How to Write a Book with ChatGPT (+ a Better Alternative)

If you’re thinking about writing a book with AI, ChatGPT is probably pretty tempting. It’s free (or, at the very least, cheap), crazy smart, and able to adapt to any prompt you throw at it. Well… almost any prompt.

If you head over to ChatGPT and write:

  • “Generate a book about XYZ.”

…you’re probably going to be disappointed.

And this disappointment will only increase the longer and more complicated the book you’re trying to generate becomes. To get ChatGPT to generate anything close to resembling a coherent book, you need to follow a process.

In this guide, we’re putting ChatGPT to the test. We’ll give you a process to follow for writing a book with this tool, plus some prompts to help you along the way. Oh, and we’ll introduce you to an alternative (cough cough Sudowrite) that works better for every stage of the writing process.

Can You Write a Book with ChatGPT?

Right off the bat, we need to set your expectations.

Yes, you can technically write a book with ChatGPT. However, it (probably) won’t be very good. The tool just wasn’t designed with this use case in mind, and it lacks the features and functionalities needed for consistent, high-quality, logical, long-form content.

Case in point? Amazon is currently being flooded with ChatGPT-generated “books” that are:

  • Incredibly superficial and repetitive
  • Lacking originality and creativity
  • Poorly structured and organized
  • Blatant ripoffs of existing works

In our opinion, you’re much better off using ChatGPT to start your book before switching to a more purpose-built tool that will help you create something truly unique and valuable. However, we’re still going to do our best to get ChatGPT to write us a book.

How to Write a Book With ChatGPT

1. Ideation

The first step in this process is ideation—coming up with a theme or topic that you’ll expand into a living, breathing story. ChatGPT is honestly pretty great for this. More specifically, it’s great for high-volume ideation.

You can request unlimited topic ideas from ChatGPT, and it’ll generate them in seconds. So, even if you only have a rough idea of what you’re looking for (like a genre), you can still get a wide range of potential directions to take your book in.

Are they all winners? No… definitely not. But there are often accidental gems in the mix.

Prompt Examples:

  • “Generate a few brief story ideas for an [adjective] [genre] novel.”
  • “Generate a few brief story ideas for a [genre] novel involving a [plot point].”

Some of these ideas are actually pretty compelling! We can’t speak to the originality of these ideas, but taken at face value, ChatGPT seems to really excel here.

2. Research

Most authors will tell you that research is a big part of the process. It helps you see, hear, touch, and understand the things you’re writing about. And that’s (in many cases) a prerequisite for helping readers do the same.

Start by asking ChatGPT to help you identify the things you should look into.

A good prompt for this is:

  • “Create a list of topics or stories I should research to write a story with the following synopsis: [synopsis].”

Then, pick and choose topics from the list and dive deeper. If you’re a ChatGPT Plus subscriber, you can have ChatGPT search the web for sources and generate summaries using a prompt like:

  • “Generate a summary report on [research topic]. Include a brief overview, sources I should read to learn more, and key takeaways from those sources.”

But even on the free plan, ChatGPT should be able to recommend some good books and popular articles on the subject.

3. Outline and Structure

Alright, you have the idea and foundational research out of the way. Now, it’s time to come up with a rough outline for your book. This is essentially a map of the overall conflict or story arc that the book will follow.

There are a few ways ChatGPT can help you here:

Creating an Outline from Scratch

With this method, you basically hand ChatGPT the reins and see what kind of outline it comes up with. A simple prompt is enough for this:

  • “Generate a rough outline for a [genre] book with the following synopsis: [synopsis].”

Results may vary here. ChatGPT has occasional sparks of brilliance, but many of these outlines will be boring, cliche, or poorly conceived.

Creating an Outline by Guiding ChatGPT

For this approach, simply expand on the previous prompt by including plot points, twists, characters, and relationships you want to explore:

  • “Generate a rough outline for a [genre] story with the following synopsis: [synopsis]. Make sure it includes [plot point], [plot twist], [relationship],...”

This will almost always generate better results. This outline actually seems like a great starting point for a crime story.

Creating an Outline With Story Frameworks

This approach gives ChatGPT’s outputs some structure by forcing them to fit within a story framework like:

  • The Hero’s Journey
  • Save the Cat
  • Three-Act Structure

Here’s a prompt you can use for this:

  • “Generate a [story framework] outline for a [genre] story with the following synopsis: [synopsis].

4. Characters and Scenes

Once you have an outline you’re happy with you should have a pretty good idea of the main characters and scenes you need to flesh out. Once again, ChatGPT can help you get a jump start on the details by:

  • Generating descriptions for different characters and settings
  • Structuring key scenes and plot points
  • Creating dialogues between characters

Here are a few practical examples:

Characters and Settings

ChatGPT doesn’t have your flair for creative description. But it can do a pretty good job of building a foundation.

You can try using the following prompt:

  • “Create detailed descriptions for the main characters and settings in this outline: [outline].”

Key Scenes

Same goes for scenes—ChatGPT isn’t going to spit out anything worthy of a best-selling novel, but it can give you some ideas to build on.

You can try using the following prompt:

  • “Create an outline for a scene where [character] [plot point].”

We recommend entering this prompt (and the one below) as a follow-up to the conversation where ChatGPT generated your character and scene descriptions. You need to do this so ChatGPT understands the characters, relationships, etc.

Key Dialogues

In the same vein, you can also have ChatGPT help you ideate potential dialogues between characters to support key scenes. Many writers struggle with this, so relying on AI can be a big help.

Here’s a potential prompt:

  • “Generate a few potential dialogue options for the scene above. There should be a [dialogue element].”

To be honest, ChatGPT starts to fall apart a bit here. All the dialogues we generated were pretty forced and unnatural.

5. Writing a Draft

Now, it’s time to start writing. You can technically use ChatGPT for this. However, it isn’t designed to write long-form content, so this is often difficult and frustrating.


For starters, ChatGPT can only hold around 3,000 words in its memory at a time. If a conversation goes beyond this, info at the beginning starts to get forgotten. Plus, ChatGPT doesn’t have any system for organizing chapters. And if you start a new conversation to write each chapter, you’ll need to re-brief ChatGPT on everything we’ve created so far to avoid inconsistencies.

That said, you can try out prompts like:

  • “Generate the first chapter of the following outline in full: [outline]. Include [dialogue] somewhere.”

Again, pretty underwhelming. All the prose we generated had a distinctly robotic quality to it.

6. Editing and Feedback

Once you have a draft, you can come back to ChatGPT for help editing it.

There are a few ways to use the tool here:

  • Tone Adjustment: Change up the writing style by giving tone-based instructions.
  • Feedback: We had a lot of success asking ChatGPT to take on different reader personas to provide targeted feedback. You can also close the loop by asking ChatGPT to edit passages based on its own feedback.
  • Enhancement: You can also ask ChatGPT to enhance a specific aspect of a scene—like the dialogue or setting description.

A Better Alternative for Authors: Sudowrite

As we’ve seen, ChatGPT is a powerful tool for ideation but it isn’t designed for writing books. At Sudowrite, we’ve worked hard to extend AI’s usefulness beyond ideation to include planning, writing, visualizing, and editing.

A few of the biggest advantages?

Sudowrite sounds like you. ChatGPT sounds like ChatGPT. You can ask (no, plead) with it to sound more like you, but improvements are short-lived. Sudowrite’s Match My Voice feature helps our AI understand your style and stick with it over the course of an entire book.

Sudowrite helps you stay organized. Unlike ChatGPT, we let you create distinct chapters for your long-form books without asking you to reexplain every character and plot point.

Sudowrite offers more features. ChatGPT is heavy on use cases but light on creative writing features. You can only do so much with a chatbot. Sudowrite offers a wide range of tools to enhance your writing process.

Speaking of…

Key Features

  • Quick Chat: Quick Chat is a story-aware chat tool that you can ask basically anything about your characters, plot, world-building—you name it! Hit command-K, then fire away with questions like, “How could I make the ending more of a surprise?” or “What is the arc of Taylor's character throughout the book?” Ask, and you shall receive.
  • Quick Edit: Want to edit without actually having to edit? Hit the same keyboard shortcut as above to call in Sudowrite’s quick editor. It can make changes, adjustments, word swaps, and more without pulling you out of the flow. Like… “Make this sentence punchier” or “Can you make this dialogue more natural?”
  • Brainstorm: Our Brainstorm tool helps you come up with everything from characters to items, dialogues, plot twists, and more—all designed to work within your story.
  • Story bible: This is where you store all the key details about your story—characters, plot points, outlines, world-building elements, and more. Everything you add is used to structure Sudowrite’s output to ensure consistency. Plus, it means you don’t need to re-explain details every 5 minutes (like you do with ChatGPT).
  • Write & Rewrite: Stuck on a tricky turn of phrase? Need a fresh idea for a scene? Let Sudowrite take over. Our AI can pick up where you left off or adapt your writing based on instructions like, “Add more tension here.”
  • Describe: Two-dimensional scenes kill tension and pacing. Sudowrite can automatically generate five-sense descriptions for any sentence or paragraph to help you really feel the world you are creating.
  • Plugins: Our users are pretty talented folks. They’ve created thousands of plugins that add even more capabilities to Sudowrite. From sequel generators to tools that analyze your story and create realistic magic systems, there really is something for everyone here.


ChatGPT can be a pretty useful tool for authors if you understand its strengths and weaknesses. It’s great for ideation, but it's not the best option for more nuanced aspects of writing (like, you know, sounding like you).

Looking for an AI tool that’s purpose-built for writers? Sudowrite combines ChatGPT’s ideation capabilities with tools for putting words on the page. From brainstorming to the final draft, we’ve got you covered.

Get started with a free trial today.