The publishing industry has been in a big, confused mess about the emergence of ChatGPT, a freely accessible artificial intelligence (AI) program designed to write creative works based on a series of prompts.  While the technology could significantly improve things for some people, writers everywhere are uncertain about the full impacts that the technology will have on the publishing industry.
The ChatGPT program can write any story of any length in almost any style. And therein lies the problem.
At the moment, it is reasonably easy to tell when a piece of writing has been generated by ChatGPT, but as the algorithm learns—and I really mean "learns"—it will get harder and harder to tell. The market was already overwhelmed by the scam writers out to make a quick buck, but when ChatGPT came online, the saturation became worse.
Literary magazines like Clarkesworld became inundated with AI-generated stories, and they closed their submissions portal as a result, while they figure out how to handle this miss.  Amazon has seen a sudden increase in self-published books on the platform.  And there is now great concern about the future of professional ghostwriters, knowing that businesses no longer need to hire a ghostwriter when they can get an AI program to write their material for free.
Exactly where this is all going and how the industry will ultimately respond to AI-generated stories is still unknown.
Automated editing software has been around for decades
Automated editing software has been around for a very long time, starting with those clunky spellchecker programs that Microsoft created back in the days when everything ran on MS-DOS. (And yes, I am that old. I remember quite clearly the 5.25" program floppies and the 3.5" program floppies.)
Those early programs followed basic spelling rules, and if a word wasn't in the computerized dictionary, you had to add it. (I always had to add my last name to those things.)
Microsoft incorporated a grammar checker into their systems in the 1990s, but it wasn't until the mainstream introduction of Grammarly in 2009 that people everywhere started taking advantage of AI to assist in writing their documents.
I use ProWritingAid to assist me with the grammar and punctuation stuff. Let's face it… there are so many rules out there that I struggle to keep them all straight. Unless I want to spend all day every day looking up the rules, I need something automated to help me.
Every program out there is based on some form of neural network AI. Each time you run a document through whatever system you're using, it gets better at detecting issues and distinguishing those issues from stylistic choices. The more you use the system, the more it can predict how you will phrase something.
That's the entire purpose behind using neural networks in AI programming. The system learns and adapts… just like a human would.
No one within the industry is up in arms about AI-assisted editing, because it is now industry standard. Editors agree that some programs are better than others (most editors I know won't touch Grammarly with a 10-foot barge pole), but in all cases, a human is at the other end of the system approving or declining suggestions. And some suggestion should be declined no matter what.
Someone please explain to me why "I was pleasantly surprised" should be replaced by "I pleasantly surprised me was pleasantly". I know that there is something to be said about writing while drunk, but ProWritingAid had completely lost its mind that day.
But I think that's the point. The AI program makes a suggestion that a human gets final say over. There are some writers who will blindly accept all suggestions, which is a huge mistake, but even if you take the time to carefully scrutinize the suggestions, there is a marked improvement in the final writing.
With the AI systems continually learning and adapting, it was only a matter of time before the systems took the next evolution, and went from AI-assisted editing to AI-generated writing.
AI in writing is nothing new
The idea of using artificial intelligence (AI) to help you generate your stories and your writing is not anything new. In 2016, a Japanese research team developed an AI program to write a literary novel, and that novel made it through the first round of selections for a Japanese literary prize . The AI-generated story didn't progress into the next round, but that's not the point. The fact that it made it as far as it did only highlights how sophisticated the algorithms had become.
For many years now, you have had AI programs that can help you write your ad copy and other promotional materials. In 2022, the online site of Jasper.ai was brought to my attention during the business course I was doing. It was shown to us as a way to quickly generate blog posts, social media snippets, and other promotional copy. At the time, I highlighted that I would never use such a system for writing of my blog post (I don't think such a system would ever be able to properly mimic my sarcasm), but I could see the benefit of using the system to generate the "about the book" sections that you see on Amazon and other sites. (Writing those blurbs is SOOO hard!)
But the technology used on the Jasper.ai site pales in comparison to what ChatGPT can do and what it promises it can do.
There might be more noise, but there has always been noise
Discoverability has always been hard. With the saturation of books on the market, many new and gifted writers often go unseen. While more books have been published in recent weeks, many of them AI-generated, it hasn't changed the level of difficulty associated with discoverability.
With the introduction of self-publishing nearly twenty years ago now, agents and publishers were no longer the gatekeepers. The market became flooded by books written by all those who always wanted to write a book. Some of those books were… well… saying that they should have never been published is putting it nicely. But there are other writers, like Joanna Penn, who proved that just because you chose to be self-published doesn't mean that your books aren't as good as the ones that were being traditionally published. In fact, some self-published authors produce better books that blow all the traditionally published books out of the water.
But it takes time to get noticed, to build something that readers are willing to follow faithfully. And the first step in that equation is to stand out among all the noise.
In a February 2022 article on Wordsrated, it was estimated that 1.4 million self-published titles were published through the Amazon KDP platform , with an addition 0.4 million books released through the Amazon retailer site via other avenues. 1.8 million new books in just 2021 alone. And this was before the tsunami of books generated by ChatGPT.
Granted, only a small fraction of those books would ever be a competition for my own writing, being books released in completely different genres. But even if only 1% of those books were thrillers, that is still in the order of 180,000 books. I don't even know how to comprehend that many books.
The idea of marketing in today's market… I'm absolutely terrified. All I can see is the dollar bills flying out the door for very little return. I guess that's a problem for another day.
Will AI programs like ChatGPT put me out of a job?
It is this question that seems to be plaguing the industry the most. Will programs like ChatGPT put writers out of work? Will the programs put editors out of work?
The more I think about it, the more I think the answer is no.
There have always been the scammers out to make a quick buck. Every time there has been a new system or a new technology on the market, there have been those willing to take advantage of it for the sake of the almighty dollar. But right on their heels have been those wanting to use the tool to our benefit, putting together the rules needed to remain ethical in the way we approach the technology.
ChatGPT is no different. It has been only a short time since ChatGPT was made publicly available, but already, you are seeing societal and ethical influences come to the foreground, hindering certain misuse and abuse of the technology.
As much as we might not want to admit it, ChatGPT and other programs like it are here to stay. Going forward, it's just another technology that I will have to eventually decide if I will use it or if I will leave it for others to use. (At this stage, I will likely leave it for others to use.)
Sure, there is no doubt in my mind that eventually ChatGPT will be able to write better blog posts than I can, but I don't think it will ever be able to properly capture the elements of my writing that are uniquely me—the parts that are human.
There is a subjectivity that comes with writing that evolves with conversation and daily practice. We develop cadences in the way we speak, something that stems from the menagerie of influences during our language development. Yes, it is highly possible that a computer program will eventually develop in a similar way, but it won't develop in an identical way. As such, while a computer program might eventually be able to emulate the things I write, it won't be able to produce something exactly how I would.
In addition, writing has an emotional component that is near impossible to duplicate in a series of binary strings. It's an odd phenomenon, but if a writer is crying while writing a passage, that level of emotional depth shows through on the page, and the reader is crying while reading the edited passage. I can't explain why this happens… it just does. Because a computer is unable to feel real emotion, it is highly unlikely that an AI-generated story will possess the same emotional impact.
As a writer, I have nothing to fear from ChatGPT. My stories will still be my stories. They will still possess everything that makes my writing unique to me—something that ChatGPT can't take away from me.
Sure, I'll need to work harder on the marketing side of things, but that was always going to be an issue.
As the editor, there will always be a need for the human eye on writing—because of the human element involved with the subjectivity of writing. For some things, mathematics and formulas can be used, making them perfect for an AI-assisted editing program. But so much of what I do as a developmental editor is about gut feeling. You can take the same passage (identical action and core beats), but when written in one way, it feels stilted. Write it another way, and it comes to life. And it's not something that you can put a formula to, because you can take exact same writing styles and apply them to another passage, but the opposite style reads better.
It's this phenomenon known within the industry as voice, and it's something that writers and editors struggle to define and quantify. And if writers and editors can't easily define it, how the hell is a computer programmer going to be able to program it?
While ChatGPT might have changed a small portion of the publishing industry landscape, in my little world, ChatGPT has no bearing on how I'll proceed. I still need to write my stories. I still need to market my services. And I'm still a damned good developmental editor and writing coach, if I do say so myself. These are all things that ChatGPT can't take away from me.
 OpenAI (2022) Introducing ChatGPT. https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt
 Wired. (February, 2023) Sci-Fi Publishers are Bracing for an AI Battle. Wired Magazine. https://www.wired.com/story/sci-fi-story-submissions-generative-ai-problem/
 Greg Bensinger (February, 2023) ChatGPT launches boom in AI-written e-books on Amazon. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/technology/chatgpt-launches-boom-ai-written-e-books-amazon-2023-02-21/
 Natalie Shoemaker (March, 2016) Japanese AI Write a Novel, Nearly Wins Literary Award. Big Think. https://bigthink.com/technology-innovation/a-japanese-ai-wrote-a-novel-almost-wins-literary-award/
 Danny Lewis (March, 2016) An AI-Written Novella Almost Won a Literary Prize. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/ai-written-novella-almost-won-literary-prize-180958577/
 Dean Talbot (February, 2022) Number of Books Published Per Year. Wordsrated. https://wordsrated.com/number-of-books-published-per-year-2021/