NovelAI is the most well known AI storytelling tool; people use it for their short stories, novels, and fan-fictions.
Released in June 2021 by Anlatan, a Delaware based software company, the app quickly grew to 40k users in the 3 months that followed.
(By the way, this review is for the storytelling tool. If you're more interested in the anime generator, read this instead: NovelAI Anime Image Generator Review.)
- NovelAI is for you if you want to collaborate with a AI to spin up a world with its own culture and history. The AI can keep a lot of information in its memory, about characters, settings, and the overall story.
- NovelAI is not for you if you want a complete story without any effort. It's more like a very helpful writing pal.
As soon as you enter the storyteller, there's no handholding. Just an interface where you can write:
You'll notice there are a few models you can choose from:
Not sure of which model to choose, I just went with Euterpe, because it's described as the most powerful.
After letting the storyteller run for a few lines, I realized how to use it.
It's a collaborative tool: you let the AI write a line, then you can edit it a bit, then you hand over control back to the AI.
All the while, you can play with the many settings available:
- AI Module:
- Config Preset:
Especially helpful are the Memory and Author's Note boxes.
Anything you place in these boxes will be remembered.
I made up (fairly generic) story about questing adventurers.
I wrote the details about the story I wanted to tell in Author's Note (where they would be strongly emphasized) and wrote about my characters in Memory (where they would be remembered by the AI).
Here's what NovelAI gave me. My prompts and writing are in Turquoise. Everything else is by NovelAI.
opening scene, a windy and dark knight. A tavern is bustling with noise and activity. Magnus walks in
"Hello my friends!" he says happily "I was just passing through when I heard there was a new quest to be had." He walks up to the bar where several patrons are sitting at wooden tables drinking ale. The tavern keeper leans over the counter.
"What can I get you?" he asks.
"A mug of your finest ale please, Master Tavern Keeper."
The man reaches under the counter and pours Magnus a full tankard of beer. The party begins talking amongst themselves
"Ahoy Magus! we're sitting over here" a familiar voice calls.
Magnus turns around and sees the group, who are wearing cloaks and hoods concealing their faces.
"Well met old friends, it's been too long since last we saw each other" he says as he approaches them "And what brings you to this fine establishment?"
"We've come to finish the quest that brought us together in the first place." Seraphina says with a smile "The quest that was supposed to bring peace between our peoples." She glances around the room.
"The quest that was never completed, as Gebraltar has got his hands on the Crystal Staff." she adds.
Magnus turns back to the barkeep and makes an order for himself.
"I'll take three mugs of your finest ale please, Master Tavern Keeper" he says with a wide grin.
As the heroes drink they talk about their past adventures, Magnus tells of his time as a mercenary working out of the city of Regulus.
What? Why did my character order 3 mugs at the most dramatic moment? It looks like this'll take a little more work than I thought.
Here's how to make NovelAI work better.
For "behind the scenes" functions, use concise, punchy language to pack as much clearly defined information into as few tokens as possible.
- However, that doesn't mean to use low quality language. Since these will be continually used throughout the story by the AI, it's worth taking some time to find colorful words, as that will influence the AI to use higher quality prose as well. Similarly, in the actual story portion, use very descriptive language because the AI will reflect the level of writing you feed into it.
- The AI does poorly with exact or quantitative details, so give it descriptive or qualitative information to work with. For example, say a character is "middle-aged" instead of "50 years old".
- Repeat specific names or titles frequently, rather than using generic pronouns. The AI will have enough trouble keeping track of which character is which on it's own, and this will reinforce the associate between whatever you are describing and the qualities you want it to have.
- Use positive assertions rather than negation: it is far more effective to say "Bob is peaceful" rather than "Bob is not violent". This is akin to how telling someone "Don't think about sparkly unicorns" basically guarantees that they are immediately going to think about sparkly unicorns.
- The square brackets trick (enclosing paragraphs in "[" and "]") works pretty well for these, helping the AI distinguish background information from your main text. Otherwise, it will just appear to the AI as one continuous block of text by default.
Memory is inserted at the very top of what is sent to the AI, so it is the first thing that the AI sees every time you click Send.
However, it's also the farthest away from the new text that is actively being generated, so it may have less obvious impact on current scene.
Think of Memory like the summary on the back of a book.
- Use it to introduce the main theme(s) of your story, the broad strokes of the setting, central conflict(s), and protagonist. You might even devote a paragraph to each.
- It's worth spending a few hundred tokens on this. A typical paragraph might be between 50-100 tokens, so I aim for around 200 tokens total (one tenth of the 2048 token budget with the Sigurd model).
- Here's an example where I introduced the setting, main conflict, and protagonist:
- Author's Note
- Author's note is inserted only a few lines above the new text, so it has an larger impact on the newly generated prose and current scene.
- The Author's Note is a bit like stage directions in a screenplay, but you're telling the AI how to write instead of giving instructions to actors and directors.
- This is a good place to define the genre, tone, and maybe even some brief direction about the current scene.
- Author's Note shouldn't necessarily be that long, as it breaks up the most recent couple paragraphs from the longer previous text, so I aim for <50 tokens.
- Here's an example where I defined the genre, gave the AI a bit of guidance on how to show rather than tell, and gave it a focus to reinforce the kind of story I want it to tell:
- Here's an alternative version that I'm currently using that works very well so far, with each part broken out into sections, but still under 50 tokens.
Lorebook is where you can flesh out the details of your wider world.
The NovelAI engine will help conserve tokens in your context by only inserting Lorebook entries when their keywords are mentioned in the actual story text.
However, they are inserted toward the top, after the Memory but before the actual story text, so they have a moderate effect on what the AI generates.
Lorebook entries are like encyclopedia entrys, providing a succinct overview of the most relevant information about whatever topic - characters, species, places, items, etc...
- The AI doesn't see key word or title of the lorebook entry "behind the scenes", so the actual text should be an entirely self-contained description. For example, if you have a lorebook entry titled "Director Abrams", the entry should say "Director Abrams is the executive and governor of the colony" rather than just "The executive and governor of the colony", because the AI will only see the entry.
- Use lorebook entries that cross reference each other appropriately to create a more dynamic and interactive world. If your "combat android" lorebook entry mentions that they carry plasma rifles, then create a short "plasma rifle" entry separately. If you create a "Admin Tower" entry that mentions containing a command center, computer core, and offices, create distinct "command center", "computer core", and "offices" entries that mention being located in the Admin Tower.
- It helps to use many key words that might pull in a lorebook entry whenever it might be appropriate, rather than just it's proper name(s).
- If you have a rich tapestry of interconnected lorebook entries with many relevant keywords, you may find that multiple lorebook entries are getting pulled into the context at any given time. So it's good to keep them fairly short (50 tokens for minor stuff, 100 tokens for significant characters, no more than 150 for major keystones of the setting).
Novel AI offers 4 plans (one is the free trial version).
This includes ‘Paper’, ‘Tablet’, ‘Scroll’, & ‘Opus’. Each subscription costs more as they go up the ladder, but they also involve access to more features. In some cases, better features. The free trial, known as ‘Paper’, only lasts for a limited duration of time. Meaning, if you like the app, it’s worth thinking about the plan you wish to choose once your trial period expires.
Below is what you get for your hard earned cash!
- Paper: Entitled as ‘Paper’, Novel AI’s free trial allows you to generate 100 pieces of writing with Euterpe. This includes Calliope and Sigurd. In addition, you get 2048 tokens of memory, so 8,192 characters that the AI can store. As an added bonus, you get 100 soothing TTS generations.
- Tablet: For $10.00 per month, your text generations are limitless. You get 1,024 memory tokens. In comparison to Paper, that’s a mere 1,024 characters of AI memory. Extra goodies entail advanced AI TTS & AI generated images. Also, you get 1,000 Anlas (in-app tokens for custom AI modeling).
- Scroll: If you pay for the $15.00 monthly subscription, the perks are the same as above. However, you receive 2,048 memory tokens. So, an extra $5.00 brings back the memory you had in the free trial version.
- Opus: With Novel AI’s $25.00 monthly subscription, you get access to what they refer as ‘Krake’, which has their most up-to-date algorithms. Included within this package is 10,000 Anlas that are refilled every month. Also, your receive advanced AI TTS generations, unlimited AI image generation (normal & small sized images), and access to BETA features (before everyone else can access them).
A lot of new and experienced writers writers suffer from writer's block. NovelAI will be very useful to them.
AI generated novels are here. But the best novels will be written by humans who have mastered these tools.