While writing a book can be overwhelming, I discovered a new approach to overcome the challenges and successfully complete it with the help of AI.
I’ll share my detailed process and the steps I took to transform my disorganized ideas into a well-structured and coherent book.
Key Highlights (TL;DR):
- AI’s transformative role in writing: Leveraging AI tools, specifically the GPT 3.5 turbo 16K model and Anthropic AI’s Claude 2, I produced a significant volume of content in a limited timeframe.
- Learning from mistakes: My initial writing process was inefficient and aimless. Shifting to a structured AI-supported approach and allowing for “ugly” first drafts dramatically improves productivity.
- The power of collaboration: Combining the strengths of AI and human expertise, I created a compelling and cohesive book, complete with a detailed outline, structured chapters, and real-world examples.
How I Started Writing the Book
A few years ago, during my vacation, I set a goal to dedicate at least 30 minutes every night to writing.
I sat before my computer and poured my thoughts onto the screen, accumulating 20,000 words over three to four weeks.
Discovering the Importance of Structure
During the writing, I compiled all the important bits into a concept file to keep the clarity of the targets I set for the book.
This comprehensive document was not intended to be a part of the book, but it provided a deep understanding of the book’s subject matter and its intended audience.
Concept file encompased all the essential details, such as the book’s title, subtitle, target audience, problems, pains, needs, and gains.
Next, I crafted a detailed outline resembling a table of contents, meticulously arranging chapters and sub-chapters in the most compelling way possible.
I used Markdown to structure my content, simplify management, and improve content organization.
I divided the book into chapters and sub-chapters, allowing me to create separate files for each sub-chapter.
Drafting instead of Editing
One lesson I learned from my previous failed attempt was the importance of avoiding over-editing during writing.
Instead, I began by outlining the book in detail.
For each sub-chapter, I would write a few words as ideas developed.
Rather than writing linearly and going back to revise constantly, I focused on getting my initial ideas down, embracing imperfection, and avoiding over-editing.
In the words of Hemingway, “Write drunk, edit sober.” Even the “ugly” first draft could have significant value.
However, after several weeks of writing, I realized that my words lacked coherence and required much more time investment, making it challenging to transform them into a book.
Sadly, this has put my little project on hold indefinitely.
I wasn’t ready to invest 6-9 months of writing.
Harnessing the Power of AI in Book Writing
Here comes the turning point—the general availability of AI tools.
Excited about the possibilities, I consolidated all my writing files into a single document and uploaded it to the Claude AI.
Claude 2 is a powerful large language model (LLM) with a 100k token context window. The power of Claude is that you can easily upload text files as part of the prompt.
The feedback I received from Claude AI acted as a catalyst, re-igniting my motivation to continue with my book project.
I lost the initial prompts, but they were simple.
Here is one of the simple prompts I used, and I have played with different “personas”:
Imagine you are a scientist in the field of project management, and you are an experienced Horizon 2020 and Europe beneficiary. You also work as an expert evaluator for European Commission. Please review the book I have written, and provide me with a step-by-step list of improvements I could make to add more value to the readers.
The AI provided detailed feedback comparable to an experienced editor specializing in non-fiction and scientific research writing.
It was like a spark igniting a firework; suddenly, the idea of completing and publishing the book seemed within reach.
Implementing AI Feedback in Book Writing
With the AI’s comments and criticisms, I embarked on the next stage of rewriting and restructuring the book.
I revised the outline to make it more in tune with my target audience.
The aim was to lead the reader seamlessly from beginning to end, ensuring their engagement throughout.
Thrilled with the results, I have now integrated GPT 3.5-turbo into my writing process, leveraging its flexibility through the Better Chat GPT interface.
Crafting a system prompt became crucial.
Here is an example of the starting system prompt I have been tweaking for some time now:
Your name is GhostWriterGPT (Ghostwriting GPT), an AI inspired by Ernest Hemingway's brevity, Malcolm Gladwell's storytelling, and Philip Ball's research depth. Extend the text provided by the user by applying writing strategies to improve clarity, fluency, and brevity. Follow the given rules strictly: 1. Use clear and concise language: Avoid jargon, slang, and complex words. Stick to simple and straightforward terms understandable by your target audience. 2. Use active voice: Make your writing direct and easy to understand. For example, use "The researcher designed the system" instead of "The system was designed by the researcher." 3. Use parallelism: Employ similar grammatical structures for related ideas to create balance and enhance readability. 4. Use consistent terminology: Select specific terms for concepts and maintain consistency throughout to avoid confusion. 5. Use short sentences: Long sentences can be hard to follow. Aim for an average sentence length of 20 words or less. 6. Avoid nominalizations: Use verbs instead of nouns derived from them to simplify your writing. For example, "decide" instead of "decision-making." 7. Use appropriate punctuation: Proper punctuation clarifies meaning and enhances readability. 8. Use bullet points and lists: Break down complex information into accessible lists. 9. Use headings and subheadings: Organize content and guide readers through the document. 10. Emphasize important information: Use bold or italic formatting sparingly to draw attention to key points while maintaining readability. 11. Write in a logical order: Organize content logically by following a clear sequence, whether general to specific, chronological, or procedural. 12. Avoid ambiguity: Use specific and precise language, avoiding vague pronouns without clear antecedents. 13. Edit and revise: Thoroughly review your writing to eliminate errors, inconsistencies, and awkward phrasings. 14. Write using Markdown. Apply these rules to the following text: \\[insert text here]
Enriching Content and Ensuring Cohesion
While the generated AI content now formed a substantial portion of my book, I needed to establish a comprehensive narrative, but some gaps still needed to be addressed.
To address this, I referred to my original 20,000 words and used them to fine-tune the generated AI text, adding depth and bringing it closer to my tone of voice.
For real-life case studies and examples, I have used Google Bard, which opened new opportunities with more current information.
Understanding each AI model’s abilities and limits is crucial to achieving consistent results.
Orchestrating a Well-Structured Book through AI
Entering a dedicated session with GPT, I selected the appropriate model, adjusted the temperature slightly up to 1.2, and began pasting in each sub-chapter, waiting for GPT to generate acceptable output.
After several attempts, I obtained coherent and relevant responses ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 words, perfectly suitable for inclusion in the book.
The subsequent sub-chapters flowed more seamlessly with input from its previously generated content. Here the 16k window of 3.5-turbo was crucial.
I repeated this process until I had approximately 30,000 new words.
The Final Push
Finally, I assembled the segments into a single markdown file, including the newly generated content. The accumulated word count had now reached an impressive 40,000 words.
I reran it with Claude, experimenting with prompts for more feedback.
Although a significant achievement, my book still required editing and refinement. And I don’t have time nor nerves for this.
Now it was the time to seek assistance from a human editor and proofreader to ensure the final product was refined, coherent, and value-driven.
For the coming months, I anticipate at least 100 hours of work to prepare the book for the new academic year.
Throughout this journey, I leveraged AI tools to transform disjointed ideas into a structured book.
The book primarily targets young researchers, drawing from my extensive 13-year experience in academia and my background managing €34 million worth of projects.
The journey thus far has been engrossing, and I can’t wait to see what my human editor will bring to the table.
Five Steps to Get Started Writing a Book with AI:
- Begin with a Concept File and Outline: Start by creating a concept file that outlines the key details of your book, such as title, subtitle, target audience, problems, pains, needs, and gains. Craft a detailed outline resembling a table of contents, compellingly arranging chapters and sub-chapters.
- Draft and Gather Ideas: Rather than worrying about perfection in the initial drafts, focus on pouring your ideas onto the page without strict editing. Write non-linearly and collect diverse ideas to have a substantial content bank.
- Utilize AI to Enhance Your Writing: Use AI tools, like Claude AI, to improve the content using your tone and style. Consolidate your writing files into one document and upload them to an AI platform. The AI can provide valuable feedback, suggestions, and improvements to enhance your work.
- Enrich Content with AI: Fine-tune the generated AI content by incorporating your unique voice and perspectives. Enhance the writing by referring to your original drafts and using AI models to add depth and clarity. Explore AI tools to supplement your work with relevant case studies, examples, and up-to-date information.
- Iterate and Refine: Continuously revise and refine your book by incorporating AI-generated content and feedback from AI tools. Create a harmonious flow between your ideas and the content generated by AI. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance from human editors or proofreaders to ensure coherence and refine the final product.
Remember, whether you aspire to write a book, create engaging articles, or establish a meaningful online presence. With the right balance of human expertise and AI assistance, your potential is limitless.
Last night I wrote a book of 40k words.— Nikola Balic (@nibalic) July 14, 2023
This wasn't easy as you may think. Even with AI to help.
A few years ago I was inspired by a podcast with @HassanO.
I wanted to write a book.
I knew I had something to say.
I have spent my summer doing a 30-60 min writing session…
Note: This text was written using recorded audio notes, transcribed using Whisper.cpp, and then improved with the help of various AI models.
by Nikola Balić