I Want to Call Out My Friend For Using AI in Her Newsletter: Am I the Literary Asshole?


Hello again, gentle readers, and welcome back to another riveting episode of Am I the Literary Asshole?, the advice column that’s interested in having a little cheese with that whine. Once again, I’m traveling as I answer your most pressing questions—this week to attend the Lambda Literary Awards in New York City! That’s right, they occasionally let me leave the state of Florida (but only for like one weekend at a time—I am the swamp’s gay ambassador, after all). Excited to report that they have beer here in New York, too. Fingers crossed I manage to roll into a 7-Eleven at some point tonight!

There’s a lot to see and a lot to do (and a lot to drink), so let’s get this show on the road. It’s Pride again, baby! Cheers from this Top, and Bottom’s up!

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1) My booksta is basically to gather an audience for when my book (whenever that may be) will be done. (I KNOW, I’m already an assh*le). Anyway, I want to share my honest opinions about what I’m reading, but I’m worried if I’m being negative about an author’s work that it will bite me in the butt down the road. I also don’t want to be entirely vanilla and claim everything is great. I also fully understand not everything is for everybody. So I feel like my reviews are turning out to be half hearted and stale. I want people to trust me but I tend to be on the critical side. WHAT TO DO?!?!

This is a particularly fascinating question because from the first sentence you’ve proudly proclaimed yourself the asshole! So that’s one piece of advice I don’t have to dole out this round, thank you for making my job easier, friend.

I’m joking, of course. I’m very much of the opinion that we all act like assholes every once in a while (myself very much included). That’s the reason I wanted to write this damn advice column in the first place! Well, that and the excuse to day-drink. Let he who is without mess cast the first stone when it comes to judging bad bookish behavior. If you know that you’re the kind of person who can come across as a little abrasive and you’re worried that your honest reviews might impact your own work down the road, I think that’s a fair concern.

Will writing negatively about other artists work impact how people treat yours in the future? Friend, it’s completely possible. If you know that you lean toward the critical in your reviews, understand that people might read that criticism as unfair or overly harmful. They might take offense and very much remember that hurt and anger when your work eventually gets published. Much like those writers you’re reviewing can’t control how you write about their work, know that you can’t control how people choose to take your reviews. Insert that meme here about excitedly reaping only to wake up the next day and realize you have also sown something terribly unwanted. It might help matters if you don’t tag the author in anything that’s going to be overly critical, but at the end of the day, you can’t really control that, either. It’s the internet, it’s everywhere.

I guess the question essentially boils down to a fairly simple one: do you care more about writing honest reviews or are you more concerned with it coming back to haunt you? Once you make that choice, then everything will get a lot easier. Maybe not nicer, but a little simpler.

Let’s select another question from the grab bag as I slip into another beer.

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2) A friend of mine runs a small business and she is using ChatGPT to write her marketing newsletters. Kristen, the writing is not good. As a writer, I’m appalled by how bad it is. Am I overstepping if I tell her this? I’m worried she’ll be offended even though technically I’m insulting an LLLM, not her.

The thing about AI writing all of this stuff recently is that writers can usually recognize when someone is using it. The reason for that? It’s pretty bad.

I don’t think your friend would be shocked to learn that her marketing newsletters aren’t reading as beautifully as a poem. I do think that she might be upset if you were the one who decided to point that fact out to her. The program might be technically creating the content, but she’s the one who’s collecting it and stuffing it into her newsletters. She’s seen it and thought, yes, this is what I will use.

If that’s the case, then some part of her probably likes it and (*gulp*) thinks it’s good. This is her business, not just a hobby, and in all likelihood she takes it seriously. Butting into her work life when it doesn’t have anything to do with your friendship might derail your good vibes altogether. Just saying.

However, if you wanted to approach this in a different way, I think it’s possible to get to the heart of the problem without telling your friend that her work straight up sucks. You’re a writer—have a conversation with this friend about AI and how it affects your own work. Talk with them about the ways that it’s harmful; how it steals from us. You can also talk about how it’s not very good at stealing, either. Maybe she’ll make the connection, maybe she won’t. But at least you’ll have put it out there.

One more question and then I’ve gotta get moving. The open bar at the big gay awards show waits for no one!

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3) What’s the right frequency for a writer’s meetup? And by that I just mean drinks, no salon, no feedback group, just the margaritas please.

I love this because there is no right answer. The very best kind of question! Are you an extrovert and like to party? Buddy, you could meet up every night of the week! Should you do that? Probably not—but you could! Are you an introvert who prefers meeting only occasionally? Then you could probably get away with every other month (or even longer). Is this a large group—say, ten or more? Then you’re probably going to have more scheduling and calendar issues. If it’s just like two or three of you? Then it will be easy to plan and you can make it happen on the fly. Mostly I would say you should go with group consensus. And if there’s gonna be margaritas, please make sure to send me an invite!

Okay, I’m off to the awards! Join me next time when I’ll probably still be hungover from this after party. And please keep sending me your anonymous questions! I truly live for them.

Drink responsibly,
Dad

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Are you worried you’re the literary asshole? Ask Kristen via email at AskKristen@lithub.com, or anonymously here.

AM l THE LITERARY ASSHOLE



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