3 Ways to Make Your Manuscript Stand Out in Today’s Novel-Writing Swamp


It’s not a pool of novel-writing competition out there. It’s a swamp.

A pool is nice and neat and contained. Oh, it might be an Olympic-sized pool. It could possibly be bigger than that. But it’s still something that’s typically clear and chlorine-cleaned and maintained.

And that just doesn’t describe the novel-writing world anymore. If it ever did.

The novel-writing world is much more “natural” than that. As in, it serves its purpose, has its uses and can even be quite intriguing or beautiful. Yet it also contains tons of muck, murk and menaces, like snakes that will most definitely bite you if you get in their way, mosquitos that want to suck your blood, and perhaps even some alligators swimming around.

For the record, those last-mentioned critters will try to eat you alive if you give ‘em half a chance.

A swamp is a hodge-podge free-for all that’s neither really water nor really land. And it’s very easy to get lost in it. So if you’re going to go play in the novel-writing swamp, your goals have to be very big and very eye-catching if you want to come out ahead without some serious amounts of mud on your face.

Make your fiction stand out.

Here’s the hard, cold truth. The world of fiction books (aka novels) is flooded these days.

For readers, the novelty of owning a book went out the window with the printing press. And it’s only gotten less mind-blowing with the advent of self-publishing. That’s not to knock self-published novels. Personally, I rather like that route. But let’s face it: Everyone and their mama is putting a story out on the market at this point.

So how do you make yours stand out? Try these tips.

Let’s start out with an absolute roll-your-eyes cliché that’s nonetheless true.

  1. Be yourself. Let’s say you see that everyone’s into dystopian fiction at the moment. Or they’re just mad about memoir-style fiction. So what? Who cares? You certainly shouldn’t. Your job is to write in whatever genre truly speaks to your truest, innermost novel-writing self. That’s it. For the first draft, that is.

  2. Be the best version of yourself possible. This means, after you’ve finished your first draft, you don’t go it alone. You take the time to properly refine your manuscript by getting outside feedback, editorial advice and expert opinions. Otherwise, your story won’t be in the novel-writing swamp. It’ll be the swamp.

  3. Design an awesome front cover. Your potential readers are intellectually superior and more perceptive than the regular reading masses, right? So they’re not going to be drawn to a book just because of a pretty cover. Right? Wrong. Oh so very, very detrimentally wrong. Your cover is everything! Initially, anyway. Remember: You’re in a novel-writing swamp. By some estimates, there are 1 million new books published every year – in the U.S. alone. So you need something to tell readers, “Hi! I exist!” And it’s gotta be something more interesting than swamp mud.

So there you are, my fine-feathered novel-writing friends. Now go take those three pre-publishing steps and start working on that manuscript.

Show the novel-writing competition and critics that you not only exist… You stand out!

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