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Write On! Features: Writers & Editors, Do Not Despair! AI And The Future Of Writing, Editing, And Publishing by Dan Cross

by Dan Cross

A few months ago, I was at the launch of a book I edited. Over drinks, the subject of AI came up, with everyone praising how much they use ChatGPT. Without a doubt, the most common question I got was: “Have you thought about how you’re going to transition into a new career now that AI can do your job?”

Everyone’s assumption was that editors would be out of a job within the next five years as AI becomes increasingly powerful and commonplace. And I’d be lying if I said I haven’t worried about this.

But what is the reality? As a professional manuscript editor, what am I seeing on the ground? Are the days of creative editing and writing over, or is there hope for authors and editors alike?

The Impact Of AI

Since starting The Open Book Editor, I’ve seen my client list grow steadily, and by late 2022, I was receiving regular enquiries via my website and was booked up nine months in advance.

Then, in early 2023, it all stopped. Suddenly, there were no new enquiries.

Part of this is attributable to the Covid-19 pandemic. During lockdown, many new authors wrote books, so many spent the subsequent years working with editors to develop and publish them. This was always going to tail off.

But to see such a dramatic stop still seemed unusual to me.

I did some digging and discovered ChatGPT — a large language model (LLM) AI — was launched in November 2022, becoming extremely popular across the internet around February/March 2023. One application included people using it not only to edit their books, but also to ‘write’ them.

We’re now a year on from ChatGPT becoming publicly available and I still see nothing like the number of enquiries I did beforehand.

And yet, as of April 2024, I’m the busiest I have ever been. Better still, the quality of the clients I’m working with is reaching new heights. I’m currently working with some of the most promising authors I’ve ever had the privilege to support.

So, to what extent is AI having a negative impact on not just editors, but the creative writing industry as a whole? And why don’t I think we need to be as worried as some suggest?

Why Is AI A Problem For Creatives?

LLMs, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot, are capable of human-like, text-based conversations in which they use vast swathes of written copy, often from across the internet but sometimes from more dedicated sources, to interpret questions and commands and then output concise answers or creative responses.

They’ve also been adapted to offer new features in writing and editing tools some of us already use, like Grammarly and the Add-ins you can use to enhance your Microsoft Office suite.

I originally predicted tools utilising this new tech would be everywhere in two to five years.

In fact, it’s taken just one!

New ‘creative writing’ AI products and services are regularly coming to market, normally for a monthly subscription fee, that promise to help you plan, write, edit, and publish a book, story, play, or poem faster than ever before.

But because an LLM scans existing content to generate its output, including the works of other authors (without their permission and without giving compensation), it can never be truly original. This means a lot of what AI tools output is, at best, based on a copy of what someone else has already written. At worst, it’s plagiarism.

It also means that, unless you’re incredibly creative and specific with your prompts (the instructions you type into the AI), then whatever is output is likely to sound similar to that which it has already output to other users.

For example, if you’ve asked an AI for ‘five sci-fi adventure story ideas’ and chosen one for your next novel, the probability you’re writing a book similar to one being written by someone else who asked the same question is high.

Uses And Limitations Of LLMs

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t use AI at all. For example, it can be a great tool for research. (Although, it has been known to make things up, including its sources and citations — called ‘hallucinations’ —so check everything!)

It can also help to spark your creativity. For instance, if you like to warm up before a writing session or challenge yourself to write something new, ask the AI for some writing prompts.

Of course, I hope it goes without saying, no one should use AI to generate whole passages of text for their books, let alone the entire manuscript! You’re not a writer if you get the computer to do the work for you.

But besides the moral question, there is also the problem that AI, for now anyway, handles long-form text really badly. It forgets entire plot points and characters, creates consistency issues, and grammar and punctuation are far from perfect. Furthermore, the longer the text goes on, the more it sounds soulless, unimaginative, and like everything else it outputs. In short, it generates some really boring and unreadable books that often copy each other.

These limitations should be obvious, but as the tools become more commonplace and more integrated into programs we’ve come to rely on, the temptation to use them will be greater. Despite having good intentions, writers may end up stifling their own creativity by relying too heavily on AI software. And in the process, they’ll end up producing stale, plagiarised stories.

Furthermore — and this is a biggie — by putting your writing into tools such as Grammarly, you’re normally feeding the machine. This means your own writing and author’s voice become subject to being used, reproduced, and plagiarised without your consent and without compensation.

How AI Is Changing The Publishing Industry

Almost immediately after the public launch of ChatGPT, opportunists began using AI to generate entire books and create covers, and then upload them to sell online, all in a few hours. As a result, self-publishing platforms, like Amazon, have become inundated with AI-written books.

While the quality of these books is extremely low, it’s adding noise to the market, and the noisier it is, the harder it is to make our own books heard.

It’s impacting the traditional market, too. Small presses have become so overwhelmed with AI-generated submissions that some have had to shut up shop as they can’t deal with the demand.

(Prediction #1: Literary agents will start to close themselves off to direct submissions and, instead, come to rely more on finding prospective talents through competitions, writers’ programmes and online self-promotion.)

As an editor, I was worried. Why would someone pay money to hire me when they can get a program to do the work for them for free (or relatively low cost) and in a fraction of the time?

I needn’t have been.

Why The Rise Of AI Is Helping Real Creative Writers And Editors Connect

Despite AI tools promising to make writing and editing faster and cheaper, an influx of highly talented authors is seeking out my author coaching and editing services. Why is this?

What I’m seeing is that authors with real talent are resisting the temptation to let LLMs take over the creative element of their writing.

Firstly, even if they’re just starting out, such artists are much better at spotting the limitations of current AI tech. This is because they take the time to consider if the output of an AI tool achieves what they really wanted when they started using it. Does it match their voice? Does it convey the message they were aiming to deliver? Does it inspire the right emotion at the right moment? More often than not, authors find it is lacking or that it takes so much time to fix, they might as well not have bothered.

Secondly, true authors understand it takes a human to write a truly creative piece and so, too, does it take a human editor to help an author improve their writing and connect with their readers on a deeper level, while still protecting and developing their unique voice.

People crave human creativity. Not only do we need to do it ourselves to feel fulfilled, but we want it to be honest when we enjoy the ingenuity of others.

This is also true of editing, which is about so much more than spelling and punctuation. It’s about capturing the essence of a scene, it’s about saying one thing but hinting at another, it’s about showcasing the depths of the human psyche, whether the action is taking place in a seventeenth-century French castle or on a strange planet in a faraway galaxy.

And editors offer something else: we are someone to have in your corner while you’re developing your talent and story, we are someone who understands the obscure publishing industry and can offer guidance, we are someone to build a working relationship within a sometimes lonely endeavour and to bounce ideas off and we can help you combat imposter syndrome, writer’s block, and resignation to keep you feeling positive, upbeat and productive about your writer’s journey.

Creative Writers And Editors Aren’t Going Anywhere

Who knows what the future holds? But, for now, these AI tools don’t cut the mustard (no matter what they promise you), and real authors, the ones with creativity in their hearts, know this.

The publishing industry will be volatile for the foreseeable future on the back of AI, but what else is new? It hasn’t been fit for purpose for decades, and the problems go deeper than these new technologies.

But from what I’m experiencing, I believe agents, publishing houses and readers will continue to favour human-generated content, as they always have.

(Prediction #2: In a few years, we’ll see stickers on books guaranteeing no AI was used in their creation.)

Just as readers will continue to crave unique, emotional, human stories, so, too, will authors want human editors to help them develop their talent and get the most out of their books.


Dan has over a decade of experience working as an editor and has worked with both traditionally published and self-published authors from all over the world, on multiple genres of fiction and non-fiction, and in all forms of English. Through his business, The Open Book Editor, he offers the full range of editing services, including developmental editing, copy-editing, and book formatting. He also offers author coaching, in which he helps writers develop their skills, plan their books and edit their work, as well as answering their questions about the publishing industry. As a twice-shortlisted author himself, he understands not only the importance of protecting a writer’s voice and style, but also the stresses and challenges in the modern publishing industry and how important it is to have someone in your corner. He regularly publishes free advice for writers on his blog, so be sure to check it out:


You can read issue 20 online here and find it in libraries and other outlets. Previous editions of our magazines can be found here.

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I originally predicted tools utilising this new tech would be everywhere in two to five years. In fact, it’s taken just one!