Thursday, August 23, 2012

That is so cliché

cli·ché   \klē-ˈshā\

1: a trite phrase or expression; also: the idea expressed by it
2: a hackneyed theme, characterization, or situation
3: something that has become overly familiar or commonplace

I'll be honest. Up until, oh, a week ago, I thought I had this one figured out. I was the one to quickly highlight and click that comment button when critiquing your manuscript and point out, "Cliche! Try again." I avoided using commonplace sayings and overused descriptions in MY manuscript. I would never go there--such an elementary writing mistake.

Then I get my edits back from my agent. Yeah. So this is where I fell short: several of my descriptions were just too easy. The words might have been written in a new way, unfamiliar, and therefore I thought: non-cliche. But the idea behind it? It's been done before. I needed to come up with fresher metaphors and a different way of looking at things. To quote Jennifer: "When an easy option presents itself in fiction, ignore it and move on, to seek out the more surprising and often more challenging options."

And what a challenging process it has been. Whining and pulling my hair out and lots of chocolate kind of challenging. Here's what it looks like, pretty much:

1-I can't do this. It's too hard.
2-Why is this happening to me?
3-I tried and it sucks. See? SEE?
4-Ooh, distractions on the internet.
5-Pass the chocolate.
6-Wait, this might actually work.
7-*move words around aimlessly*
8-Delete. Delete. Command Z. COMMAND Z!
9-This is beautiful stuff. Wow, I'm an amazing writer.
10-Shed a tear and give an impromptu speech to the Pandora web page.

Yep, sounds about right. Then I move on to the next cliche. And as my CP's well know, the process may also involve some nail-biting freak-outs where I send them emergency emails to make sure I haven't completely lost my mind. Usually at steps 3.5 and 8.2ish.

So...do you catch yourself using cliches in your writing? How do you go about fixing them? *Bonus points to whoever can point out all the cliches I've used in this blogpost.* I'm just kidding, sort of. :)

You all know how much I like music. One of my favorite bands is Sigur Ros based out of Iceland. Here's an awesome music video of theirs that takes a common cliche and turns it on its head.




And finally, poll results:
55% of you have never read the last page of a book before reading it. Very good.
27% of you have done it once or twice but don't make it a habit. I think I can forgive that.
9% of you do it all the time. Um...are you INSANE? I want names and numbers. Now. :)
And 9% of you said no comment. "Is wise, this choice you make," says Ilimayoda.

Thanks for participating!

14 comments:

Danielle B. said...

I think I'm usually stuck at step 3 all the time. This week has been rough.

I NEVER read the last page. I've tried... don't get me worng, but it never make any dang sense once I've read it anyways. haha

Suzi said...

Cliches are tough. The obvious ones are easy to pick out, but sometimes I don't even realize something is a cliche. Until that beta points it out.

I'm not good at similie and metaphors, so this is one thing I worry about too.

Good luck!

Fiona said...

I think it's so much harder to see cliches in your own writing than it is in other people's writing, because naturally you don't want to think that your writing is cliched. It's hard but the thing I try to do when editing is imagine reading my novel as if I'm an unbiased reader, or as if I'm critiquing the novel for a friend. This makes me much more vigilant, and more willing to say when things need to change. I know it's a struggle, but really good luck with it, Ilima - you can do it!

jaybird said...

I never read the last page first, I wouldn't want to spoil the ending. I like to be surprised!

I didn't think I used any cliches, in my writing either, but then again, I had no idea I used the word "really" a bizillion times in my manuscript until it was pointed out to me. It's so hard to catch these mistakes in your own work. Thank God for CPs!

Good luck with all the edits. I know you can do it!

Emily R. King said...

I'm horrible about using cliches. I speak with them, I write with them...yeah, it's a problem I'm working on. Perhaps I could adopt your process. I could use the chocolate. :)

ilima said...

Danielle-Sorry about your rough week. I think I'm at #3 the longest, too. But don't worry, it will pass.

Suzi-Sometimes I think the reason something becomes cliche is because it works. And then now it's a cliche, and it no longer does. Gah.

Fiona-I agree. Thank goodness for other readers. Thanks.

Jaybird-I like surprises too! I'm watching the whole series of Battlestar Galactica for the first time right now, and whenever I see anything about it online, I run away with my hands over my eyes and shouting, "lalalala" because I don't want ANY spoilers. :)

Emily-Chocolate in a ten step process of mastering ANYTHING is a must. :)

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I'm pretty certain my WIP right now is chock full of cliches. I'm trying not to worry about it until I have the whole thing written. Then I get to do what you're going through. Awesome.

Kelley Lynn said...

That list is great. I love COMMAND Z! COMMAND Z! :)

I get my edits back next week... oh boy :)

Jay Noel said...

We must be on the same wavelength. I posted about a bunch of cliches I'm personally tired of seeing.

Angela Cothran said...

This is such a challenging editing step. I know I haven't caught all mine. Good luck :)

Oh and I NEVER read the end of a book. BOO

ilima said...

Michelle-Oh, good luck. You have my sympathies indeed.

Kelley-I've been "undoing" way to much lately. Good luck with your edits.

Jay-That was a great list. Too funny.

Angie-Thanks for the luck, and good girl for not reading the end. :)

Bonnee Crawford said...

Cliches can be so hard to avoid sometimes. It's a matter of having someone point them out to you when you haven't picked up on them yourself. As long as you know they're there, you can fix them.

What I picked up from your blog post:
I thought I had this one figured out.
I would never go there.
This is where I fell short.

That's what I picked up on anyway :)

Robin said...

I seem to have the same problem:) Keep pushing through and remember, we're always here for you!

Kathryn Purdie said...

Ilima, I love you and your COMMAND Zs! I think every writer struggles with cliches. Even if I think I'm being fresh from other writers (and I'm sure I'm not as much as I think), I create my own overused ways of describing things ALL THE TIME. Like Michelle said above, I try not to freak out about it until revisions. And, yes, then it is that head banging time!