Sudowrite occupies a special position among the numerous AI writing assistants on the market, as it was developed by writers and has special writing tools that correspond to a particular way of working that many authors of fiction and non-fiction appreciate. It is currently one of the main AI writing tools that we at Brilliantio use every day for writing and publishing. This article will address what is Sudowrite, and how we use it.
In order to fully explain why Sudowrite is a very valuable tool for writers, I’ve set up a lot of important background before digging into the various functions of the app. If you’d like to skip all that, just click the Table of Contents button below to open it up and choose the section of this article that interests you most!
Testing AI Writing Apps
At Brilliantio, we use several AI (artificial intelligence) apps in our writing and publishing business, including several AI writing assistant apps. That list grows as we test new vendors on the market that seem to offer something new and useful.
I call them “writing assistants” because there’s a tendency among some people to look for an AI tool that writes more or less everything for you – which does not work because:
- AI writer apps cannot do research (there are specific AI apps that focus on research and can help with that).
- AI can do an excellent job of providing contextual writing suggestions, but it is not yet capable of creating an emotionally coherent and engaging text on its own.
- It is difficult to keep a fiction writer AI on track with an outlined plot without extensive human guidance.
- In nonfiction, simply rewriting or “spinning” other work will either get flagged as duplicate content (which is problematic for a variety of reasons) or be slapped for plagiarism.
Where AI Writing Tools Can Shine
There are two areas where AI Writing tools can be particularly helpful:
- Contextual writing suggestions.
- Creative inspiration.
As you work on your text, AI writing assistants can make suggestions about word choice and phrasing, and even help you with structure and content. In this way, they can be a valuable tool for working on a first draft.
However, the real power of AI writing assistants is that they inspire you creatively.
How It Works
Almost all AI writers are based on GPT-3 – the generative text model developed by Open AI and acquired by Microsoft in 2019. Microsoft’s $1 billion investment opened up supercomputing power that transformed the model’s potential.
It’s an AI system that leverages machine learning and deep learning to achieve a remarkable result: the generation of natural language in all sorts of writing genres and fields.
The system uses 175 billion sentence fragments from literature, science, and the Internet. It pulls those fragments and creates a new sentence from them – in a way that does not appear random, but also is not tied to a fixed algorithm.
GPT-3 has its downsides – especially with nonfiction, as it does not do structured research or strict factual writing, but instead picks up what has been written in a similar way to what has preceded it.
- The GPT-3 model has been trained on material through 2019, which means that writing about scientific discoveries, for example, that occurred after that date with its help does not work well.
- The model is also subject to constraints on explicit language and text length, which some tools have attempted to circumvent in recent months.
- Each application that uses GPT-3 has its own training program, which means that some are more successful at certain use cases than others.
- Some focus on copywriting – for example, the recently renamed Jasper – while others are aimed directly at the fiction-writing community – AI Dungeon was one of the pioneers.
There is a huge pent-up demand for Internet content creation tools, and a number of vendors have entered the field. Some of them are developing their own language models to work around the limitations of GPT-3.
Problems Faced by AI Writing Assistants
The main problem most AI writing assistants face is that:
- they only produce short texts – which means that a longer text has to be edited and assembled in many different parts, none of which are really related to each other.
- many long text editors only give one option, which means that you have to constantly undo and redo the text to find a text that works at that particular point of writing. Since this is a tedious process, people tend to settle for a “good enough” version that undermines the entire text. Sudowrite escapes this restriction (see Wormhole, below)
- AI is not good at keeping a flow of concepts and ideas under control and linking them together in a way that serves an overarching purpose. It’s incredibly good at adjusting the writing style, but for now, a human needs to take the wheel.
Using AI in Writing
Many writers resist and even loathe the idea that technology can help with actual writing.
Various forms of word processors have been around for ages, of course. Apps like Scrivener, Ulysses, Mellel, etc. are a staple of many writers’ work lives.
Allowing a machine to tread on the hallowed ground of crafting words, sentences, and even paragraphs, however, can feel like abandoning the creative task altogether. Some writers regard it as outright ‘cheating.’
They would rather reach for a dictionary, thesaurus, or perhaps a dogeared copy of Strunk’s The Elements of Style.
Finding the AI Writer Sweet Spot
When used optimally, AI writing assistants are a wonderful tool for generating and expanding ideas.
The truth is that many, if not most, fiction and nonfiction writers “write for the market.” This means that their writing is usually in clearly defined genres and relies on tropes that readers are familiar with as core elements of the stories and texts.
Because GPT-3 tools like Sudowrite leverage the connections between such tropes by drawing on the writing database already in the model, they try to match style and content to work perfectly when provided with good, clear information by the author.
If left on their own to get on with the writing, they tend to fail pretty badly within two or three generations of text.
But with the spark and guidance of an author, the apps can in turn spark a useful development or idea that moves the whole draft or story forward. The point is to fish out the useful and often golden nuggets from the things that get in the way of the overall work – be it an article, a short story, a dissertation, or even a novel.
Combined with a good outline, AI writing apps can greatly enhance your creativity and effectiveness in writing.
Where This Is Heading
Keep something in mind: GPT-3 currently holds the high ground, but other language models are biting at the heels. Notably Google’s LaMDA and MUM, and the Chinese AI monster Wu Dao 2.0 with 1.75 trillion parameters, which represents a tenfold increase in the dataset. This is targeting not only language and writing use cases, but ‘multimodality’ whereby Wu Dao will learn from text and images, and tackle tasks involving both.
Increasingly, it feels like if you don’t get on the AI train whatever your occupation (and this includes writers) then you may be left a long way behind.
What About Copyright?
Because of the way it works, GPT-3 does not plagiarize other work. In every article where we at Brilliantio used it and checked it with plagiarism detectors (Copyscape, Copyleaks, Grammarly, etc.), there was not a single red flag for plagiarism.
Neither OpenAI nor Sudowrite makes any copyright claims on the app’s outputs. The app is rights-free, meaning you can use and publish it either as a rough first draft or as a final form.
For commercial use, I would always advise running the manuscript through a plagiarism checker before publishing. Perhaps with a program designed for longer works, like EasyBib.
Why Sudowrite Stands Out
Sudowrite is an AI creative writing tool developed by a small team of dedicated and experienced developers and writers; this is evident in the design of the app and the features it provides for writers.
‘Sudo’ by the way refers to a coding abbreviation for ‘super user do’ – clearly a sense of developer humor has crept into the naming of the app!
Some unique features include the ability to help design characters and even the relationships between characters. Or rather, it provides the author with ideas, from which they can in turn choose the things they want to keep or that have the potential to be used in the story.
All the features of the app are discussed in detail, below.
Co-Writer ‘Team’ on Standby
The standout feature for me, however, is the way Sudowrite provides options alongside the main text I am writing. It’s just as if I had a small team of fellow writers contributing thoughts and suggestions that I can draw on at will. In fact, it mirrors what I have experienced in creative teams over the years, in filmmaking and elsewhere.
It’s immensely helpful to have not only a second brain on call but also a third, fourth and fifth.
Even though other AI writing apps offer variants (e.g. CopyAI), none come close to Sudowrite’s speed and ability to write long texts. Although I test and use other AI apps when writing, I always go back to Sudowrite as my main writing editor and app precisely because it is so writer-centric and suggestion-oriented.
Sometimes I then resort to other apps to optimize the texts. When writing SEO articles, I use InstaText to review and edit the articles before publishing.
Related: What Is InstaText
Who Is Behind Sudowrite
The founders of Sudowrite are Amit Gupta and James Yu. Both are authors themselves.
Gupta, the CEO of Sudowrite, hails from Silicon Valley. After retiring from his first company, Photojojo, following a serious illness, he began writing science fiction. It was there, in a science fiction group, that he met fellow tech founder and science fiction writer James Yu.
To solve some of the problems writers face – not the least of which is writer’s block – they teamed up and developed Sudowrite. Based in San Francisco, Sudowrite launched in 2020 and was in closed beta until November 2021. Now anyone can join.
How AI Writing Assistants Like Sudowrite Can Help Overcome Writer’s Block
The great paradox many writers face is that what drives them to write simultaneously prevents them from writing.
If you have ever run out of ideas or been unable to move forward with a story or idea, you know what writer’s block feels like. The experience is pretty much the same for all writers, whether you are an amateur or a professional writer.
AI writing assistants like Sudowrite help overcome writer’s block by giving you a second writer’s brain and a small group of AI collaborators to help you brainstorm and suggest ways to move your story forward.
Along the way, the AI editor pays attention to the stylistic elements of the author’s work, such as tone, voice, characters, and plot. It then makes suggestions that fit well with the style of the work and the content.
Focusing on a new idea or a variation of one of your original ideas fires the imagination in a way that generates more ideas.
Using Sudowrite With Writing Fiction and Nonfiction Writing
We use Sudowrite to write SEO articles for Brilliantio.
After we create the outline for an article, we often use Sudowrite in combination with the dictation app VoiceIn to create a draft very quickly. Most of the time, we use the Wormhole feature (see below) to make suggestions as we write the articles.
Therefore, I can vouch for Sudowrite’s effectiveness in writing nonfiction because we have months of experience using it on a daily basis.
However, the app was designed primarily for fiction writers, who face a whole host of challenges in producing creative work. Worth noting are:
- Plot and story twists
- Characters and characterization
- Prose description
- Starting points
- Idea generation
Sudowrite is evolving not only in the direction of overcoming these challenges – as the tools described below demonstrate – but it also seems to me to be moving in the direction of creating a draft in a coherent way, based on a detailed plot and outline.
If the latter succeeds, it will be a revolutionary tool for anyone writing novels – arguably the most difficult form of fiction.
Sudowrites Powerful Tools
The great thing about Sudowrite is that not only will you find a set of tested tools in the app, but the developers also provide experimental features in the “Labs”.
For example, “Wormhole”, “Describe”, “Filter”, and “Story Tools” are all part of the main app – while “Expand”, “What If”, Summarize”, Tweetstory”, Feedback”, and “Brainstorm” are all in Labs (as of February 2021).
The “Story Tools” are divided into
This subdivision makes it easier to decide which tool to try at a particular stage of the writing process.
Other AI writing tools I have used either have too complex an interface, so you tend to fall back on one or two features, or they are too simplistic – meaning you have to create and undo several times to get to a usable variant. For my money, Sudowrite gets the design spot on.
Below, we will go into more detail about how each Sudowrite tool works.
Wormhole – the Cornerstone of Sudowrite
This is the most important tool in Sudowrite, because it takes something you have written (at least 50 words to start) – in fiction, by analyzing the voice, characters, plot, story arc, etc. – and tries to write further, giving you four alternatives as a result.
It is also useful for nonfiction because it takes the concepts and language of the previous text and tries to continue writing with coherent ideas. It’s best to use this method as a series of suggestions from which you can pick and mix as you see fit.
Or simply use it as a source of brainstorming and inspiration as you continue writing yourself. Both methods work very well, and the tool is fast enough and the variations varied enough to be very useful.
Novelists, in particular, will appreciate the fact that you can either leave it at the default setting of Neutral or set it to one of the following tones:
to help Sudowrite choose which voice to use.
Most of the time it makes sense to use the default voice – but sometimes, if you want to experiment and have a crazy sub-twist in your text, the tones can be useful.
A Fun Example
A fun example of this is a classic text – take The Great Gatsby and its immortal opening lines – and let us look at how Sudowrite tries to evolve it.
The genius of this tool in Sudowrite is that it picks up a word or short phrase in your text and then suggests ways to describe it using the five senses:
This is useful not only for suggesting options for sensory detail and giving writing suggestions but also for reminding you that there are certain senses! Something that is easy to forget in the course of writing.
The Filter tool is divided into a number of sub-tools (filters):
- More descriptive
- More succinct
- More inner conflict
This works by selecting a section of text (e.g. a paragraph) and then selecting the appropriate filter.
The “Rephrase” and “Succinct” filters are handy for non-fiction texts, while all other filters are suitable for fiction. The ” Descriptive” and “More Inner Conflict” filters sometimes take the text in a completely new direction!
The “Custom” filter is interesting because it allows you to steer the tone toward “quirkier,” “more ironic,” “more satirical,” and so on. The beauty of it is that you specify the exact direction – it’s not just a dropdown filter.
The Labs menu is where you’ll find all of Sudowrite’s experimental tools.
These currently include:
The ‘Expand’ Tool
If you write fiction, this is a brilliant tool that takes a selection of a few sentences and tries to turn them into a whole scene!
So, for example:
The horror of it tore through him, freezing every muscle in his body. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. He fell to his knees, hands on the floor. He was staring at the gun in shock, unable to believe what she was seeing.BEFORE SUDOWRITE
The gun was lying on the floor, just a few feet away from him. He could see it so clearly, as if it was calling to him. The temptation was overwhelming. All he had to do was reach out and pick it up. He could feel the weight of it in his hand, the cold metal against his skin.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to control the fear that was racing through him. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t go through with this.
He heard her voice in his head, her warm, sweet voice, telling him that it would be okay. That she would be with him.
He opened his eyes and stared at the gun. He could do it. If he wanted to, he could get up, walk over to the gun, pick it up, and shoot himself. It would be over in a few seconds. No more pain. No more suffering.
He glanced up at the ceiling. Was she up there? Was she watching him?
He thought of her smile, her laugh, her beautiful blue eyes. He thought of how many times he had woken up in the middle of the night, reaching out for her, only to find himself alone in the darkness.
She was gone. He was alone. And it was his fault.
He looked at the gun again. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t give up. Not now. Not when he had found happiness and love again after so many years of darkness and misery.
He crawled back towards the bed and wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair. She felt so warm and soft against him. She was so alive and vibrant. She wasn’t going to leave him. He could feel it in every part of him.
He had a feeling that he would never let go of her again.
Does It Work for Nonfiction?
Of course, it does not work so well with nonfiction.
If we try:
One of the very cool things about Sudowrite is that not only do you get a range of tested tools inside the app; the developers also share experimental features inside the ‘Labs’.TEXT BEFORE SUDOWRITE
Expand turns this to:
One of the very cool things about Sudowrite is that not only do you get a range of tested tools inside the app; the developers also share experimental features inside the ‘Labs’. I’d been playing around with one of these features – a ‘random word generator’ – and had come up with a word that I really liked: ‘Sinister’.
I decided to use it as the title for my latest work-in-progress, a noir detective story set in New York. Sinister was a short, punchy word that could be seen as a warning or a declaration. It had a sinister sound to it, but also sounded like a name. It was a little bit spooky and a lot cool.
I’d been working on the story for a few weeks now and had already completed the first two chapters. I’m not sure how far I’d want to take the noir style – I didn’t want to get carried away and put in too many adjectives and adverbs. But I did want this to be the most respectable piece of fiction I’d ever written (by my own standards, at least).
I read through the first few paragraphs, making sure there were no spelling mistakes or typos.
I’d been working non-stop for what felt like days. It was dark outside. I was sitting at my desk, with only one lamp illuminating my work space.
I looked up from my work and out of the window. The city was alive. The streetlights were being reflected on the wet pavements, and cars were moving sluggishly through the rain. The raindrops looked like tiny diamonds strewn across the city’s skin.
I sipped my whiskey and looked back down at my story. I wasn’t satisfied with what I’d written so far. I didn’t know how to describe the raindrops. ‘Strewn across’ sounded too abstract; ‘being reflected’ just…TEXT AFTER SUDOWRITE
Basically, Sudowrite does its best to turn that one paragraph into a full-fledged scene or even a story! This can be brilliant, of course, if you only have the germ of a story or the beginning of a scene.
It might go in a completely different direction than the one you had in mind, but that’s okay – if it’s completely off the wall, just run the tool a second, third, or more times. Chances are you’ll soon come up with an idea you can work with further.
The ‘What if’ Tool
The What If tool gives you a series of short suggestions for how the story might proceed from a particular point in your text.
It’s completely useless for non-fiction texts, but I can imagine it spurring an idea if you are stuck in the middle of a scene or chapter.
The ‘Summarize’ Tool
Summarize tries to step back from the text as a whole and draw a summary line through the text.
However, this is not done in a neutral way, but through the lens of a writer. For example, here is an extract of what it has reported so far for this article:
The author is discussing different AI writing assistants they use. They mention that AI writing assistants have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are most effective when used in combination with a good outline. There are also some concerns about copyright and plagiarism.
The protagonist is using a new app called Sudowrite to write a short story. The app is unique because it allows the user to write a rough draft or a final draft and the app will suggest changes. The protagonist finds the app helpful and uses it to write his story with his writer friends.
James Yu and Amit Gupta, the founders of Sudowrite, are discussing the company’s first product – a writing assistant that helps writers overcome writer’s block. The founders discuss the different tools included in the app and how they work. The company has developed a range of tools that help writers with various aspects of writing, including plot, characters, and style.
The author discusses the different types of filters for writing nonfiction and fiction. The Descriptive and More Inner Conflict filters are good for nonfiction, whereas all the filters work for fiction.sudowrite’s summarize tool applied to this article
I think you get the point!
The ‘Tweetstorm’ Tool
Given the popularity of Twitter among writers as a way to cultivate an audience, anything that helps ease the burden of creating tweets is interesting.
The Tweetstorm tool for this article instantly generated 57 tweets, some of which can be used either directly or with a little customization.
Sudowrite is an AI writing assistant that is set up by writers and features specific tools that suit a particular way of working. It’s one of the mainstays of the tech that we at Brilliantio use to write and publish daily.tweet written by sudowrite’s tweetstorm tool
Not bad at all. Definitely better than writing such texts manually!
The ‘Feedback’ Tool
This tool sets up a panel of three “Sudoreaders” who critique the entire document from different angles. It’s a lot of fun, both for fiction and nonfiction.
Here are some excerpts of what “they” thought about the first draft of this article! –
Overall, I liked the story. My favorite part was when she described the Sudowrite as being a tool that could be used to help the writer create their own voice.sudoreader 1
To me, the theme was to write with passion and to respect our own work. I couldn’t help but feel that the author understood the value of their own work, not just in terms of profit, but in terms of the art that they were creating.sudoreader 2
I think there are a few areas which merit further exploration:
1) The use of AI writing assistants as brainstorming and expansion tools.
2) How AI writing assistants can help overcome writer’s block.
3) The experimental tools in Sudowrite.sudoreader 3
Well. Ahem. There you go. That’s me told!
The ‘Brainstorming’ Tool
The brainstorming tool creates a template where you put some seeds (or examples) and then try to create more.
- Plot Points, and
There’s also a blank template where you can type in the specific idea you need help with (the example is “Give me a list of creatures that might live in a high fantasy world.” [reaches for a copy of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts….]
Story Tools in Sudowrite
The ‘Twist’ Tool
Here you enter a brief description of the story so far, and Sudowrite suggests some options for a plot twist to the story.
This is useful if you are stuck in the middle of a story or even a scene.
You can set one of the following genres:
- Science Fiction
and more may be added in the future.
The ‘Characters’ Tool
The way it works is that you first write three or more short character descriptions yourself, after which Sudowrite creates more characters. It’s basically a GPT-3 character generator.
The beauty of this is that, as with all tools, you can access them ad hoc as you write. So with characters, you can keep an updated list of character names and descriptions, feed them into Sudowrite (and keep them there), and generate new characters when you need one or more.
As with all tools, you can regenerate the list to get more ideas, and Sudowrite keeps the previous outputs.
A cool way to use the tool is to generate other types of story elements.
For people writing sci-fi or fantasy, this is gold because it helps a lot with building your worlds, magic systems, character types, technologies, locations, etc. It’s literally a world-building tool at your disposal.
For example, I just tried typing in the types of wizards from Wikipedia and got the following additions:
Our Writer Brains and Sudowrite
There are many other sources you can use as a basis for Sudowrite to develop ideas for your world and characters.
In a sense, this is exactly what happens in our brains as writers: We make connections to existing knowledge, insights, memories, and feelings, and then expand on that wealth of experience in our writing. GPT-3 does something similar – with the difference that it draws on a much wider range of information.
Because of the differences in the way humans and AI work, the combination can produce truly creative work.
The ‘Poem’ Tools
Well. Ahem. Using an AI to write a poem makes me feel a little bit like the Vogon poet in Douglas Adams’ wonderful The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Save to say that Sudowrite will indeed produce a poem.
And even an AI-generated image to go with it!
Have fun, epic fantasy writers! Your bard/hero/[insert character luvvie] will thank you later :)
The ‘Related words’ Tooltip
A cool new feature in Sudowrite is the tooltip for a selected word that, when clicked, displays two-word clouds with antonyms and synonyms.
Using Sudowrite Plus Dictation for Writing Articles
Although several of the above tools are not well suited for non-fiction writing, Wormhole. Excellent.
I often use it when writing articles, dictating a rough first draft with VoiceIn directly into the Sudowrite editor, then pressing COMMAND -Enter on my Mac keyboard to launch Wormhole whenever I feel it can contribute something useful or when I am stuck.
Or, as with this article, I resort to typing when I know there will be a lot of technical terms that the dictation app will have trouble recognizing.
Once the first draft is done, I go through the article and use Wormhole in places where I feel the article could be expanded.
I find that the fastest way to work with the four Wormhole suggestions is to hit the “Paste” option to immediately paste the entire Wormhole suggestion into my text, and then edit it there instead of just copying parts of it.
I also often use the variants suggested by Wormhole to write an extra line or two myself.
It takes about a minute or two from the time I turn on Wormhole to the end of the process. For the occasions I use it, it’s absolutely worth it.
Since I write SEO articles (articles that should rank well on Google, but also be useful to readers), I work according to a detailed outline. For articles or texts where I can take a back seat – just write ahead and let the writing guide me – Wormhole would probably play an even bigger role.
And as a Result of This Approach …
The draft of this 5,000-word article, admittedly not the final version, was written in less than two hours.
Included in that time are several breaks and time to fire up Sudowrite’s other tools so I can describe them to you here.
The nice thing about using the Sudowrite editor is that I can switch back and forth between dictation and writing modes, and everything I write is saved no matter which tool I use.
Proofreading and Editing
For articles, I use the wonderful InstaText, which helps me proofread text very quickly.
For fiction writing, at the point where I want to think about story structure, I would turn to finer-grained but slower tools like Grammarly Premium, ProWritingAid, maybe Quillbot, and maybe Marlowe.
The main point is to iron out the inevitable grammatical errors while achieving a consistent and appropriate style.
Can Sudowrite Help With Writing a Novel?
It’s mostly about staying true to your story and your vision.
One of the advantages of GPT-3’s programs is that they can create new texts faster than any human while maintaining the author’s tone and presentation.
So in many ways, the author’s role shifts a bit to developing and evolving the story, while the program takes care of the more mundane, repetitive, and often less creative aspects of writing.
One of the active discussions in the Sudowrite Slack Channel (see below) revolves around Sudowrite becoming more focused on novel writing. Currently, the experience seems to be that it is more useful at the beginning and becomes increasingly less useful as the complex web of writing in each novel develops.
Since the developers of Sudowrite come from the writing industry themselves, they are very aware of this challenge and, if they can solve it, are likely to develop the solutions further in the near future.
Related: AI Story Writing
Real Writer User Base and Community
This pedigree has carried over to the community for Sudowrite, which takes place on Slack. It is an extremely useful meeting place, as many of the participants are experienced bona fide writers interested in the intersection of technology and writing.
That’s why you’ll find in-depth discussions about plot generators, for example. Or the way AI can now be used to generate images that can be useful to writers (for cover design, for example).
The developers are very active and responsive to the community – you never feel like you are using an app that’s been left for dead or where user feedback is not valued.
How Much Does Sudowrite Cost?
Sudowrite currently costs $20 per month, which for anyone who writes professionally or is an avid enthusiast is a very reasonable price for what it delivers. Even independent authors, who typically are operating on very tight budgets.
There are many other AI writing assistants on the market, some with lifetime terms, others on annual or monthly subscriptions. Since we have many of them at Brilliantio, we will probably feature them in due course.
But I hope the above article has helped you decide if Sudowrite might be a good option for you. With publications and writers of the caliber of the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Washington Post in the United States, the former co-editor of Boing Boing and fiction author Cory Doctorow, Robin Sloan, and Joanna Penn in the UK using and taking notice of it, perhaps it’s time for you to do likewise!