We’ve all read novels full of cliché moments and we’ve probably written our fair share of cliché sentences. We know we should avoid it. Writer’s that avoid cliché are so much more enjoyable to read, but how do we become those writers?
I used to think if I stopped reading the genre I like to write, I wouldn’t be influenced by them and I could avoid cliché. But I’ve already read too much to be immune to cliché. And reading what I want to write has way too many other benefits.
So how do I avoid cliché? I don’t.
At least not at first.
How to Stand Out as a Writer and Avoid Cliché
Don’t Avoid Cliché While Writing
When writing a first draft, I just write. I don’t worry about cliché. It’s going to happen, and I’d rather get through the story than worry about how cliché I am. Occasionally, if I notice a phrase or sentence that is horribly cliché I will make it bold as a reminder to come back to it during revision.
For me, it works best to acknowledge cliché only when I have a complete draft. It is a part of my revision process. I don’t like to spend a lot of time worrying about cliché while I write, because I don’t know until I’m revising whether or not a scene is even going to make the final draft.
Writing Exercises to Help You Avoid Cliché
If you are writing and feel bothered by how much cliché you are using, it can be helpful to take out a piece of paper and just write every cliché phrase you can think of. Get it out of your system, and then get back to writing. Keep this list with you too. That way you can use it as a point of reference during revision. As you revise, make sure none of those cliché phrases makes it into your final draft.
Another helpful activity that I like to do during revision is writing down a cliché phrase that I come across in my draft and brainstorming a list of other ways to get my meaning across.
For example: I was scared to death.
I was as scared as a child being scolded for eating the last cookie out of the cookie jar.
I was more scared than a puppy during a thunderstorm.
I was scared so bad I wet myself.
I was so scared I screamed like a girl.
This exercise is helpful because it pushes you to avoid cliché but also opens up phrases that add more depth to your novel. Continuing with the example above, if the main character is a male trying to show how tough he is, one of the last two examples says a lot more about his character than simply saying “I was scared to death.”
Whether you use these activities during the writing or revision process, I hope they help you avoid cliché.
How do you avoid cliché?