Amit Gupta on AI-Powered Writing, the Future of Creativity & Building Sudowrite
The best writers will learn to put technology to work in telling their stories
Although we spend the majority of our day helping people to block apps and websites, here at Freedom we actually do love technology! There are some of us here who can’t live without apps like Evernote, Todoist, and BrainFM. We’ve also dabbled in writing apps like Grammarly, Hemmingway, and Ommwriter. But we’ve never come across anything quite like Sudowrite before.
Sudowrite is a new app that is designed to help people improve their writing skills. It provides users with a variety of tools and resources that they can use to improve their writing. The app also includes a community of other writers who can offer feedback and support.
I decided the best way to get to know Sudowrite was to interact directly with it. Here’s what Sudo had to say about itself when I enquired using its “describe” feature:
“Sudowrite is a story-telling app that will help you to get your story down on paper. It will not only help you to finish your story, it will also help to keep track of plot and characters.
Sudowrite looks like a white sheet of paper, solid and blank, but it’s not. When you run your finger along the smooth surface it feels like silk, as if you are stroking some delicate fabric. The closer you look the more you can make out the patterns on its surface, that’s when you realize there are words in your handwriting.
Sudowrite is the foundation for all your stories, the foundation of all books, the foundation of all writing.“
Impressive, confident, and poetic! But what about the question we all want to know: Can Sudowrite help overcome writer’s block?
“What is writer’s block, you ask? It is like a very small stone that rubs against a very large diamond.“
Sudo’s initial answer made me feel like I was playing an RPG game against an AI-powered riddler, so I pushed for further details. Sudo began to list some of the features of the app, so I changed tack and asked: What makes Sudowrite different from other writing apps?
“Sudowrite demonstrates that you can be minimal while still being rich. It is a writing experience that is streamlined, efficient, and designed for the writer.“
Not entirely satisfied with this answer, I requested something more metaphorical:
“The writing app sucks words from the writer’s mouth and dumps them into a lush and mobile abattoir, which processes the words one by one. They are hung on a rack and broken down into their base components, a retort of blood, gristle and fur. These parts are assembled into a new entity, a composite of all the words a writer has ever written. This stream of parts is then remolded into a grotesque amalgam of everything that has ever been written.“
Intense… I decided to give Sudo some space and try out a few of the other features. First, the rephrase function, which I found really quite inspiring. Here’s what I just wrote, rewritten more descriptively:
“I decided to leave the game there, as it was getting late. I wasn’t really tired, but my brain was new and found it hard to make sense of what I was seeing.“
Although the rewrites were not always perfect, or written in the same voice, I found this feature to be great for sparking ideas.
However, by far my favorite feature is the Brainstorm feature, which I’ve found the most useful when I feel blocked or lacking in inspiration. I used it to help me generate ideas for blog pieces and interview questions using my own examples as a guide.
For this piece I used it to help me come up with this list of 10 reasons to try Sudowrite today:
- Save ideas and inspiration
- Keep your brain active
- Stay organized
- Write every day
- Get creative juices flowing
- Track your daily word goals
- Capture your thoughts
- You can access Sudowrite anywhere
- Create the next great American novel
- Collaborate with other writers
Although it felt a bit daunting and alien at first, after a while I really got into the groove with Sudowrite. Obviously, it will never replace a human writer, but that’s not its purposee, anway. As a tool for inspiration I think it’s wonderful! And if you don’t believe me and Sudowrite, I tracked down one of its creators, Amit Gupta, to tell you more…
You’re a published writer and a successful entrepreneur, but what came first– writing or tech?
Years ago, I started Photojojo – a quirky little company with the mission to help people have more fun with photos. I sold that company several years back and decided to make more time for writing science fiction, something I’d always been interested in. In particular, I’m keen to explore an optimistic future, to push back against the dystopia that seems to be everywhere.
I met my co-founder James in a writing group. We started a couple of projects together, including an online event called Short Story Club that raised money for first responders in 2020.
Not long after, James started tinkering with using AI to assist writing.
We began to collaborate, then shared what we were working on with other writers — Cory Doctorow, Mary Robinette Kowal, Ted Chiang, Ken Liu, Hugh Howey —and it was instantly clear we were onto something!
What is Sudowrite exactly, and what inspired you to build it?
Our vision for Sudowrite is to be like your most creative writer friend, available 24/7 to help you brainstorm ideas, diagnose plot problems, sharpen your descriptions, finish that rewrite, or just get unstuck!
James and I were both inspired by our previous roles where we worked with a team of creative people to create our companies. In comparison, writing felt lonely! When you’re stuck with writing, it can take a long time to find your way out. We think AI can help take on the role of a friendly writing buddy, lending a hand when you most need it.
Sudowrite has a ton of features! I absolutely loved the brainstorming feature ( I even used it to come up with some of these questions!) What is your favorite Sudowrite feature and why?
Brainstorm is my favorite, too! I love how flexible it is. I use it for coming up with specific traits and mannerisms that fit my characters and the world they’re in. I love character-driven fiction and those details really matter to me as a reader. Second favorite? Probably the Describe tool for coming up with evocative descriptions and metaphors I never would have thought of.
What do you think makes Sudowrite special and sets it apart from its competitors?
We’re 100% focused on storytelling. We think it’s important, we think it’s core to what makes us human, and we think it’s incredibly hard to do well!
We’re not interested in replacing writers. There’s a lot of fear around AI and tech taking our jobs. We don’t want to be a part of that because, as writers, we love crafting our stories.
Can Sudowrite help overcome the dreaded writer’s block? How do you overcome writer’s block personally?
Writer’s block takes so many different forms. For me, I think it’s almost always because I haven’t figured something out. Maybe I don’t have the motives down, or the plot doesn’t quite work, or the worldbuilding is threadbare. I find Brainstorm really helpful for these situations because I can get suggestions for the motives, the plot, the world, or anything else. Filling that out often helps me understand why I’m stuck.
The suggestions don’t even have to be exactly right! Sometimes you’re just stuck in a rut and you need someone to spit out a bunch of crazy ideas that inspire you to go in a new direction. Sudowrite is great at that too!
How can writers use Sudowrite to be more creative and take advantage of AI?
Come to it with an open mind, a problem to solve, and a sense of play. It’s a whole new way of working, and experimenting is the best way to learn.
Grab one of your opening chapters or pages, or an outline, bring it into Sudowrite, and play around to see what it can do for you! (Of course, we’re also on chat and in the community Slack, so if you ever have questions, we’d love to help!)
A lot of people are suspicious about using AI to help us be more creative. Why do you think this is and how do you convince the skeptics otherwise?
I remember when I first went from developing photos in a darkroom to using Photoshop in high school. There were a million new things to learn. It was intimidating! But also exciting because it opened up a million possibilities that weren’t there before.
The amount of drudgery it removed from the process is astounding. Can you imagine having to adjust the exposure of a whole roll of film after you’ve already printed it? For each print you’d have to manually guess at how much longer to expose the image, then go through the whole developing process again, bringing each sheet from one chemical bath to another. Literally hours of work. Now it’s like three taps!
But even as powerful as Photoshop is, even as cool as it is to have a phone camera in your pocket all the time, these things don’t make us photographers. We’ve improved our ability to take photos, and our ability to tell a great photo from a good photo. We’ve learned the vocabulary and developed a visual taste we didn’t have before. But the technology doesn’t make us artists.
I expect a lot of this will happen in writing over the next few years. AI can’t tell a good idea from a bad one. It can’t decide to write one story over another. It can’t do it for you.
The best writers will be the ones who learn to put these tools to work in telling their stories.
Apart from its primary use as a writing software, can Sudowrite be used to enhance other forms of content creation?
Many of our authors will use Sudowrite to create marketing copy for their books, to try out different blurbs and loglines, or even to write blog posts. Rewrite is great for tuning the voice of a passage of text, especially when you’re not used to writing in that voice. (Need something that sells more for the back cover, but don’t like selling? Need to send an apology email that sounds more apologetic? It’s a few clicks!)
What are some other tools you recommend to help writers be more productive?
- Freedom, of course. I’ve used it since 2017!
- I started using Figjam for outlining recently and really enjoyed that. I travel a lot, so having a virtual corkboard is really handy.
- My favorite Chrome Extension is called Library Extension. It sits quietly minding its own business until you’re looking at a book on Amazon (or Goodreads, etc.). Then it gives you a link, right next to that buy button, to check out that book from your local library. It even shows you audiobooks and ebooks and tells you how long you’ll wait if it’s not currently available.
What is your favourite use of Sudowrite so far?
I love when people use it in ways I wouldn’t expect! Like writing poems or songs for characters inside of their work, or to write guided meditations specific to their friends, or even to write sermons!
Some of our features are very open-ended, so writers can get creative. For example, the Rewrite feature can take any text and make it more descriptive, give it more inner conflict, etc. But you can write your own modifier instead. Write “make it more Orwellian” or “make this dialogue sound like a cowboy” and Sudowrite will actually do it! It’s only limited by what you can imagine and honestly feels like magic.
What are your plans for the future of Sudowrite? Do you have any exciting new features planned?
SO many things! We make several improvements and additions every month. One of our bigger projects right now is helping people with the outlining/planning process. So many people tell us they hate outlining or feel trapped when they outline. We think we can use AI to make it a playful experience anyone would love!
Beyond that, we love hearing ideas from writers on what would make it most useful to them. There’s so much still to do.
Ready to jump in and try Sudowrite? Freedom Premium users can get 30% off as part of our perks program!
Amit Gupta is an optimist, a science fiction writer, and co-founder of Sudowrite, the AI-powered creative writing app. He is also an uncle and a son, and a friend to all dogs. He previously founded and sold Photojojo. To keep up with his work visit Amit’s website and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.