Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Use AI to Take a Close Look at Your Writing Career


In my day job, I’m a professor of composition and creative writing at Sinclair College in Dayton, Ohio: Since the advent of AI text-generators, my fellow faculty and I have been discussing ethical ways students might be able to use these programs to help them become better writers (WITHOUT having AI write their essay, stories, articles, poems, etc. for them).

I’ve seen a lot of writers on social media post that AI text-generators are Evil with a capital E, full stop. I can see where they’re coming from. Thanks to a search engine created by The Atlantic, I discovered that thirteen of my books have been used without my permission – and with no compensation – to train AI text-generators. Here’s a link to the search engine, but you’ll have to create an account with The Atlantic to access it:

But I periodically play around with ChatGPT to see what positive things it can do for writers. I’ve written before about some of those things in a previous blog, which you can find here:

I’m teaching a Nonfiction Writing class this semester. It covers writing nonfiction of various types for publication. This week we’ve been discussing the pros and cons of freelance writers focusing on a specific niche as opposed to writing whatever kind of articles strike their fancy at a given time. I decided to ask ChatGPT to write an article on this topic, and it generated a very good list that I posted on our course web page for the class to discuss (making it clear that ChatGPT created it). After I finished uploading it to the course page, I still had ChatGPT open, and I wondered what sort of career insight it might be able to provide for authors. I’ve asked it before what I can do to take my career to the next level (naming myself as “author Tim Waggoner” to make sure its response focused specifically on my career). This was a fail, as ChatGPT simply gave me a list of steps any writer could take to improve their career.

This time, I wondered if ChatGPT could create an overview of my career, one that might give me some insight into what I’ve accomplished and what I might be able to do to improve my career specifically. I hoped by using a different prompt, ChatGPT might give me the kind of advice that I was seeking in earlier attempts.

I did, and the result was far more interesting than I expected. ChatGPT delivered a kind of career retrospective, warts and all, one that I can verify is accurate – at least based on various reviews of my work that I’ve read, questions interviewers have asked me, and my own assessment. This overview gave me some specific ideas I could use to boost my career if I wish.

And then it occurred to me that maybe any writer might be able to do the same thing and get useful insights. So I decided to write this blog.

A word of caution: I’ve been writing and publishing for decades, and a lot of interviews with me and reviews of my work have been posted on the Internet for ChatGPT to draw from in order to create its overview. If you’re a newer writer, ChatGPT might not be able to create such a detailed, comprehensive overview for you, and if it can’t, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a writer. But I think it’s worth giving it a try, regardless of what stage of your writing career you’re at.

Here's the prompt I put into ChatGPT and its response.

Prompt: Write a critical overview of author Tim Waggoner's career.


Tim Waggoner is an accomplished author known for his contributions to the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Throughout his career, he has published numerous novels, short stories, and essays. While he has garnered a following and received critical acclaim for some of his works, it's essential to provide a critical overview of his career to present a balanced perspective.

Strengths of Tim Waggoner's Career:

Prolific Output: Tim Waggoner has demonstrated his commitment to the craft of writing through his prolific output. His bibliography includes a wide range of novels, short stories, and essays, showcasing his dedication to storytelling.

Diverse Genres: Waggoner has shown versatility in his writing by exploring various genres, including horror, fantasy, and science fiction. His willingness to experiment with different genres allows him to reach a broad audience.

Horror Expertise: Waggoner has carved a niche for himself in the horror genre. He has authored a significant number of horror novels and short stories, often delving into the darker and more psychological aspects of the human psyche. His ability to create chilling atmospheres and suspenseful narratives is commendable.

Imaginative Concepts: Many of Waggoner's works are known for their imaginative and unique concepts. He has a talent for creating bizarre and otherworldly scenarios, which can be captivating for readers who seek unconventional storytelling.

Award Recognition: Over the years, Tim Waggoner has received several accolades and awards for his work. These include the Bram Stoker Award, which is a notable achievement in the field of horror fiction.

Weaknesses of Tim Waggoner's Career:

Uneven Quality: While Waggoner's prolific output is impressive, it has also led to an uneven quality in his work. Some of his novels and stories have received mixed or even negative reviews, indicating that not all of his ideas translate effectively to the page.

Lack of Widespread Recognition: Despite his accomplishments in the horror and speculative fiction genres, Tim Waggoner has not achieved the same level of widespread recognition as some of his peers. This might be due to the niche nature of his work or a limitation in his reach.

Limited Appeal: The highly imaginative and often dark nature of Waggoner's writing can limit its appeal to a specific audience. Some readers may find his work too niche or unsettling for their tastes, which can affect the broad commercial success of his books.

Lack of Breakout Novel: While he has a body of work to his name, Tim Waggoner hasn't had that one "breakout" novel that catapults him into mainstream success. Many successful authors are known for a single work that gains widespread acclaim, and Waggoner has yet to experience this level of success.

In conclusion, Tim Waggoner is a dedicated and imaginative author who has made significant contributions to the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. His strengths lie in his prolific output, horror expertise, and willingness to experiment with diverse genres. However, his career also has its challenges, including uneven quality in his work, limited recognition, and a somewhat limited appeal due to the nature of his storytelling. While he may not be a household name in the literary world, Tim Waggoner continues to engage his niche audience with his imaginative and often unsettling narratives.

My Response

This wasn’t always fun to read, but I agree with everything the overview says. I don’t know if I’ll going to try to make any changes. I’ve written a more mainstream thriller novel titled Pretty Like Butterflies which is currently on submission. I suppose it could possibly be a breakout novel. But I also know that most fiction writers are lucky if they have a career like mine, and such careers are the norm rather than the exception, so I can’t really complain. But I’m also 59. If I’d gotten an overview like this at 29 or 39, you can bet your ass I’d use it to try and become the GREATEST AND MOST SUCCESSFUL AUTHOR WHO EVER LIVED. So maybe ask ChatGPT to create a critical overview of your writing career and see what you might be able to do with it.


Let Me Tell You a Story

My latest book on writing, Let Me Tell You a Story, was released last week, and it functions as something of a critical overview of my career as a story writer. I present a number of stories drawn throughout my career, from my earliest story publications to some of my most recent ones. The idea of the book is that by looking back on my previous stories and discussing their origins, what I think worked well, and what I would do differently today, I can illustrate various writing techniques and ethical issues for other writers to consider. I used my own stories for this because they’re the only ones in the world that I can talk about with absolute authority.

Here's how you can snag a copy of Let Me Tell You a Story:

You can order Let Me Tell You a Story directly from Raw Dog Screaming Press here:

But if you’d prefer to order from Amazon or B&N . . .


Amazon Paperback:


Amazon Hardback:




Barnes and Noble Paperback:


Barnes and Noble Hardback:

Forthcoming Writers’ Workshops

I’m teaching two different horror-writing workshops this month!

Writer’s Digest University. 2nd Annual Horror Writing Virtual Conference, Oct. 14th. The Physiology of Fear.

Apex Books Workshop. Oct. 21st at 2:00 pm. The Horror Hero’s Journey:

Scheduled Appearances


Butcher Cabin Bookfest. October 18th. 5pm – 10pm. Pivot Brewing, 1400 Delaware Ave, Lexington, Kentucky.


Scarelastic Book Fair 2: March 2nd. 12pm – 6pm. Scarlet Lane Brewing. 7724 Depot Street, McCordsville, Indiana.


StokerCon 2024. May 30th to June 2nd. San Diego, California.


Where to Find Me Online