Five Creative Uses of ChatGPT for Writers (Even if You Hate the Idea of AI Writing Software)
Whatever type of writing you do, you’ve almost certainly come across ChatGPT – a conversational AI (artificial intelligence) tool that can take a “prompt” and return human-sounding writing.
Maybe you’ve tried it out, or you’ve read a bunch of worrying headlines. Perhaps you’ve started using ChatGPT (or another AI tool) in your own writing process.
You might well have deep concerns about the use of ChatGPT and similar tools. I don’t want to dig too deep into the potential ethical issues with ChatGPT (that’s a whole article in itself). But I expect you, like me, feel a certain sense of horror at the idea that the writing industry might be taken over by AI-driven content.
The idea of getting an AI to produce my blog posts is distinctly weird. What I love most is the actual writing part of the process. When I’m working on articles, I wouldn’t want to cut my writing time by 90% only to spend way longer on fact checking and editing … that doesn’t sound like fun at all.
And when it comes to writing fiction – I do that because I love it. Sure, I want to use my writing time well, but that definitely doesn’t mean generating text as fast as possible. It means enjoying what I’m doing, and crafting something unique.
So here’s the good news! ChatGPT doesn’t need to do the writing for you.
There are lots of ways you can use it to enhance your writing time – not to take over from you.
Tip: If you don’t have a ChatGPT account already, it’s free to get one. Just head to the ChatGPT login page and click Sign up. You can use your existing Google or Microsoft account, or create an account using your email address.
Don’t Use ChatGPT to Do the Actual Writing Itself For You
A lot of people think of ChatGPT (and similar AI tools) as software that can produce completed articles, emails, web copy, or even potentially short stories for them.
But it makes a lot more sense to think of ChatGPT as a virtual writing buddy.
You won’t get ChatGPT to produce the same quality of writing you can produce. Not without spending a ton of time refining prompts and editing the results – by which point, you might as well have just written it yourself.
But ChatGPT can be a great tool for helping you get past writers’ block, brainstorm ideas, check you’ve not missed any key points when outlining a piece, and so on.
Here are some creative ways to use it.
#1: Using ChatGPT for Writing Prompts and Inspiration
Stuck for a writing prompt? Need an idea to get you going? You can turn to lists of writing prompts – but sometimes those can be a bit overwhelming, and you might end up spending ages picking from 100 different prompts.
One of my favourite types of writing prompt is “three nouns”, where you have to include three different things in a short piece of writing.
So here’s what I asked ChatGPT for:
I want 10 writing prompts for short story writers. Each prompt should contain 3 nouns (2 common, 1 uncommon) and nothing else.
And ChatGPT came back almost instantly with:
Sure, here are 10 writing prompts for short story writers, each containing 3 nouns (2 common, 1 uncommon):
- Couch, Magnifying Glass, Aurora
- Violin, Storm, Labyrinth
- Coffee Shop, Tangerine, Echo
- Attic, Envelope, Tornado
- Library, Pocket Watch, Eclipse
- Diner, Typewriter, Phoenix
- Hotel, Tarot Card, Avalanche
- Waterfall, Locket, Hurricane
- Castle, Feather, Cyclone
- Park Bench, Hourglass, Thunderstorm
I love these combinations! It would’ve taken me a while to come up with good ones – and tools like “Take Three Nouns” have a more limited range than ChatGPT.
#2: Using ChatGPT to Help Solve Writing Problems
Stuck on something with your writing? Talking through a problem can be a great way to help unpick it in your mind – and other people might come up with ideas that you’d never have thought of. ChatGPT is a great writing buddy for this.
My romance novel is too simple. Could you give me some ideas on how to complicate the plot?
Sure, I’d be happy to help! Here are a few ideas to complicate your romance novel’s plot:
- Introduce a love triangle: One of the most common ways to complicate a romance novel is to introduce a third character who also has feelings for one of the main characters. This could lead to jealousy, conflict, and difficult choices for the characters involved.
- Add an obstacle to the relationship: Make it harder for the two main characters to be together by introducing an obstacle, such as a long-distance relationship, disapproving families, or conflicting life goals.
- Explore deeper emotional conflicts: Instead of just focusing on external conflicts, delve into the internal emotional conflicts of the characters. For example, one character may have trust issues that make it difficult for them to fully open up to their partner.
- Create a backstory or secret: Give one of the characters a secret or backstory that complicates the relationship. Perhaps one of them has a history of cheating, or they’re keeping a big secret that could threaten the relationship if it’s ever revealed.
- Increase the stakes: Raise the stakes by introducing higher stakes for the relationship. Perhaps one of the characters is in a dangerous profession or has a life-threatening illness, which puts their relationship under even more pressure.
Remember, it’s important to balance complication with believability and to make sure that any plot twists or conflicts serve to advance the characters’ emotional journeys. Good luck with your writing!
All these ideas are potentially good ones. They’re all pretty generic, because my prompt was quite general. If you wanted more specific ideas, you could use a prompt that includes more details about your work-in-progress (perhaps writing a bit about your characters and a brief overview of the plot).
#3: Using ChatGPT for Ideas and Outlines
One of my favourite ways to use ChatGPT is when I’m outlining blog posts. I don’t tend to use full outlines from ChatGPT – they’re usually too bland and far-ranging – but it’s really helpful to check them against my own outlines to see whether I’ve missed anything.
I’m writing a blog post about “finding the courage to put your writing out there in the world”. Could you suggest a title for the post and write an outline? The post will be about 1200 words long.
Certainly! Here are a few title suggestions for your blog post:
- “Overcoming Fear: Finding the Courage to Share Your Writing with the World”
- “From Page to Public: Tips for Putting Your Writing Out There”
- “Taking the Plunge: How to Gain Confidence in Your Writing and Share It with Others”
- “Writing for an Audience: Strategies for Putting Your Work Out into the World”
- “Dare to Share: Finding the Courage to Publish Your Writing”
And here is a possible outline for your blog post:
- The fear of sharing your writing with others
- The benefits of putting your writing out into the world
- The purpose of the blog post
II. Understanding the Fear
- Common reasons why writers fear sharing their work
- The importance of acknowledging and accepting these fears
- The difference between healthy and unhealthy fear
III. Building Confidence in Your Writing
- Strategies for improving your writing skills
- Techniques for gaining confidence in your writing abilities
- The importance of self-reflection and self-critique
IV. Finding Your Writing Community
- The benefits of connecting with other writers
- Places to find a writing community
- The value of constructive feedback and support
V. The Publishing Process
- Different avenues for publishing your writing
- Tips for submitting your work for publication
- The importance of perseverance and patience
VI. Overcoming Rejection and Criticism
- Coping with rejection and negative feedback
- Strategies for responding to criticism in a healthy way
- The role of rejection and criticism in the writing process
- A summary of the main points
- A call to action for writers to overcome their fear and share their work
- Final words of encouragement and support.
- Brief prompt and response
I’m not wild about the titles (I’m not sure why ChatGPT is so keen on titles with a colon in) though I quite like “Taking the Plunge: How to Gain Confidence in Your Writing and Share it With Others”.
With the outline, there are some points I’d leave out (like advice on the publishing process, which feels a bit beyond the remit of the post). There are other ideas, though, that I might like to include but hadn’t thought of – like touching on the difference between healthy and unhealthy fear, and explaining how rejection and criticism play a role in the writing process.
#4: Using ChatGPT to Create Example Text
Depending on the type of writing you do, there might be times when you want an example piece to use in some way – and you don’t necessarily want to use something that already exists in the world.
For What Bad Writing Looks Like … and How to Fix It, I came up with a bunch of examples myself, because I wanted to illustrate common problems with writing. But coming up with examples can take a surprisingly long time: if I was going to add to that post, I might ask ChatGPT to write a short piece for me:
Please write me a 200 word short story (with a beginning, middle, and end) that uses lots of dialogue. The main characters should be Sue and John, a couple in their 50s who are going on a cruise for the first time.
ChatGPT came back with:
Sue and John had been married for over thirty years, but they had never been on a cruise before. They were both excited about the adventure that lay ahead.
As they boarded the ship, Sue said, “Wow, this is amazing! Look at all the people and the shops.”
John replied, “Yeah, it’s like a floating city. I can’t wait to explore it all.”
After they settled into their cabin, they decided to check out the buffet. Sue said, “John, there’s so much food! I don’t even know where to start.”
John laughed, “That’s why we have a week, Sue. We’ll try it all.”
As they enjoyed their meal, Sue said, “I can’t believe we’re doing this. It feels like we’re living the life of luxury.”
John agreed, “It’s nice to be pampered for a change. And we don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning for a whole week.”
As they walked around the ship, they discovered all the amenities, like the pool, the casino, and the theater. Sue said, “I feel like we’re on our second honeymoon.”
John smiled, “Yeah, it’s like we’re starting a new chapter in our lives. And we’re doing it together.”
As they watched the sunset from the deck, Sue turned to John and said, “This is the best decision we’ve ever made. I’m so glad we’re here together.”
John hugged her and replied, “Me too, Sue. Me too.”
There are a lot of flaws with this as a short piece of fiction – but that’s fine, because that’s what I wanted. 😉 (Having played around with it a bit, I think ChatGPT does slightly better with stories that don’t involve dialogue.)
#5: Using ChatGPT to Handle Admin-Style Tasks
Another way to use ChatGPT is to help free up time to get your writing done. If there are admin tasks that you can hand over to ChatGPT, that might mean an extra 15–30 minutes to spend on your writing.
Let’s say you want to create a spreadsheet of household chores for you, your partner, and kids. That’s something that might take a while to think through and put together – but ChatGPT could make a good start on it.
Please create a short list of essential household chores. These should be split between Parent 1, Parent 2, Child 1, and Child 2. The parents should have more chores than the children. Format the chores as a table.
Sure, here’s a short list of essential household chores divided into Parent 1, Parent 2, Child 1, and Child 2 categories. Please keep in mind that this is just a sample list, and the actual chores assigned will depend on the individual family’s needs and preferences.
Chores Parent 1 Parent 2 Child 1 Child 2 Kitchen Cook meals Wash dishes Set the table Clear the table Cleaning Vacuum/mop floors Dust and clean Tidy up their room Tidy up their room Laundry Sort and wash clothes Fold and put away Put away their clothes Put away their clothes Garbage/Recycling Take out the trash Recycle Take out the trash Recycle Pet Care Feed and walk pets Clean litter/enclosure N/A N/A
Please note that the above table is just a general guideline, and the actual tasks assigned to each person may vary depending on the household’s specific needs and the abilities of each family member. Additionally, it’s important to remember that these chores should be age-appropriate for children, and that they should always be supervised when performing tasks that involve potential safety hazards.
It’s not a perfect list, but it’s a useful starting point.
You could also ask ChatGPT for help with:
- Coming up with ideas for weekend plans in your area
- Creating a list of movies you and your partner might enjoy
- Planning out your day from a list of tasks (I had mixed success with this, where ChatGPT made some slightly odd decisions, like suggesting I took a 30 minute break immediately prior to my 1 hour lunch break…)
- Custom explanations or definitions of a topic you’re researching. (I wouldn’t use these verbatim but they could be useful for quick background information.)
- Researching options for something you might buy – e.g. I asked for a list of “10 different paper planners” with pros and cons of each.
- Coming up with a list of blogs you could guest post for
… or pretty much any simple admin/research task that you can think of.
Hyperlinks: A Weird Limitation/Quirk That ChatGPT Has
One thing ChatGPT can’t do (at least on the free version) is access the internet! I know that sounds a bit ridiculous – surely it exists on the web – but ChatGPT was trained on the text on the web up until 2021.
This means that it has a particularly strange quirk when you ask it for links. ChatGPT will come up with a perfectly plausible-sounding link … that simply doesn’t exist (and never has). The website domain will exist, but the actual link isn’t a webpage at all. And ChatGPT has no way of checking or understanding that the link doesn’t exist.
Why does it do this? I can only assume that ChatGPT has learnt what a link should look like, so it can make up a plausible-sounding one.
Here’s an example. You can see that I’ve asked for links to reviews, and that ChatGPT has given me some links. The links don’t work. Those pages have never existed.
There’s more on this issue in the Guardian’s piece: ChatGPT is making up fake Guardian articles. Here’s how we’re responding.
AI Could Help You Write … If You Use It Well
AI is just a tool, and what you get out of it very much depends on what you put in.
If you give ChatGPT a title and ask it to write you a blog post, you’ll probably be disappointed with the (grammatically correct but very generic) results.
But if you write more detailed prompts, or use ChatGPT more like a writing buddy or assistant, you might find it’s helpful in all sorts of ways.
You could use ChatGPT to help you push past writers’ block, you could have it come up with a whole bunch of ideas for you to pick from, you could generate example text or handle admin tasks … and much more.
I’d love to hear how you’re using ChatGPT – whether that’s in one of the ways above or you’re trying it out in a different way. Share your experiences (and tips) in the comments below.
I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.
Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.
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