Suggest 10 mid-list authors in the fantasy genre who have blurbed at least one book in the last year. List their websites or emails or social media information, so I can contact them.
You can refine the search:
- 10 authors in the fantasy genre who have published three books or less
- 10 authors writing urban fantasy who have published two books
- 10 authors writing sword and sorcery epics who have published more than five books
And if you’re at the place in your career where you’re writing blurbs, go ahead and put the jacket copy into ChatGPT and ask it to write a blurb for you!
(I’m joking. Kind of. Honestly, we probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the pabulum that comes from authors and the pabulum that would come from ChatGPT. It’s all gushing. It’s all flowery and hyperbolic. Whatever).
23. Figure out your sentence data.
This is the type of information which would be super useful to know as a writer:
- Your average sentence length
- Your shortest sentence and your longest sentence in your novel
- The average difference between sentences next to each other
Usually, writers will learn that they’re not varying their sentences enough.
Also, if you upload one chapter at a time, you might discover that one chapter has much longer sentences and one has much shorter sentences, and you’ll try to even them out so your writing is consistent across the book.
24. Ask ChatGPT to find preposition strings
There are tons of line editing suggestions that ChatGPT can help you with.
For instance, long strings of prepositional phrases make your writing weak.
Example: An old horse looked out of the window of a large barn to the right of the house.
That is not a good sentence. Four prepositions in a row! And yet it won’t be flagged by Word or Grammarly or any other program. Upload a chapter to ChatGPT and ask it to search for strings of three or more in a row, and then you can decide whether that sentence needs editing to focus more on the mainstays of writing: nouns and verbs.
25. Ask ChatGPT to find bad sentences
There’s nothing wrong with starting a sentence with a conjunction. But what if you frequently start sentences with “And” or “So” or “But”? It’s a verbal tic which can become tiring and needs to be edited so it happens infrequently.
At least by running this test you can see how often you do it, and revise accordingly.
26. Ask ChatGPT for the 20 most common words in your book.
“The” and “A” aren’t going to tell you much.
But this is a good way to discover whether you’ve overused “something” and “really” and “very.”
Perhaps you’ll even discover that you overused a word you didn’t realize you were overusing. That way you can comb through your manuscript and try to trim it down.