On AI

Photo by Maria Diaz

This post is about my feelings on AI (artificial intelligence) and the future of writing and publishing. First, I should disclose that I am biased, and also old-school. I am more like the character Will Smith plays in I-Robot. Of course, when new inventions have been introduced in the history of humankind, there has been distrust, inquisition, questions, trepidation, and so much more. Much has been said about AI, especially, during the past year, and by now most of you must be familiar with some applications in technology, including writing. My concern is with the future of writing and the quality of content, as well as the increase on an already saturated market full of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Must all be doom and gloom? Of course not. The same was said about print on demand and independent publishing, and here we are today. Saturation? Yes. I am sure that there are many benefits to AI, probably across and extended to all endeavors. Going back to the topic of quality and quantity, AI will be a best friend to those who want to make a quick buck while saturating the writing market with stories/content written at a fast pace and without care or soul.

That being said, so many questions arise, at least on my mind.

Will the publishing giants favor their own mass-produced stories?

Will freelance writers compete with AI on speed and delivery or will they embrace it?

Will they be paid less for their originality? What are the parameters for originality when it comes down to AI? Is it possible for AI to commit plagiarism?

Will readers appreciate a book written in what will become the “classical way” or will they become consumers of fast stories that might cater to their need for “more and quickly, please.”

Will the quality of stories suffer, or will it challenge writers? Will readers even notice?

Will AI become a favorite tool of writers or an archenemy?

Will it help with writer’s block or make it worse?

Will writers who care for quality and not quantity feel threatened by AI?

Will human writing even exist in the future or will “Robotina” kill the writer?

Of course, it is too early to tell, and I don’t have a crystal ball on my desk. As for this old-school writer, I believe that words evoke feelings, and that might or might not matter in a not-so-distant future.

How Important is the Support of a Spouse/partner for a Writer?

Many years ago, I was watching a best-selling author being interviewed and she was asked if her husband read her books. She answered no, and proceeded to explain that he was very supportive and encouraging of her career, however, he had never read one of her novels. The interviewer seemed a bit puzzled; however, I think that in most cases, a spouse or significant other, even family and very close friends, do not jump into the reader’s pool right away, or ever.

This is something that for some writers is a sensitive topic, and they feel hurt when the people closest to them seem to disregard their books. It happens more than we might admit, in all fields/careers. Personally, I don’t think that if a close person has not read my books that it translates into not caring or a lack of support. Many times, people are not avid readers, or just don’t have enough time, or interest in the genre. If my work is treated with disdain or uninformed harsh criticism, (happened on one occasion, and by a person who I thought would be very happy for me) then, I view that as a different issue that is rooted in that person’s issues and not in my work. There is a distinction to be made.

As human beings, it is natural to expect the support and cheers of the people who matter most to us, and most likely, these are the same people who have supported us in many other ways throughout our entire life, so when something that is very dear and important to us doesn’t seem to have equal importance in their lives, we tend to feel hurt. Support comes in a variety of ways and people show their support differently. For example, my husband has not read any of my novels, but he has been very supportive in many ways, whether that is flashing a big smile when I publish a new book, economic support, giving away copies or promo cards to people he knows and I don’t, and many other ways. Do I mind that he has not read my books? Absolutely not. Having his support is having him on my team, and that is valuable to me.

For writers, sometimes just a caring or congratulatory word suffices; it shows that the person acknowledges their effort and is present, even if that person never reads one page.

How do You Measure Success as a Writer?

Photo by M.A.D.

At first glance, it seems an easy question to ponder, however, the more I think about it, the deeper it goes, especially, if you have been writing for many years. Expectations change with time, experience, and age. The young writer is full of dreams and “youthful expectations,” while a more mature writer has navigated the murky waters and has defined and redefined the path to success, or even what success means now, in comparison to what it meant when the writer wrote/published the first book.

Success is a personal measure, however in contrast, it is measured by others, and labeled. For a writer, success might be measured by income generated by the books, other related sales, or by the number of books written. For other writers, recognition, fame, or the validation of a name is very important. Comments, reviews, engagements … all of this might spell success for a writer if that was in the “personal definition” of success the writer had in mind. For other writers, money, fame, numbers … are not as important, and this group writes for the love of it. Their dreams are not crushed by external factors. However, as humans we need a certain degree of recognition, whether that is from our inner circle or external, a spouse, a friend, or a reader that happened to give of his/her time, and left a review, or a comment. Even as children we yelled, ” Look Daddy, look at me.” We might not want the fame, but we want the recognition. The socio-economic background of a writer also has an influence in the type of goals and expectations. Life experiences, self-esteem, all of it, are elements of influence when defining success, whether as a writer or any other career.

It is when the personal measure of success collides with the external measure of success that there is conflict, that is, if the writer’s expectations are in line with the external measure of success. A writer who hasn’t sold many books might view the work as failure because the definition of success included sales, income, number of readers, reviews …. At the same time, the outside world would not consider the same writer a successful writer. However, if the same writer manages to write a best seller the next year, for example, both “personal measure” and “external measure” are at peace, and so is the writer. It doesn’t matter if that same writer had already ten or twenty books under his/her belt. Going a step further, those books might have found new life now, new readers, and might be included (or not) in the vault of success by default.

Mind games, circumstantial, true desire? How do you measure your success as a writer? What has more weight for you, internal or external factors?

A Writer Evolves with the Characters

I am writing this blogpost from the point of view of the evolution of the writer as opposed to how a character evolves in the story. Throughout the story all characters evolve, change, as experiences and challenges are introduced by the writer. The interaction of the characters and the different situations the god-pen writes for them makes this evolution possible. Where there is no change there is no story, it comes naturally. In a series, this process is more evident and so much more engrained in a character, not only because of the many situations a character goes throughout a series, but also because there is the fictional pass of time. Most likely, the character is very different from the first book until the end of the series. This is also where the writer’s evolution takes place.

From that first concept of a character until the end of a story or series, the writer has been learning, feeling, and even listening to the needs of the characters. Sometimes, a character will fight a writer’s pen, and the writer’s best decision for this character will entail listening to it, and analyzing the particular issues that are present. At that moment, not only the writer has changed, but the original intention as well. As characters mature and go along in the story, so does the view and “feeling” the writer has of them and for them. A writer that doesn’t “feel” a character has not listened to it. A stubborn pen is worse than a stubborn character.

At the end of a story/series, a relationship, a connection has been attained but also, there has been a mutual understanding, a symbiotic evolution.

Missing in Writing

An update.

One thing that I can say for sure is that writing never becomes easy. I have been plugging and unplugging, on and off, in relation to my book in progress, The Girl Who Could Not Love. This never happened before. On the contrary, most books have been a flowing delight to write. I have never experienced a certain distance or disconnection from a story before. It truly puzzles me. I have made some progress, more like the progress of a tortoise on a ten-mile run. I am not sure of what it is holding my pen hostage, but it feels like I am missing in writing, as if a degree of the angle is missing. And that is mostly why I have pulled the plug a few times, give it a rest, and try to restart the engine.

If I were to compare it to an engine, I would say that my pen is misfiring (my husband is a mechanic; terminology just sticks with me). Right now, I have ended a sabbatical in relation to my novel, with the hope that the pieces have come together at the right angle, at least in my head, and that my focus has sharpen. It was my intention to have a release by the end of the year, but good intentions do not fill the inkwell, neither do they publish a book.

The missing link is out there inside my head, and I just have to find it and make the connection. Because I am no James Patterson, prolific and able to work on several stories at a time, a well-oiled writing machine in my opinion, I will have to approach the story from several angles until I find the right one, the one that fits. Scrapping it would be too painful to bare at this point. May Parker be with me.

Disconnecting From the Story

Photo by M.A.D.

Call it writer’s block, a dry spell, or anything else, it happens to many writers. It is the dreaded ailment of the pen, the disheartenment of a writer’s soul, without notice, unexpectedly and untimely. It is that break in the connection with the story, like a broken bridge that is hard to repair. Whatever prompts the disruption is unique to the writer, as it is the healing process, the timing when writer and story will be in communion once more.

Writer’s block might feel as falling out of love with the story, or not finding the right angle to continue writing. It might come in the form of disillusion with the story or even the craft, a broken heart of sorts that refuses to pump ink. Waiting and longing for the magic moment only seems to make this disease of the inkwell more acute and prolonged. Ironically, its only cure seems to be time. Drip, drip, drip … the ink flows again.

Ghostly Lines

I guess this post is inspired by the change in weather and the crisp air …

Photo by M.A.D.

As a writer, I am attuned to inspiration, and it can come from anywhere, anytime, anyplace. An overheard conversation between strangers, a dream, headlines, a person, and sometimes, as lines that pop up in my mind out of nowhere. I call these ghostly lines because these have no context or previous reference, just appear. It may be a phrase, one word, a brief image that suddenly comes, or a banner of words. If there is pen and paper nearby, I immediately make a notation; if not, I make a point to remember as best as I can. Sometimes I do, sometimes I do not. I keep these words or images filed in a little green box for future use. I figure, this came to me for a reason.

For example, once a brief image of a well-dressed young woman from another era suddenly appeared in my mind, and she was saying to someone, “Even the poor have gardens.” I briefly wrote the scene and the line and filed it in my green box. This time, I was in my car, my husband was driving, so I was able to take out a notebook I keep inside my bag and wrote it down. It didn’t make sense at the moment.

Do not ignore your random thoughts and ideas. Those may come suddenly and without reason. Write those because you might be able to use them one day. These might inspire a story, a chapter, or even the ending of a story, you never know. Take these ideas for what they are – useful random bits and pieces of inspiration. Never underestimate the power of your pen.

Writer, Don’t Take your Words for Granted

Photo by M.A.D.

Most people I have talked with seem to misunderstand what a writer does. Either they think that words are cheap a dozen or that writing a story is easy. A common suggestion is, “Why don’t you write about this or that?” As writers, we tend to draw inspiration from many places, but inspiration is all it is. The original idea must mean something, entice the pen, allure us, arouse our curiosity in order to proceed into the crafting of a story. Sometimes, we agonize over a character, a chapter, or even a single word. Although these suggestions might be well intended, I compare it to asking a farmer how many acres he/she has; you just don’t go there. It is like me asking you how much money is in your bank account.

For some, writing a book is all about money, for others, about fame and recognition, but for a true story lover, it is about everything. That might be hard to explain. If you have ever had an encounter with writer’s block, you know how soul-sucking it is, and how debilitating it is to the mind of a writer. A torment that ink and paper cannot cure. Only the return of the missing word can alleviate the tormented heart and soul of the afflicted writer. There is no time or expectation, only hope and desire. It is a mystery of mysteries, a black hole that consumes words, pen, and writer, for time does not exist anymore, only days without words, empty pages, a crusty dried pen, and innumerable cups of coffee. Days come and go blending into one another, a timeless punishment by the muse who refuses to sprinkle the miraculous ink that will cure the ailment. Until one day … And until then, making peace with writer’s block is a sensible solution.

What are the Signs?

Signs are everywhere, that is, if we take the time to see and listen. Have you ever heard someone say, “Signs of the times?” It refers to characteristics of a particular era or present time, or even alluding to certain events that are expected to happen, such as “end times” or other. Signs could also be warnings given to us from above before something is about to happen or we are about to make the wrong decision. Different from clues, which take us forward, from one to the next and so on, in order to reveal something or truth, signs serve more as a beacon, a warning just on time.

I have had signs before something is about to happen. For example, on one occasion, I gave a ride to a coworker who was sabotaging me at work, unbeknownst to me. A small glass blown angel that I had hanging from my backing-up mirror, suddenly broke in pieces and fell just as this person sat in the car. I could not explain why and how it happened because it was well secured with a sturdy chain, and the chain remained intact, not broken. Although I found the incident unusual at that time, I ignored it. It was a warning from above, which I understood later on.

In writing, sometimes we use signs and clues when creating a story. Mystery thrillers are a good example. However, one should separate one from the other. Clues take you to a destination, signs warn you about it. Many people refer to these as one and the same, but I view these as different in purpose. I made use of clues in my novel Moonlit Valley, as the main character Rose Carrigan follows a path that reveals the truth. I made use of signs also, such as a warning given to her by Black Hawk, one of her protectors. Signs and clues are sparingly used throughout my novels, which deal with the topics of the Divine and the supernatural. As a writer, I try not to center the story solely on clues and signs. I think these should enhance the story not become it.

Now, if we could only see a butterfly on top of the bird, we could make up a story.

On Writing – Birthright, Destiny, and Free Will

Birthright – A right or privilege to which a person is entitled by birth.

Destiny – The seemingly preordained or inevitable course of events.

Free Will – The power or discretion to choose.

(American Heritage Dictionary)

These are topics/ideas that are common in many novels, whether paranormal, historical fiction or other. The Dinorah Chronicles trilogy presents the idea of birthright as central to the series from denial to acceptance to fulfillment. At first glance, these three concepts might appear different or even contradictory to each other, however, these fuel each other, and in the end, the character chooses (free will) to fulfill a birthright and/or what might be viewed as destiny. A birthright might be given but a destiny is chosen by the exercise of free will, whether that birthright is fulfilled or not. In the end, the character finds “self” or grows into the pursuit of knowledge.

The Dinorah Chronicles is available via Amazon in eBook and paperback format.