Archive for November, 2020


And it’s done!

I got this here NaNoWriMo novel to 50,000 words in the middle of yesterday sometime, and have been proofreading a bit and all, but basically it’s done. A graph showing 50,000 words as of yesterday

Here’s the link to the book itself, again: All Reality.

Same theory as always about why I’m finished so crazily early: all of my interactions with AI Dungeon and Shortly over the last few months have:

  • Gotten me used to spinning narratives up and keeping them going,
  • Reduced even more than usual my concern for “consistency” or “making sense” :) ,
  • Given me quite a number of ideas saved up, some of which appeared in one form or another in the book,
  • Given me tools for generating random stuff to read and consider and be inspired by when I get stuck.

An important thing that using an AI Generative Neural Network Language Model has not done is:

  • Actually generating a non-trivial amount of text for me that I was willing to put into the book verbatim, or even lightly edited,

I am only one datapoint, obviously, but my experience suggests to me that GPT3 and family can be useful tools in a writer’s toolkit, but are no threat to writing as a profession, or even as a hobby.

I started steering the narrative toward an ending at about 45K words, I’d say, and arrived at that ending a bit early; I ended up going back and adding a chapter to make up the last 1500 words or so. I’m rather fond of the added chapter, and I’m hoping it’s not obviously bolted on after the fact.

(At least one of the chapters that I wrote inline, so to speak, strike me as feeling much more bolted-on, heh heh.)

As I was writing it, I had some thoughts along the lines of “Ah, this is being all meta again, and my NaNoWriMo novels are so often meta, I’m just repeating myself, sigh.” But reading it now I don’t think that’s true. Sure, I have some favorite themes about the nature of reality, the role of language, what storytelling is, and like that, but the way this book examines those themes, and the particular aspects and related things that it plays with, are I think different from my prior ones.

I’m going to keep reading it over, but I doubt I’ll make major changes. Hardly anyone ever reads these things I think :) but if you’d like to, any and all comments are always welcome.


Twenty-seven five

So this NaNoWriMo stuff has continued to go absurdly well; I’ve now passed 27,500 (twenty-seven thousand, five hundred) words (see figure) in this year’s novel, which is ridiculous.

I used GPT-3, via the Shortly client, a bit more today than on previous days, for ideas and names and the contents of pieces of text that needed to be relatively random, and so on. I generally paste in the last few paragraphs or the current chapter-so-far or whatever, and then hit “Write for Me”, and then undo and re-do a few times before I get something that either gives me a good idea how to continue, or even that appeals to me enough to copy and paste into the novel and then edit to be right.

It doesn’t feel like cheating, but it does feel really interesting. It helps that the novel is very random and really open to anything whatever happening. I wonder how useful someone writing a more usual novel with fixed characters and a known plot and outline and stuff would find it.

I’m also continuing running around in AI Dungeon, which I’m convinced is keeping the old narrative voice and typing fingers oiled up. I’ve also brought in a few characters and incidents and references (but not directly any words except a few sentence fragments) from my AI Dungeon adventures, into the novel.

Since I’m too lazy right now to update the davidchess dot com nanowrimo landing page, and just in general, I will write down some words about the prior NaNoWriMo novels (and attempts), in order from the first time:

  • In 2001, before the current NaNoWriMo website records even began :), I wrote Straight On To The Exit, a relatively straightforward real-world story with (oh, I’d forgotten that!) a set of questions at the end of many of the chapters, and with a cute gimmick that let me basically write whatever words I wanted when I ran out of ideas.
  • In 2002, I wrote In Dark, a science fiction story set on and within the body of a giant comatose lizard floating in interstellar space. Perhaps my favorite setting so far. :)
  • In 2004 (don’t remember what happened in 2003, probably I was just sensible), I wrote Take Good Care Of Yourself And Others, a more (um) realistic near-future science fiction story basically about the world just before the Singularity, in which I used excerpts from actual spam that I received as decorators and wordcount.
  • In 2005 I wrote Diveritmenti, an epistolary novel with an unreliable narrator, which might be a vampire story or something.
  • In 2006 I think I was busy being clinically depressed and discovering Second Life (which helped a bit with the clinically depressed thing),
  • In 2007 I wrote Another Door, about a house that’s larger (well, much larger) on the inside than on the outside. This one had very little (that I can recall) in terms of gimmicks for wordcount, and an impressive ending; this is one of my favorites (well, they all are).
  • In 2008 I wrote Strangers (aka Shore Leave), another relatively straightforward contemporary science fiction story, about the impact on all concerned of the arrival of the first interstellar visitors to Earth, in the form of a crazy chaotic world-ship containing hundreds of different species (probably).
  • In 2009 I wrote “Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence.“, which is more of a long poem or chant or experimental song lyric or something, and might well be considered cheating given the amount of repetition in the text.
  • In 2010 there was just too much going on.
  • In 2011 I started but did not finish Murder in the Castle of Wizards. A little humbling failure is good, sob.
  • In 2012 there was like a big snowstorm and power failures and so on.
  • In 2013 I did NaPoWriMo instead, and wrote thirty poems in April; that was fun!.
  • In 2014 I did NaNoGenMo instead, and wrote a program that wrote “Gazanduwo U“. 50,000 words, none of them in any human language as far as I’m aware. (I did put this on the NaNoWriMo site; awfully close to cheating!)
  • In 2016 I wrote The Mercy of Fate, in which I explicitly rolled the dice to determine the direction of the story in various places; I will have to re-read this sometime to see how it worked out. I don’t remember having been very satisfied with it.
  • In 2019 I wrote Pillsbury Baccalaureate, basically science fiction, which starts when a person discovers he has memories that aren’t his, and leads into adventures with machines for exploring (something like) alternate universes.
  • And here we are in 2020, just over 27,500 words. :)

So in some sense this is my eleventh time doing NaNoWriMo (not counting the NaNoGenMo year), this will be my tenth NaNoWriMo novel when I finish it, and I’ve also done NaPoWriMo once and NaNoGenMo once. Not bad!


Seventeen Thousand Words?

So this is about NaNoWriMo again, not about this “election” thing that they’re having.

I’ve apparently written nearly seventeen thousand words of this novel (here’s the link!) since day before yesterday, which is completely absurd.

My current theory that it’s all the interaction that I’ve been doing with AI Dungeon and other GPT-3 clients; it’s gotten me very used to text and to writing and to narrative, and even specifically to narrative that just keeps flowing and flowing regardless of consistency or plot or sense.

So, perfect for NaNoWriMo! :)

I’ve also now used a couple of characters and ideas from my AI Dungeon adventures in the story (Rose, who can warp reality and likes the infinite Constantinople, and the old derelict Abbey and its mysterious caretaker and its fate, for instance), and that’s been somewhat helpful.

As someone said, I’ve basically been doing writing exercises pretty constantly for weeks, without quite realizing it.

Twenty thousand today? :) Probably not. But you never know!


NaNoWriMo 2020!

It’s November, and therefore it’s National Novel Writing Month!

(I notice that my own NaNoWriMo landing page is a bit out of date; I think there’s at least one complete story that isn’t linked there, I’ll have to fix that.)

I had various thoughts about novel-writing this year. The first and most obvious being “given that I’m not spending any time driving or waiting for the train or riding the subway this year, writing 50,000 words should be a lead-pipe cinch and/or a piece of cake!”.

The next being “and for that matter I could just have GPT-3 write the whole thing for me!”. That was an evil thought, and I realized that I was not going to do that, because pheh. One year I did post 50,000 words written entirely by a computer program, but it was a computer program that I wrote. Which is entirely different.

I thought about doing a sort of collaboration with GPT-3, writing some myself and having GPT-3 do some. But then I tried that a little, and realized that although GPT-3 does have its moments, and is at all times better than anything I would have expected just a year ago, it’s still not very good, and I’m not willing to put my name on anything that it writes, beyond maybe a recipe or a selected sentence or two that I’ve edited for embarrassing errors.

(This is not surprising, really; it’s trained on much of the internet, and much of the writing on the internet is, surprise surprise, ordinary and mediocre and full of poor usage and solecisms. I don’t want my writing to be that way except to the extent that I do it myself!)

So yesterday I decided to just write normally, and be willing to use GPT-3 (in the form of AI Dungeon, Shortly, Philosopher AI, or whatever) for ideas and inspiration now and then, and perhaps a sentence fragment or suggestions for town and character names or whatever.

I went over to the NaNoWriMo site and donated and activated myself (that link seems to work only if you’re also logged into the site, which seems a pity, really), and I started writing.

book coverAnd I wrote over eight thousand words by the end of the day, which is rather preposterous, given that the sort of Required Daily Minimum is just 1,666 words, the Typical Daily Goal is like 2,000 words, and the Daily Stretch Goal is 2,500 or three thousand. So woot!

(I even made a cover for the novel, which you can see on my profile page if you can see my profile page, and why not I’ll also put the image here, using a cute site where you can do that for like $3 using their simple templates and tools and images and stuff, and yes I did get the title slightly wrong haha.)

The novel this year is called “All Reality” at the moment, and you can read it in real time, as I write it, here.

You can see my NaNoWriMo 2020 related Twitter updates like say here.

My thoughts about why I wrote so much on the first day include:

  • Maybe I have lots of thoughts saved up from the year or three since last time I did this, and once I’ve scrawled them all down I will slow down a lot, and/or
  • Maybe the few times that I did use GPT-3 to help (some proper names, a few sentence fragments, a pie recipe that I retried on several times and edited for flavor afterward) got me over spots that would normally have stopped me or worn me down enough to stop sooner, and/or
  • Maybe all of the textual interaction that I’ve been doing with the various GPT-3 clients in the last few months have gotten me both extra-fluent with text, and also full of ideas about stories and authors and levels of reality (which is what the 2020 novel is so far turning out to be about).

We’ll see if I can keep up anything like that pace today! :)