If It's So Easy Why Did It Take Me Twenty Years?

Modern media makes it so easy to publish a novel, I figure in a few years anyone who’s ever put pen to paper will be able to publish one if they have a mind to. Can’t spell? No problem, here’s a super duper spell checker that can translate into 145 languages and spell correctly in all of them. And clean up your grammar.

Can’t come up with a story? Just enter a few ideas and the AI will come up with a story for you – one that’s never been told before. You’ll just need to tweak it and call it your own.

Don’t know anything about typesetting? Well, organizations like Draft 2 Digital already have that figured out – right here, right now. Just go to their website, upload your story – include the cover you bought at the buy-a-cover site and presto, Pick a date and your book will be available from all the retailers, and it will cost you nothing but future royalties. Brilliant.

Every aspect of the writer’s craft is becoming automated. Copy-editing and proof-reading software already exists, even though its not all that useful unless you already know the basics and merely use it to produce a cleaner manuscript out of the gate. They can’t replace a real editor – yet. Websites, blogs, social media sites are all at our fingertips.

We need to keep in mind that all of these things no matter how amazing and sophisticated, are merely tools. And people have limited dexterity when it comes to using tools. You may make a better axe, but your friend Grog over there is better at wielding it. Of course Grog can’t use a bow and arrow to save his life. Etc. There are far too many tools to ever be able to use them all well.

True, we may eventually be able to program the AIs to do it all for us. You just come up with the cool ideas and get an AI to pump out perfect stories full of the things that readers love to read. Just teach them to do the marketing and watch the money roll in.

Which would be fine, as long as you didn’t delude yourself into thinking that any of your titles are really  your books. They’ll most likely be lacking something vital – the human perspective that makes a good book resonate; the little insights on human nature, the clever social commentary that provides a running subtext, the logical progression of events that succeeds or fails based on the believability of the peculiar illogic that’s built into every human being. And our quirky freaking sense of humour.

Because AIs aren’t human. They don’t have nightmares; they don’t believe in psychic phenomena or chasing elusive streaks of good luck; they don’t become alcoholics or drug addicts who inadvertently hurt everyone around them. They’re not built on human templates. Although I do concede that maybe… somehow, someday, they will become maybe even more human than us.

After all, that’s what The Human Template is about.

Why would we ever want to teach our tools to do what I did and spent two or five or twenty-five years writing a first draft; weeks or months or decades writing and reading, and rewriting and rereading, and polishing - only to find a structural error that makes them go back and start all over again?

No matter how human they become, I can't imagine an AI feeling the same kind of joy and release I felt when I reached the end of the final rewrite of the final draft. Of course it's only the first book of two, but the second isn't far behind.

I just took a week off work – didn't even do any blogging – so that I could focus on the drive to the finish line. And now it’s done – really, finally done! The official launch of The Human Template won’t be until November 14th, so I have a chance to line up reviewers and do some marketing. But the new website has now launched and the newsletter is hot on its heels. It’s at dalelsproule.com. Please come and check it out.

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