Challenge,  On Writing


Wow Can Writers Make Excuses to Not Write…

Of course, those who have taken the Killing the Critical Voice workshop we offer every month know that if something you have made up in your head is keeping you from writing, that is critical voice winning.

Critical Voice has one job, and that is to stop you from writing.

Creative Voice is always positive.

Critical Voice is always negative.

So for some reason lately, I have been hearing some amazing excuses to not write.

Now granted, we all have health and family issues that stop the writing. Those are not excuses. Those are reality and we come back to writing when the world allows us to.

But let me give you some examples of these excuses.

One example a few years ago is that I got a letter from a writer back when I did the challenge to publish 70 major books in one year and I did that. The writer was quitting because there was no point in them writing because they would never be able to do what I did. They were comparing themselves as a beginning writer to me, a 40 plus year professional fiction writer and editor and known for being one of the most prolific in the world.

Yeah, that comparison stopped the writer cold. That’s why you should never compare yourself to any other writer for any reason. Period. Just be yourself and do your own thing.

Took me a bunch of emails to talk that writer off the ledge. (grin)

Another family of excuses I hear all the time is that I’m not selling many copies, making any money, so why bother writing?

Equating sales and money with enjoyment of writing means you are more than likely in the wrong art form. Or need to change your attitude. And the extension of this into writing to market and then not selling much is a killer.

So the writer has turned the writing into a “job” that isn’t fun and not working out by some imagined timeline the writer put on success, and so the writer stops writing.

There is not a week that goes by that I don’t hear that “Not Selling Enough” excuse and sadly nothing I can say to them. Writers who are stuck in that excuse have one hope and that is to just write for themselves and for fun and stop watching numbers, sales, reviews, or idiots who want you to promote.

And even more sad, most of the writers who use this excuse do not have the twenty books published under one name needed to even start discoverability.

Either bring the fun back in or stop. Pretty black and white in that excuse.

This excuse is always a stunner to me… The excuse I hear is that the writer hates rewriting so they are not writing new books anymore. That is Death by Rewriting Myth. Nothing I can say and I never really try. That rewriting myth is so, so deep in so many writers because they don’t understand why major writers say they rewrite when they really do not.

But here is a real capper today (that the smart writer has already worked their way through and is back writing). This excuse is, “I heard someone did 50 some books in one month using AI, so what is the point of writing my own work anymore?”

My response was that a monkey can type 50 books in a month, does not mean the books are any good at all or that anyone will read them.

Right now AI is a tool for writers to learn over time. It might help us like computers did, it might hurt many. Jury is out. But markets are slamming the doors on AI written stuff and killing accounts and blocking writers who use it too much in a story or book.

I heard five writers complain in the last two weeks that Amazon shut down their accounts and the writers were using AI. (Using a monkey would have been better in those cases. (grin))

I am sure a lot of things will change over the next few years as to notice requirements of what is AI and what is not. And we are not even talking copyright issues. Some idiot who doesn’t know copyright (all beginning writers) thinks they can sue because they think someone took their work and will soon discover they do not own the copyright to the work.

Or at the next stage, you have a fantasy series that you used AI on and you want to license it to a gaming company. Oops, the gaming company can just take the books and do the game without paying your because you do not own the rights to AI work. Too bad, so sad.

No matter what, AI will not have the human voice we all put into our work. If you are a beginning writer and think the words are all that matter, you have a long way to go. Those of use who understand real fiction writing and what readers want are not worried in the slightest about AI writing tools. And most of us will never bother to use them.

But to use AI as an excuse to not write??? Got a hunch if this one writer had that fear hit them, it is hitting a lot more.

Fiction writing is an art form. Computers can imitate or copy, but never create anywhere near an art form level.

(And if you expect me to put through in comments some argument about what AI can and can’t do, I won’t, because at the moment I flat don’t care. Take it to Twitter where no one cares either, but they will argue with you anyway.)



  • Heather

    Thank you! This post is perfect timing for me. Every once in a while I need that reminder that the act of writing is the best part. Whether I’m writing fiction or academic work, I get the same excited feeling at the end of a writing session.

  • Fabien Delorme

    I recently read a fun article about a writer who writes books in 6 to 8 hours using AI. Those books are short stories though (in the 2k to 5k range), so we’re talking about 500 words per hour. With AI. I can write faster than that only using my word processor.

    So there’s no reason to feel threatened by those writers (and if it works for him and he has fun with that, good for him; well, until he discovers he doesn’t own the copyrights on those books, at least).

  • Philip

    The Money Myth may be the most common myths pushed on the Indie side by self-appointed gurus. People who spend $15,000/month on various advertising so they can boast they then “made” $20,000 on book royalties that month. You’ll notice one major thing about these types: they almost never discuss or focus on the craft of writing and the enjoyment of it. It’s always how to game the system and trick people into buying your book or, worse, borrowing it from KU.

    Writing has never been about money, even for those who happened to make money. In retrospect, we look at the golden age of pulp as a great time for writers, and relatively speaking it was. However, we have the benefit of hindsight. Many writers paced by the mailbox in those years waiting for an acceptance or a check. Or they had to hammer out dozens of stories before they sold their first. What kept them going?

    • dwsmith

      Only dozens of stories, Philip? How about hundreds and hundreds of stories before they sold one. I was well past 100 stories written before I sold one.

  • James Palmer

    I saw a Facebook post yesterday from a writer lamenting about AI. He said one of the 20Booksto50K founders stated they’re going all-in on AI to put out even more books, and he knows he won’t be able to compete with that output and, while he hasn’t given up on writing, he says he’s given up on trying to make money from his writing.

    I told him that this AI stuff isn’t true artificial intelligence, at least right now. It’s barely an expert system, like Siri or Alexa. It’s iterative, not creative. It only copies what it’s been fed and can’t produce at the creative level a human being can. And the folks who want to use it to pump out a ton of books fast are the same clowns who think writing is some get-rich-quick scheme, a dodge or hustle, something that can be “hacked.” And the minute they don’t make six figures a month, or get dinged for pushing out unreadable dreck they didn’t even bother to copyedit, or get their Amazon accounts banned as you suggested–I didn’t think of that–the minute it starts being work they’ll move on and go do something else. But we’ll still be here. Because all the “hard work” they seek to avoid is the part we love. Making up characters. Worldbuilding. Telling stories.

    • dwsmith

      Well said, James. And shows what that founder of 20Books thinks of his readers, doesn’t it?

      Oh, wait, that’s what Traditional publishing thinks of their readers. In other words, they don’t. Readers to them are just numbers.

      We indie publishers are always thinking of our readers. At least those of us who will be around for a long time, unlike those who want to take shortcuts all the time.

      • Brady

        What you mention here is the thing that makes AI a non issue for me. Readers. Even IF, big IF (I think impossible) AI becomes indistinguishable from real writing, I don’t believe you can lie to readers long enough to have a career. People want a relationship of some kind with the author. Even if it’s just reading their books and never directly interacting. Imagine finding out your favorite writer was a fraud. Career over. AI just doesn’t matter and though I’m tired of hearing about it as well, I wish people would think of this more. Writing is communicating stories to other human beings and no matter how good a machine gets (probably never that good anyway), that just won’t cut it on principle. I don’t think readers will tolerate this, so it doesn’t matter what opportunists and short sighted money grabbers think or do.

        • Kate Pavelle

          About an AI writer being a fraud: remember about 10 years ago when writer’s privacy began to disappear? The occasional reader got a bit demanding for attention, and adjustments to expectations were made on both sides. Then about 5 years ago, some genres experienced massive scandals, where a male pen name got revealed as a female writer. Or a (very young, still legal minor) Caucassian’s woman pen name got revealed to be borrowed from her older, Latin boyfriend to be able to publish her high-suspense gay romance. Who, unfortunately, got into the act and started to post sob stories and collect money for non-existent emergencies, and so on. The fandom wasn’t kind.
          Similar train wrecks will will ensue with AI. I think it will happen, and it will simply have to run its course.

    • T Thorn Coyle

      James, I agree that these machines are not AI. As far as I can tell, they’re not nearly even to the level of Deep Blue let alone AlphaGo yet.

      Besides, writing is fun. And no one else has my voice. So why would I give that up?

      Regarding people’s fears about competition and a tsunami of books:
      The days of big blockbuster books are long gone. The days of everyone reading the same 10 books at the same time are gone. And that gives me hope. Why?

      We all get to find *our* readers in our niches, the ones who love our worlds and our voices. It’s why I love things like Kickstarter and Patreon so much. A relatively small group of readers allows me to make a living doing what I love.

      All that said, Michael Anderle has been misquoted on this, I think. I didn’t hear his 20Books Seville keynote, but looked up a recent conversation with Joanna Penn.

      He says, regarding putting out 10k books a year: “10,000 books can be all stories and all modalities
      Which means e-book, paperback, hardback. Then you go to audio, which can be synthetic audio, synthetic multicast audio. It can go to comic books, graphic novels. story scripts. It can go all modalities and all languages, all modalities everywhere, which means around the world all at once, which is obviously a digital manifestation.
      And so when you do that, even if you took 10,000 books and you divided it by five modalities, which be easy to accomplish with the ones I just announced, and 10 languages, which also easy to do, that’s 200 books. 200 times, five times 10 is 10,000. And a lot of people don’t want to either clue into that…
      … we haven’t put out one AI-written book yet, period.”

      Anderle is known for doing business his way. He wrote 40 books, co-wrote I don’t know how many others, and has a stable of authors working in his worlds. Which he said he would do years ago when he wanted to “James Patterson the shit out of his career.”

      Most people will never go that route–or the AI writing route–because most of us don’t want to. See my opening paragraphs.

      Here’s the Penn/Anderle link if folks are interested:

      • dwsmith

        Thanks, Thorn. Very well said and I am sure most people here don’t have a clue what you were talking about with modalities.

        Anyone care to explain that in English terms that I can understand as an old fart.

        • Connor Whiteley

          Good points Thorn.

          From Bing

          “a particular mode in which something exists or is experienced or expressed.”

          a particular form of sensory perception:- “the visual and auditory modalities”

        • Cheryl

          From my time in corpo- (or more accurately, bureaucratic-) world, ‘modalities’ is just a gussied-up ‘modes’, rather like ‘utilize’ is a fancy-dress ‘use’.
          My 2 centimes.

        • T Thorn Coyle

          By modalities it seems that Anderle is just talking about IP forms, or tiny slices of a licensing pie.

          200 books could equal 10,000 “modalities.” Which can include AI voices, maybe AI initial translations… who knows?

          So I suspect that people heard this and went “Michael Anderle says he’s going to publish 10k books a year, using AI!”

        • Sheila

          >>I am sure most people here don’t have a clue what you were talking about with modalities.<<

          It's the Magic Bakery, Dean! That's how I read it, anyway.

          As to AI, we have no true AI, and if we did, it would probably be planning to kill humanity. All we have here is some darn good programming, admittedly, which does a whole lot of stealing and piecing stuff together. That is not creating, it's fake.

          So-called "AI" writing is just the latest easy passive income stream put out there for those who don't have enough sense to know what being a writer is about. It's like all the hype about "publishing" low content crap, which after four or five years has pretty much flooded Amazon with worthless junk. To the point it doesn't even show up in searches for "books".

          Amazon seems to be determined to fall for yet another scheme, like the PLR stuff they finally banned. That's started to come back, with people buying templates for their "journals" and such. Accounts banned left and right, and still the low content continues.

          I suspect this "AI" flood will go the same way: ignorant folks, often desperate folks, falling for this easy money scheme, paying scammers for courses in how to get rich "on Kindle", with no work and no money (outside of those courses). It will slow down review times even more, get people falsely accussed of doing something wrong, and even more account closings for breaking TOS.


          Meanwhile, I'm just writing for me, and letting all the gurus and their empty chatter pass on by.

    • Rikki Mongoose

      Yep, you’re right. The AI generators looks so well because they generate good grammar, but they are just self-teaching expert system with randomiser inside. But ask them for a specific thing you’ll receive just word salad.

      All people who are afraid of AI generated plots showd be afraid first of Rory’s Story Cubes. Since 2004 anyone can get random story ideas just rolling dices. There’re even genre specific sets and mobile app. They even dont need internet connection to work and even 1 bundle has more then 10 000 000 unique combinations.

      I guess, why writing markets aren’t destroyed yet. Maybe because the writer tells stories, not neural networks or dices from toy store

  • Frank Theodat

    I’ve been following your myth busting series on trad vs indie the past few days – really eye-opening!

    When you really think of it, the cost of going traditional is just too great and doesn’t make much sense for writers. I’m currently building my body of work with short fiction and looking to put a couple of collections together by the end of the year. I looked at what the cost would be for me to do everything: writing, covers, Indesign, etc. and It’s totally doable! The math doesn’t lie.

    My wife has always been my first reader and has agreed to look over my work. She used to work at our college writing studio doing proofing and editing. She doesn’t edit my voice or widdle my story down either. Just the typos, and other basics.

    When you do the math this way, you begin to understand that indie gives you the ultimate freedom to produce the stories you want and when you want to. A collection a month is doable for me now that I’ve gotten out of the way of my creative voice.

    I’m having fun learning the craft and business of fiction writing.

    As always, thanks Dean for the knowledge.

  • Kristi N.

    I will admit to one occasion when I will allow the critical voice to stop me from writing, and that is when the creative voice wakes me up at 3:30AM with the suggestion “Let’s write until it’s time to go to work!” and the critical voice looks at the clock, says “We are NOT writing at 3:30AM.” I draw the line, because I know very well that if I give in, I will soon be waking up at 2AM, then 1:30AM, and so on. At my age and with my responsibilities (full time work with caregiving), I can’t afford to go nocturnal.

  • Michael W Lucas

    I’m amazed that anyone is submitting AI-generated books to Amazon right now.

    One of the things KDP asks is if you hold the copyright. The Library of Congress hasn’t finally declared if AI-generated text is copyrightable or not. That comes 28 June ( Claiming ownership of AI text right now is foolish. Of COURSE Amazon is gonna give you the boot.

    Yet another aspect of “people don’t understand copyright.

  • jaran

    You nailed the voice problem. When I was first checking out chatGPT I told someone that all the stories it writes sound monotone or beginner ish?

    I tried an experiment where I told chatGPT to write various scene prompts in the first person in Poe’s style.

    In the AI Poe scenes they have no voice and therefore you don’t get sucked in. When I go read Poe’s actual stories I get sucked right in by his voice.

  • James Palmer

    I think what Michael Anderle is talking about with modalities is just all the different forms of media a book can exist in: print, ebook, audio, full-cast audio, comic book, graphic novel, television, film, etcetera. I also think modalities is definitely the wrong word here, and he’s just trying to be fancy.

  • Colleen

    When you say “the twenty books published under one name needed to even start discoverability” does that mean 20 books in one genre or length, or for one age group? I’m curious, because I write across genres…and cross-genre, so, while I have 20 books out, they’re not all in one place on a distributor’s bookshelf. I’m guessing that this means it will take a bit longer for the discoverability to kick in so I’m trying to figure out if I need to have 20 books all under one name in one genre, or maybe just more books out in total.

    • dwsmith

      On name, absolutely. People find books by authors by the name. Genre, not so much if you are clear to the genre in the cover and the sales copy.

  • JF Brown

    Great article on AI and writing, Dean. But I’m curious as to just how AI can be detected in a piece of writing. What are the signs to look For? Thanks.

    • dwsmith

      Computers can spot it just like plagiarism because in a lot of elements it is. Person using it might think what they are using is fresh and new and it is not, it is stolen, for the most part, from other’s work (by what is called “training”and spit out. And it is almost always dull with no life or author voice to it. Just don’t use it. Really is that simple.