When I’m drafting, whether it’s a novel, short story, or a blog post, I find that the first draft is the quickest. Words just pour from my fingers like water over a dam, or in a downpour like it’s raining cats and dogs.
Can you see the problem? Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. When drafting, in that burst of creative energy, when the internal editor is turned off, the words do flow. But so do the clichés.
And sometimes, I don’t even notice them. Three editing passes later, I’m still pulling out those clichés that hit me over the head like a ton of bricks. Somehow they have sprung up like weeds in my prose, choking out the tender plants of original metaphors or striking images. Then I have to go back to square one, back to the salt mines, as it were, and think some more.
Here are some more that spring to mind so easily:
(And we’ll pause here. Now that I’m trying to make a list of clichés, they seem to have fled my conscious mind.) Not that I’m getting bent out of shape, or anything. I’ll just have to put on my thinking cap and wrack my brain until the cows come home. I may have opened up Pandora’s box here.
So I’ll take the plunge and list a few:
➢ Green as grass
➢ Like water off a duck’s back
➢ It’s high time to …
➢ All dressed up and no place to go
➢ Can’t fit a square peg in a round hole
➢ Wait for the dust to settle
The hard truth is clichés are just plain lazy writing. While a picture’s worth a thousand words, painting a truly new and fresh image with words is worth its weight in gold. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor? Could be the subject of another post someday…)
But back to the matter at hand. Writing a cliché is like picking the low hanging fruit, achieving the easily attainable, but never reaching for something better. After all, if writing great prose was a piece of cake, everyone would be able to do it.
There are always other fish to fry, other fish in the sea, other axes to grind. That’s probably why so many clichés slip through the cracks. No one likes to play second fiddle, but everyone wants to play with the big boys.
And the only way to get there is by banishing the clichés. The only way is to nip the habit in the bud. No pain, no gain. Otherwise, people will think you aren’t the sharpest crayon in the box. And they’ll judge your books by the cover.
Maybe after all that, I’ve purged the clichés out of my system and am free of them and the pain in the neck they are. But maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath…