How I wrote, illustrated, edited and published a children’s book over the weekend

TLDR; You can buy it here.

Over the last couple months, I’ve been experimenting/using some of the latest AI technologies, specifically ChatGPT for general knowledge and Stable Diffusion for art creation.

The basic process was pretty simple. I had a motivations to write a children’s story based on my experience with my four children and their voracious appetite for new stories (often featuring them or characters much like them).

(quick side note: I’ve been waiting for the Singularity for 25+ years and have done a few shows about it)

I had already asked it to write a simple version of a story and it did as well as I could have, with my tired-end-of-day brain and kid requests. This was a couple months ago, and quickly forgotten.

With Stable Diffusion, I’ve been digging a little deeper. I did the Lensa thing, I have used some crypto-related projects that offered access to txt2img capabilities, but it wasn’t until I downloaded the Automatic1111 repo and started pulling down checkpoint models that I really got into it and started to see the variations and possibilities this technology represented.

One of the checkpoint models I downloaded was particularly well suited to fantasy art.

Then, on New Year’s Eve eve, I decided to put two and two together, so I fired up the browser and began thusly..

RPN: Hello, I would like you help me write a children's story.

CGP: I'd be happy to help! What is the story about? Do you have any specific characters or themes in mind? It may also be helpful to think about the age group you are writing for and what message you want to convey through the story. Let me know and we can start brainstorming ideas together.

RPN: That sounds wonderful. I'd like you to include some children in the story, with random contemporary names. Four children. Ages 2, 4, 8, 10. Two boys and two girls. They will be the subjects of the story. I would like a light and happy story. The main theme to teach them is about sharing. How does that sound?

CGP: Sure, I can work with that! Here's a rough outline for a children's story about sharing:

Title: "The Sharing Tree"

Synopsis: Four children, Lucy (age 2), Jack (age 4), Emma (age 8), and Max (age 10), go on a nature walk and discover a special tree. The tree is covered in delicious fruit, but when they try to pick some, they find that they are all stuck together. The tree tells them that the fruit will only come off if they learn to share with each other. The children are initially hesitant, but they eventually learn to share and are rewarded with the fruit.

Characters:

Lucy (age 2, girl)
Jack (age 4, boy)
Emma (age 8, girl)
Max (age 10, boy)
The Sharing Tree (magical tree with the power to grant fruit to those who learn to share)
Themes: Sharing, cooperation, nature, friendship

I hope this outline gives you a good starting point for your children's story! Let me know if you have any questions or if you'd like me to expand on any of the ideas.


RPN: Yes, that's a good start. I'd like the story to incorporate the same characters, but be based in a fantasy magical kingdom with wizards and dragons and kings and queens and knights, things like that.

Keep the same themes, new title. Maybe split into 10 parts, rhyming?

CGP: Sure, I can adapt the story to include a fantasy magical kingdom setting and split it into 10 parts with rhyming verse. Here's a revised outline:

Title: "The Sharing Crown"

Synopsis: In a magical kingdom ruled by a wise and fair queen, four children, Lucy (age 2), Jack (age 4), Emma (age 8), and Max (age 10), go on a quest to find the legendary Sharing Crown. The crown is said to grant great power to those who learn to share with others. The children journey through enchanted forests and meet friendly wizards, brave knights, and fearsome dragons, all while learning the importance of sharing and cooperation. In the end, they find the Sharing Crown and are hailed as heroes.

Characters:

Lucy (age 2, girl)
Jack (age 4, boy)
Emma (age 8, girl)
Max (age 10, boy)
Queen (wise and fair ruler of the magical kingdom)
Wizards (mystical beings with magical powers)
Knights (noble warriors who protect the kingdom)
Dragons (fierce creatures with the ability to breathe fire)
Themes: Sharing, cooperation, magic, adventure, friendship

I hope this revised outline fits your desired direction for the story. Let me know if you have any further questions or if you'd like me to expand on any of the ideas.

RPN: Let's do the same story, with some sample text. Just do each chapter one at a time. I say the name for each chapter, you can give a title, and them some some rhyming text. We'll do each of the 10 chapters one at a time. Let's start with Chapter 1. Go.

And it proceeded to give me an outline of Chapter 1, Which I quickly asked for another edit…

RPN: Can you rewrite Chapter 1 with the kids names being O (girl: age 2), T (boy: age 4), R (boy: age: 8), and M (girl: age 10)?

CGP: Sure! Here's Chapter 1 of "The Sharing Crown" with the revised character names:

And so we got each chapter of the book. I actually decided to cut it off after about 6. It would say it’s probably bout 60-40 on the final rhymes and words as far as source goes. I spent zero time with ChatGPT *refining* the text. I took the first draft and ran with it.

So the edits and differences are mine. I’ve decided not to include the full original text here…but…obviously…one can go and generate their own with little more effort than a copy and paste. I will say there were enough edits that I consider the final work to be unique and my own, but that’s another discussion.

Then we started in on the art.

RPN: So I need help with the arti for these. Can you give me some same prompts for an AI art program to illustrate each chapter? I'd like two descriptions for each chapter. Lets begin with Chapter 1. Can you give me two text prompts for AI art for Chapter 1?

CGP: Sure, here are two text prompts for AI art for Chapter 1 of "The Sharing Crown":

"Four adventurous children setting out on a quest through an enchanted forest"


"The four children walking hand in hand through the magical woods, ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead"


I hope these prompts give you some ideas for generating illustrations for Chapter 1 of your story. Let me know if you have any further questions or if you'd like additional prompts for the other chapters.

RPN: Yes, I would like prompts for all the chapters. Can you share them all?

CGP: Sure! Here are text prompts for AI art for all the chapters of "The Sharing Crown":

Chapter 1: "The Quest Begins"

"Four adventurous children setting out on a quest through an enchanted forest"
"The four children walking hand in hand through the magical woods, ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead"

Chapter 2: "The Enchanted Forest"

"The children encountering a wise old wizard in the enchanted forest"
"The wizard giving the children a warning about the dangers of their quest"

Chapter 3: "The Dragon's Lair"


"The children facing a fierce dragon in its lair"
"The dragon calming down and befriending the children after they share a teddy bear with it"

Chapter 4: "The Knight's Challenge"

"The children being challenged by a noble knight to share their belongings"
"The knight approving of the children's sharing and allowing them to pass the challenge"

Chapter 5: "The Wizard's Return"

"The children being surprised by the wizard, who has found the Sharing Crown"
"The children putting on the Sharing Crown, filled with joy and pride"

Chapter 6: "The Return Home"

"The children being hailed as heroes upon their return home"
"The children wearing the Sharing Crown as a symbol of their journey and the legacy they will bear"

I hope these prompts give you some ideas for generating illustrations for each chapter of your story. Let me know if you have any further questions or if you'd like additional prompts.

EDIT UPDATE: Apparently it was saved and the hiccup was a growing pain..And here is where I coyly note that I did not save the original prompts and can’t easily share them. They are all embedded in my various txt2img and img2img processes that created the final results, but I don’t have them in a simple text file any longer. ChatGPT, unfortunately, does not save conversations by default, and so a copy/paste is necessary to save the results in creates.

I have set up Stable Diffusion on a couple local machines (one I had recently upgraded the RAM and GPU on in order to make these iterations faster…as noted, I’ve jumped in pretty deep) and got to work. Prompt -> result -> tweak -> result -> repeat. Getting computers to draw what you want, while certainly easily now than it was a year ago, is still not a perfect process. Even with AI assistance.

A few hours later, I had my first draft for both art and text. And also several hundred extra pieces of art that will never see the light of day for various reasons. This was all complete before the end of the new year. Taking off several hours for fun and family (I did mention all the kiddos, right?) I was still able to get the full first draft done **and submitted to Amazon** in under 24 hours.

That last bit is an important part, and involves **WAAAY** more AI’s than were involved in the direct creation of the book. The empowering tools of the modern self-publishing world have matured fully. The ability to publish and sell a manuscript without the intervention of any other (or any) human being is certainly a possibility.

And so, the point stands:

In 2022 it was possible to write, illustrate, edit and publish a children’s book in under 24 hours, using AI assisted technology.

Over the next week I then “upscaled” all the images and then added the text directly (via a wonderful iPad image editing tool called Procreate).

Then I recreated the manuscript and resubmitted the upscaled and upgraded version via Kindle Direct Publishing for review. That new version was been slowly filtering through Amazon’s self-publishing maelstrom and appears to be the current one available for purchase.

I am happy enough with it to have my name attached to it (although I apparently forgot to include it on the cover and there’s at least one typo in the current version)

You can see the results here:

The Sharing Crown

My plan, given the time and opportunity, is to do a few more versions of similar stories. The generative process was quite enjoyable, and much of the friction of creation was just me figuring out which buttons to click. I’d expect the next iteration to allow for a higher quality first draft within the single day parameters. And a fully professional product given more expanded timelines.

An amazing time we live in. I hope we can learn to enjoy and embrace it.

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