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Artificial Intelligence Editing Services: The McDonald’s of Literature

Ah, the modern world! So many new technologies that make our lives easier! Some of the most interesting emerging services provide manuscript editing powered by artificial intelligence. A good example is ProWritingAid, which analyzes your text and not only flags obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes – which we’ve seen for years – but makes suggestions for how to re-phrase and even embellish a sentence. The AI algorithm figures out what you want to say and provides a list of acceptable alternatives. It’s easy! As the guy in the 1-800-GOT-JUNK commercial says, “All you need to do is point,” and you’ll have an acceptable document.

AI Editing for Everyone

The good thing about such AI editors is that they make basic editorial cleanup available for anyone. Companies, for example, churn out billions of words every year. They publish blogs and white papers and reports, and these documents need to appear professional and free from errors. Before releasing them, it doesn’t hurt to run them through an application like ProWritingAid to ensure they meet a minimum standard of quality. The service is fast and cheap, and produces a predictable product.

The Fast-Food Editor: Bland Uniformity

If this sounds like a fast-food solution to editing, you’re right. Take McDonald’s, for example. The mission of McDonald’s is to make acceptable, edible food available to everyone at a low price. If you have five bucks in your pocket, you can get a burger and fries at McDonald’s. You can go nearly anywhere in the industrialized world and get the same burger and fries. But this approach has serious limitations. At any fast-food restaurant, you’ll never get a hand-cooked, premium meal. You’ll always be served what the kitchen scientists at the corporate office think you should eat. And what you consume is the same stuff that millions of other people are consuming. This is not a defect of McDonald’s, but a feature.

Services like ProWritingAid, Grammarly, WordVoiceAI, AuthorONE, and many others have the same constraint. They’re designed to deliver bland, uniform results according to the algorithm. This may work well when you’re a corporate communications officer looking for fast and cheap proofreading of your quarterly report. But if you’re writing a book with your name proudly emblazoned on the cover, and you want to deliver a premium product that will rise above the crowded market, the last thing you need is AI powered editing. You don’t want to serve your readers a McDonald’s fast food experience. You want to give them a gourmet meal they’ll never forget and which may even change their lives.

Go to ProWritingAid when you want a fast, cheap product. But when you need quality, hand-crafted editing that transforms your self-help book, business book, or novel from a commercial burger to a premium gourmet meal, you need a professional human editor. I look forward to hearing from you!

Thomas Hauck, professional (human!) book developer and ghostwriter
Posted in Advice on Hiring a Ghostwriter, Business Books, Essays, Grammar and Writing Skills, News, Self-Help Books, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ChatGPT: The Race to the Bottom

An artificial intelligence (AI) software service called ChatGPT made its debut in November, 2022. The service is able to produce text that is grammatically correct and designed to respond to a prompt or question. For example, if you say to ChatGPT, “Please provide 10,000 words on how to get a better job,” it can do that.

You can see where this is going.

In February 2023, Reuters reported that over 200 e-books had suddenly appeared in Amazon’s Kindle store listing ChatGPT as an author or co-author. Titles included “How to Write and Create Content Using ChatGPT,” “ChatGPT for Nonfiction Authors,” and even poetry collections. One book promises, “Say goodbye to the tedious process of researching, brainstorming, and drafting – with ChatGPT by your side, you’ll be writing better, faster, and more effectively than ever before!”

On YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit you can find countless tutorials showing you how to create a book in just a few hours. Common subjects include dieting advice, cooking, get-rich-quick schemes, and software coding tips. Children’s books are a growing market – you can give ChatGPT a prompt, such as “How the lonely bunny made friends,” and in a few hours your book, with cute illustrations, is ready to sell.

There is even a new sub-genre on Amazon: “Books about using ChatGPT, written entirely by ChatGPT.”

How does ChatGPT write? It learns by scanning millions of pages of existing text. In response to a prompt, it then spews out a rehash of these sources. This is a cheaper and faster version of what cut-rate human ghostwriters have been doing for years. As you can imagine, there are huge problems with this approach.

• ChatGPT cannot differentiate between legitimate sources and internet garbage.

• The syntax it produces is stiff and conforms to arbitrary rules defined by the programmer. In contrast, exceptional human writers know how to bend the rules.

• It produces the lowest common denominator product with no original insights. ChatGPT books are easy to spot, even by other ChatGPT programs (which makes for a weird circular firing squad).

• ChatGPT has been known to “hallucinate” (this is the actual term!) and write things that are simply absurd.

I Write Innovative Books for Leaders

Fortunately, ChatGPT – and the other chatbots that are sure to follow – will not affect my business. This is because ChatGPT writes by looking at what has already been written and mimicking it. In contrast, my job as a ghostwriter and editor is to ensure that your book stands out from the crowd by being fresh, original, and insightful. You need a book that’s innovative and leads the pack, not one that follows behind. Yes, it costs more to be a leader, but in the long term, the benefits are unequalled. With a professionally ghostwritten book from Thomas Hauck, you’ll be positioned to lead your category and establish yourself as a true authority.

Thomas Hauck, professional book developer and ghostwriter

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Line Editing or Copy Editing? Is There a Difference?

Creating a book manuscript involves many steps, from the initial concept to the final proofreading before publication. To a new author, these steps can seem bewildering – especially when we’re talking about editing.

If you go online to learn about editing, you can become quite confused! You’ll find many types of editing including developmental editing, structural editing, copy editing, line editing, mechanical editing, content editing, evaluation editing, and of course proofreading.

I’m not going to describe them all here; there are dozens of websites where you can find that information. I’m just going to tell you the two types of editing that I do.

Yes, just two. Here they are.

Developmental Editing

Developmental editing is the process of reading a text or manuscript and reviewing it, much like a book reviewer would, only in far more detail. The editor doesn’t make any corrections in the text, but provides a written report and/or makes notes in the margin using Word Track Edits.

The editor responds to the “big picture” items including (in a novel) plot, character, pace, suspense, historical accuracy, or (in a self-help book) the problem being solved, the author’s solution, and examples of success. Developmental editing encompasses those elements that would stay the same if, for example, the book were translated into another language. When that happens, the ideas remain the same but the syntax changes.

Because developmental editing may include deleting sections of text or moving them around, it’s best done before any other editing or proofreading. There’s no point in polishing sentences that may be removed!

Comprehensive Editing

This is what I do for my clients. It’s editing with the goal of producing a manuscript that’s ready to publish. No excuses, no extra charges, no additional steps. Why would an author pay for multiple editors?

I’m always baffled when, for example, a valued client will contact me and say, “I’ve had two other editors work on this manuscript, and I need you to take another pass at it.”

My reply – which I never actually say out loud – would be, “What on earth did you pay those other editors to do? What was the goal – to get more money out of you?”

Why would any editor take responsibility for a manuscript, work on it, and then hand it back, saying, “I did the line editing, but now you need copy editing.” What does that even mean?

It means that the editor saw mistakes and chose not to correct them. Isn’t that crazy?

Can you imagine taking your car to your neighborhood mechanic for new brakes, and the next day the mechanic says, “Here’s your car. But you can’t actually drive it yet. We did 50 percent of the job. Now you need to hire another mechanic to do the things we didn’t do.” I don’t think you’d be very happy!

The Goal Is to Publish the Book!

My job is to get your manuscript ready to publish. To achieve that goal, I’ll do whatever’s necessary. This might include editing, fact checking, ghostwriting, asking you a million questions about what you meant in a particular sentence, pointing out weak spots, and getting rid of redundant “filler” words and sentences. Every job is different because every manuscript is unique and every author has his or her own personal style and approach.

Does comprehensive editing cost more? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But it’s one-stop shopping. You won’t have to pay multiple editors, which makes budgeting much easier.

To learn more about how I can help you write your book, please send me an email, and we’ll talk!

Thomas Hauck, book developer and ghostwriter
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To be a better writer…. Be a good reader!

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Self-Help Authors: Take Your Reader by the Hand….

Self-help books are all about solving a problem for the reader. The problem faced by the reader could be anything: how to lose weight, get a better job, be happier, invest their money better. When they buy the book, they want answers.

Many of my valued self-help clients–the authors who have a solution to offer–ask me how they should start their book. While they feel confident in their ability to solve the reader’s problem, the steps they want the reader to take are not organized. Their ideas are floating around like clouds in the sky, in no particular order.

I ask the author to imagine a simple scenario. They are in their office and a person walks in. We’ll call this person Sally. The author says, “Hello, Sally. How may I help you?”

Sally says, “I have a problem. How can I solve my problem and lead a happier life?”

I say to the author, “What is the very first thing you would ask Sally?”

You would probably ask her to describe her problem.

Therefore, the very first chapter of your book should be devoted to describing the problem. Not at great length, but enough so that Sally can recognize herself and the challenge she faces.

What would be the second thing you would ask? You would probably ask Sally to describe her goal. That is, the positive outcome she wanted. This could be chapter two, or just a few paragraphs.

Then, you ask Sally what other solutions she had tried that failed.

The Winding Path to the Goal

After laying this foundation, you introduce your solution, and the steps the reader needs to take to implement it. I advise my authors that the process is very much like taking someone by the hand and leading them down a winding path. At each turn of the path, there’s something to see. You show that something to your reader. You say, “See that? Do you understand what it means for you? Good! Now we’ll continue to the next spot on the path.” You just lead them along the path, and they learn as they go. At the end of the path, the reader is ready to put into action the solution they’ve learned.

Every new thing they learn builds upon what they’ve learned before. Lessons are not repeated; once you’ve covered a topic, you move on. The reader’s time is valuable, and you don’t want to waste it!

This pathway simile is not unlike your book outline. Both are like maps or guided tours, and you–the author–are the tour guide. At the end of the tour, you want a happy reader!

Thomas Hauck, book developer and ghostwriter
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“One Thousand and One Arabian Nights”

I may be a little late to the game…. but recently I picked up a copy of the Oxford University Press paperback edition of “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights,” newly interpreted by Geraldine McCaughrean, a highly regarded British author of novels for children.

Of course, like many people I’d seen the various movie versions of “Aladdin,” but I never knew the context in which the story appeared. I had never read any of the originals, which comprise a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, a period of cultural, economic, and scientific progress traditionally dated from the 8th century to the 14th century. The title that we use originated with the first English-language edition (c. 1706–1721), published as “The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment.”

Over many centuries, the stories were collected by authors, translators, and scholars across North Africa and West, Central and South Asia. Some tales are truly mythical, tracing their roots back to ancient and medieval Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian literature. They are timeless yet familiar in their display of human foibles, and serve as a window into the rich storytelling tradition of the ancient world.

35 Charming Tales, Deftly Interpreted

The framing device—the glue that holds the stories together—is the ruler Shahryār, who is convinced that all women are unfaithful. To avoid being cheated on by his wife, his marriages last only one day. At dawn on the second day, the current wife is beheaded and another one summoned to the marriage bed. But wife Scharazade has a clever plan: Each night she tells Shahryār a story, and hints that another one—equally exciting—will be forthcoming the following night, should he spare her life. The stories proceed from this original premise; some are framed within other tales, while some are self-contained.

This charming volume contains 35 stories, and you can read each one in ten or fifteen minutes. They’re packed with a rogue’s gallery of colorful characters, of course including the fan favorites such as Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba, and Ala al-Din. But there are others equally enthralling, such as the greedy Fox who gets his comeuppance from the clever Crow, or the Ebony Horse, which has the power to fly anywhere in the world.

The stories are full of cornball humor and playground insults, but they’re served up by McCaughrean with such a deft touch that you can’t help but smile. This is truly a book that transcends normal publishing house marketing demographics and can be enjoyed by anyone who can read.

1,001 Arabian Nights
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Avoid Repetition in Your Writing!

As an editor, on of the most common problems I see in the writing of my valued clients is needless repetition.

This manifests itself in either of two ways: Repeating the same idea more than once, or repeating words that add no new value to the reader and make for a boring reading experience.

Trust your words! The English language comprises a huge variety, each with its own meaning. The latest official edition of the Merriam-Webster online dictionary includes approximately 470,000 entries, while the main page of Oxford English Dictionary official website provides the figure of over 600,000 terms. By all accounts, English consists of more words than any other language. Instead of using the same words repeatedly, do your reader a favor and choose just the right one for the occasion.

Some examples of repetition are obvious. For example, consider this paragraph:

“The white house stood at the edge of a dense wood. In the sunset, the white sides seemed to glow red. In addition to the white painted walls, the trim of the house was painted yellow, and the shutters were painted red. The combination of the red, white, and yellow was very pleasing to the eye. Not many houses near the dense wood were painted white; most of them were painted red. This was perhaps because red paint was cheaper than white paint.”

You get the idea. The repetition drags down the prose.

Try this instead:

“When touched by the rays of the setting sun, the white house at the edge of the dense wood took on a crimson glow. With its yellow trim and shutters the color of burgundy wine, the structure stood apart from its neighbors, which were universally clad with inexpensive barn-red paint.”

There’s an informal rule in prose that you don’t use the same noun, verb, adjective, or adverb twice in the same paragraph. So if you describe the house as being “red,” then if you need to refer to its color again, find another way to say it without repeating the word “red.”

Having said that, there are some authors who are handsomely rewarded for repeating the same words. In the classic novel “The Road,” author Cormac McCarthy uses a basket of nouns and adjectives over and over again: cold, dark, ashes, black, night, gray. He does this deliberately to pound into your head the bleak hopelessness of the landscape. To be honest, it’s not my cup of tea, but he won the Pulitzer Prize for it, which means that plenty of smart people were impressed.

In addition, for online publication, many writers succumb to the temptation to pack their blog posts or articles with search-engine optimized (SEO) content. This simply means repeating the same key words so the Google bots will find them. This may work to improve page ranking, but it makes for an unsatisfying reading experience.

These days, every author has ready access an online thesaurus. They’re free–and a valuable resource!

Thomas Hauck, book developer and ghostwriter
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“The Peaceful Man” by Brad Mewhort

Congratulations to Brad Mewhort on the publication of his new book, “The Peaceful Man: Heal Within Yourself the Personal Effects and Historic Patterns of Male-on-Male Violence.” The author, who grew up experiencing family and neighborhood male-on-male violence, and who himself then became a violent bully, vividly describes how the cycle of violence is created and sustained.

He proposes that to create a more peaceful and healthy planet, it’s important for men to heal the traumas that afflict their bodies and spirits, and break the generational cycle. This is a challenge, not only on the micro or personal level but on the macro level of society as a whole, which often glorifies male-on-male violence. He argues that we need to establish “new standards for what is courageous and celebrated in men.”

But this is not a theoretical book. Mewhort offers sections devoted to somatic (body-based) healing practices and contemplative (spiritual) healing practices that any man can learn and follow. With his practical advice and personal experience, the author guides the reader step by step along the path to a new world of peace and compassion.

“The Peaceful Man,” by Brad Mewhort

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The Importance of the Topic Sentence

Writing is a form of communication. Its structure is linear, like a path. That means the reader intakes the first word, remembers it, and then intakes the next word. As the reader progresses through the words, sentences, and paragraphs, the remembered bits of information coalesce into a mosaic. The author–the person who controls the flow of information–slowly guides the reader along the path, showing the reader one thing after another.

Each new thing shown to the reader becomes part of the mosaic until a complete picture emerges. This system is used to both convey information to the reader and, in many cases, to build an emotional response. For example, in a novel, we meet the protagonist, learn more about their experiences, and (usually) develop an affection for them. We become emotionally invested in their predicament.

After words and sentences, the paragraph is the third largest building block of writing. In expository writing, the paragraph is a mini-essay. It introduces and elaborates upon an idea or variation of an idea. In terms of the role of memory, it tells the reader how to categorize the information that follows.

For example, if the first or topic sentence of the paragraph is, “The house was painted red,” the author is promising the reader that the information in the following sentences will elaborate on this statement. The author will talk about the house and its various features, and set the stage for action to follow.

If the topic sentence is, “The killer, knife in hand, leered at his victim,” we’re going to be shown a scene of tension or violence directly related to these nine words.

It’s the author’s choice as to how to allocate his or her text into paragraphs. Paragraphs can be any length–even just one word. After all, writing is a form of art, and the rules, once learned, are flexible. But every writer needs to remember that your reader has allowed you to take them by the hand and lead them along the winding path, and while you can surprise your reader, you never want to lose them!

Thomas Hauck, book developer and ghostwriter
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Developmental Editing: It’s All About Baby Steps!

Clients will often send me a finished manuscript of 40,000 or 60,000 words, which, for various reasons, they’re not happy with. A non-fiction manuscript may be outdated, not well organized, incomplete in its arguments, or just plain boring. A novel may be – well, just about any problem can afflict a novel!

Developmental editing is when the editor strives to re-shape and even re-write a manuscript so that the work succeeds as a whole. You might say this is the “30,000-foot view.” This work is done before line editing and proofreading. There’s no point in polishing a section of text that may later be deleted!

The key to successful developmental editing – which then leads to line editing and proofreading – is to take it slowly, in baby steps. Each step should require a small investment by the author and a commensurate amount of work by the editor. Typically, I’ll work in one-day increments.

Day 1: Read and Review

I’ll read the entire manuscript without prejudice and then offer my opinion about what we need to do to improve it. For full-length manuscripts, I will ask my client to hire me for one day at my “day rate,” which is usually enough time to complete this first step. This first day of work may include a brief written report from me. If the manuscript is very long – I’ve received manuscripts of 150,000 words and more – this step will require two or even three days.

Day 2: Cut, Paste, and Re-Write

Having read the manuscript and made a plan, the next step is to get “under the hood” (so to speak) and start pulling out bad parts and installing good parts. I’ll do this for one day – again, not a huge risk for my client. Then I send the file to them for their review. If the book is very short, this may be enough. If the word count is longer than 30,000 words, we’ll probably need Day 3.

Day 3: More Cutting, Pasting, and Re-Writing

Another day, more work on the manuscript. We go at the pace the client is comfortable with.

Day 4: Line Editing

Once the manuscript is acceptable to both my client and me, then we start polishing – line editing and proofreading. This usually takes a few days; for the average manuscript, I can edit and proofread no more than 20,000 words per day.

No Surprises!

The key is to take the process step by step, with each step approved by the author. Then at the end, we have a finished manuscript that’s ready to be marketed to my author’s readers!

Thomas Hauck, book developer and ghostwriter
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