Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Do You Write Like a Robot?


video


She's Writing a Novel.

The video above was covertly filmed at a secret research facility buried deep beneath Area 51.  Using reverse engineered alien technology, an elite group of scientists who worked Monday and Wednesday nights while living on pretzels and coffee finally developed a robot capable of writing genre novels.  "It was bound to happen," said a former scientist for Coast to Coast AM .  "Robots could already play chess, perform surgery and dance like Janet Jackson.  We just took it a step higher- or lower, depending on who you talk to."

It's a dark secret in the publishing industry that as many as 7.4% of the novels they now print are, in fact, written by a prototypical novel writing robot named "Cut and Paste."  As her name suggests, this amazing piece of technology specializes in mass producing genre novels.  The genre market was chosen for the first software trial because so many genre stories are interchangeable. 

"Hard to tell them apart," said one test reader.  "But that's the way most writers make them.  If they show too much creativity, no one's going to publish them anyway.  So why can't robots write if all they have to do is stick to a formula?"

In fact, according to a recent survey, most writers are advised to keep a lid on their creativity if they want to get published.  One writing teacher paid by the publishing industry advises, "Just gender swap roles  and use canned plots like everyone else does. That way you don't have to think so much and you can write more."

This approach is so predictable it gave software engineers ideas.  Computers are great at predictability.  "If we can map the human genome," said Dr. H. Dumpty, "I think we can kick H.K. Rowling's ass.  Sure, in the beginnning we wrote a few clunkers, but 'Cut and Paste' is now a B list author at an Indie publishing house and no one is the wiser.  Everything's done through emails, and for booksignings we hire actresses and pay them minimum wage.  We can afford it because we don't pay 'Cut and Paste' royalties.  We have a good deal going."

They do have a good thing going.  Maybe if writers don't want to become obsolete, we should try being more creative and quit being safe.  Maybe we should inject a little risk into our prose, take a few serious chances.  Maybe we should push the market's envelope instead of letting the publishers seal ours.

Otherwise, we might start seeing 'Cut and Paste' at booksignings instead of H.K. Rowlings.

Just how predictable is your writing?


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30 comments:

G said...

It used to be predictable early on (and I didn't need anyone to point that out to me either, sad to say), but I would hope by this point some five years later it's not that predictable anymore...well, except the fact that I like writing strong female characters, so that sort of becomes a common theme throughout most of my stories.

Rick said...

And I'm betting you don't write like a robot!

David J. West said...

Thanks for the heads up Rick.

I guess I better cut down on the creativity if I want to remain relevant.

Rick said...

I'm not going to report you this time, David, but if your writing doesn't get a lot more boring I just might have to.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've actually probably gotten more predictable over time. maybe not such a good thing in one way at least.

David Cranmer said...

Bring on the robots I say but first lets replace these Hollywood actors. A move I fully endorse.

the walking man said...

Ever read a Painted House by John Grisham? Man moved off his genre, got fair to middlin' reviews for it and jumped right back to lawyers and blah blah blah.

Personally I think next to "A Time To Kill" it was his best, sincerest most honest work.

Christine Purcell said...

It's so important for writers to take risks. I've sometimes found that when I write something I'm anxious about--usually because I think it's too far over the edge--it turns out to be the part readers like best. Let's all write boldly!

Rick said...

I was wondering the other night whether our work goes in cycles, Charles. For some reason the phrase "winter of our discontent" comes to mind. In other words, I wonder sometimes whether comfortable people can really write well at all, if you see what I mean.

Rick said...

I thought Hollywood actors were robots, David!

Rick said...

I agree with you, Mark. "A Time to Kill" was written with honesty and fervor and that's why it was good. It was not boilerplate, and that's what I liked about it.

Rick said...

I couldn't agree more, Christine. When writers lose their edge, their stories don't cut it. And I'm going to attend all your panels this weekend and raise my hand a lot.

laughingwolf said...

i try not to be, but, hay [instead of 'hey']... some wit awreddy said: there's nothing new under the sun.... :O lol

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm not too sure whether my writing is robotic or not; I do know that when I sit down with pencil in hand, there's no tellin' what's gonna happen; I've used that sharp instrument in a few hard to reach places to scratch an itch ... does that mean I'm malfunctioning?

Rick said...

When you was born, laughingwolf, something new came to be under the sun. So what I'm thinking is that "wit" may have been the first robot!

Rick said...

I'm going to have to check the federal regulations on itch scratching and creativity, JR. My first thought is that it might be in violation for the pencil patent, which coulde get you in hot water all by itself.

Nevine said...

Rick, this is a scary scary post. I mean, those of us who work at writing know it's no easy task. And creativity is not even a task, really. It's one of those things one either has or doesn't have. I think I'm gonna stick to my guns with being creative and original, and if no publishers want to look at my work, there's always the self-publishing option. With that, I call the shots, at least for the most part! Let those publishers have robots write their work. And let the readers who want to read those books read them. I'll take a book written by a human over one of those books any time!

Nevine

Jai Joshi said...

This post made me laugh because it so true. I've almost given up on reading the traditionally published stuff. It's all the same thing. Even the supposed new massive hit is nothing even remotely new.

All ideas have been done before so originality is a bit of a misnomer but it used to be that writers wrote the truth, or what they thought of as truth. Now all they seem to write is what they think will sell. It's tedious.

Jai

Rick said...

Nevine, you are such an original voice that no writing robot could ever compete with the elegance of your work. Or be as gracious.

Rick said...

Yes, but Jai, who knows what lurks beneath Area 51?

And you're on the money about the encroaching similarities that stem from the publishing mandate "We want original stuff just like the last bestseller." That road leads straight down the rabbit hole.

Kathryn Magendie said...

Lawd! . . . well, if my writing is ever perceived as robotic, then I'll just lie down and cry!

Travis Cody said...

I've discovered that when the ideas are clear in my head and the characters are chatting away, then my writing is less predictable. But the moment I start forcing something to fit when it clearly won't, that's when the formula starts creeping into the result.

For me, that's why writing can be so frustrating.

Jane Timm Baxter said...

You can tell me if I write like a robot; I can't see the forest for the trees!

Rick said...

Kathryn, I'm going to go with heavenly for your writing and robots just can't touch that!

Rick said...

Yep, Travis. Force fitting writing to a formula hurts the readers heads. One size does not fit all.

Rick said...

Jane, you write more like the way Hunter Thompson partied- fast paced, reckless and stylish all at the same time! Throw in a dash of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and that's your writer's voice in action.

Akasha Savage. said...

Isn't there suppose to be only seven storylines and it's what we make of them that calls the changes?
I hope I don't write like a robot...but my family and friends all say my stories contain a 'Stephen King' moment that they now all look out for! :D

Jane Timm Baxter said...

It is now official, Rick.
I love you.

Rick said...

Nah- I've read some of your writing, Akasha. You are no robot.

Rick said...

Awwwwww- Jane, I'm blushing!