Artificial Intelligence

Can ChatGPT Edit Fiction? Four Editors Put It to the Test

Can ChatGPT Edit Fiction? Four Editors Put It to the Test
Image Credit - LinkedIn

The Rise of AI Writing Assistants

In recent years, there has been growing excitement around AI tools that can generate and edit natural language text. The most prominent example is ChatGPT, an AI system developed by OpenAI that can engage in surprisingly human-like conversation. As ChatGPT has demonstrated increasing prowess with language tasks, many have wondered if it could be used to assist fiction writers with drafting and editing stories.

Putting ChatGPT to the Test

To find out if ChatGPT is up to the task, we conducted an experiment. We recruited four fiction editors from the publishing industry to use ChatGPT to edit a short story. Our goal was to see if ChatGPT could provide helpful editing advice at the level of a human editor.

The Story

The story selected was “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant, first published in 1884. This famous story tells the tale of Mathilde Loisel, a woman who borrows an expensive necklace to wear to a party, only to lose it and spend years working to secretly replace it.

The Editors

The four editors selected have between 5-10 years of experience editing literary fiction for publication. All regularly work with authors to improve story flow, strengthen characters, refine themes, and polish language and style.

The Experiment

We gave each editor the text of “The Necklace” and access to ChatGPT. Their task was simple: use ChatGPT to edit the story however they saw fit, then provide feedback on how helpful ChatGPT was in the editing process.

The editors were encouraged to experiment with different techniques like asking for specific revision suggestions, higher level story feedback, line edits, fact checking, and more. We wanted to see where ChatGPT did well, and where a human editor still proved superior.

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The Results: ChatGPT Stumbles as an Editor

Unfortunately, our editors found ChatGPT fell short as an editorial assistant. While it could provide coherent suggestions and feedback, major issues quickly emerged:

  • Suggestions often didn’t fit the story context or characters.
  • Proposed rewrites introduced logical gaps or contradictions.
  • Sentence-level edits were unpolished with grammar and spelling errors.
  • Higher level feedback undermined the author’s intent or themes.

It became clear that while ChatGPT has breadth across topic areas, it lacks human understanding of subtext, character motivation, and creative vision. As one editor concluded, “ChatGPT simply cannot provide meaningful guidance on the human experience depicted in fiction.”

Can ChatGPT Edit Fiction? Four Editors Put It to the Test
Image Credit – The Writing Cooperative

Editor Feedback on Using ChatGPT

“Suggestions Were Often Irrelevant or Off-Topic”

While ChatGPT tried to be helpful, its suggestions were hit-or-miss in relevance. For example, when asked for feedback on better establishing motivation, it suggested changing the time period to World War 2. The non sequitur ideas showed a lack of comprehension around fiction editing.

“Grammatical Errors and Unpolished Writing”

For line editing support, ChatGPT fell surprisingly short. Sentence revisions came back with obvious grammar mistakes, typos, and awkward phrasing. It seems advanced grammar is still outside ChatGPT’s purview.

“Missed Nuance of Language and Storytelling”

Fiction editing requires reading between the lines to understand characters and themes. Several editors noted ChatGPT focused on plot details rather than the deeper human insights at the story’s heart. It’s this emotional resonance that separates good fiction from pedestrian prose.

The Future of AI Fiction Editors

While ChatGPT shows promise generating original fiction, our test confirmed it’s not yet ready to edit existing stories. However, rapid progress in artificial intelligence suggests AI writing assistants will one day up their game.

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It’s possible future AI tools will provide thought-provoking ideas to prompt creativity or quick assistance copy editing documents. But human insight, emotional intelligence and creative vision will likely remain the vital ingredients for fiction editing success.

For authors looking for editorial guidance, a seasoned editor with subject matter expertise can’t yet be replaced. But as AI capabilities grow, there may be roles for augmented intelligence in creative contexts. We look forward to seeing how the technology progresses.

 

 

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About the author

Ade Blessing

Ade Blessing is a professional content writer. As a writer, he specializes in translating complex technical details into simple, engaging prose for end-user and developer documentation. His ability to break down intricate concepts and processes into easy-to-grasp narratives quickly set him apart.

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