No really: Kill your cliches

Apr 1, 2011Write!

This guest post comes from author and speaker Leslie Wilson who is one of my terrific mentors at The Writing Spa.

A Little Too Much Cliché

As a writer and editor, I regularly remind fellow writers to kill their clichés. But, sad to say, I have a sneaking suspicion that many newbies turn a deaf ear to this tried-and-true advice. When I corner them, metaphorically speaking, many lie through their teeth when they swear on their mother’s grave that they won’t resort to cliché abuse.

However, rather than hunker down in the trenches and sweat blood until they banish any manner of triteness in their writing, they rely on a gut feeling. Essentially, they play favorites and fall back on what’s easy—writing in clichés. What they don’t know is that doing so puts them between a rock and hard place. Editors and agents who know their stuff won’t give these manuscripts—or the folks who wrote them—a second glance.

Instead they’ll peg such writers as fly-by-night folks who are all over the map, unwilling to get their arms around it to knock it out of the park. Seasoned veterans in the industry will see them as folks who simply want to pick the low-hanging fruit in their rush to see their names in print.

In everyday life, it simply doesn’t work to go with the flow. Time is money, my friend. And these days there seems to be too little go around as it is. So, to become the best you can be with your writing, you have to be a good little soldier, powering through until you have that first acceptance letter in your hot, little hand. And, to sweeten the pot, how about a paycheck for your time?

I don’t mean to just dangle a carrot in front of you, but sometimes such drastic measures become necessary. It’s a dog eat dog world when it come to publishing. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid and think that every editor is just waiting on pins and needles to read your 100,000-word novel. Don’t think you’re God’s gift to the publishing world or the Lord Himself may knock you down a peg or two.

Believe me, I understand the rush that comes from firing on all cylinders. You think that just by keeping your nose to the grindstone and thinking outside the box that the publishing industry owes you a living that you can complete in your bathrobe. But, I beg of you, please don’t develop delusions that you’re going to quit your day job and begin making money hand over fist any time soon. Life just doesn’t work that way.

In the publishing game, it truly is survival of the fittest. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but trying to get published can be like swimming with the sharks. So get your head out of the clouds, face reality, buck up. Anything you did—or didn’t do—last week, last month, last year is simply water under the bridge. You can have a fresh start today. You just have to keep your eye on the big picture.

Sound good? Great! So, even if you’ve been guilty of cliché overuse, things aren’t over by a long shot. Tomorrow is another day. And if you can wrap your mind around this concept, you can resolve today to stop being lazy. Better late than never, right?

Though I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg by ranting and raving against the overuse of clichés, I hope you budding writers will take my words to heart. Instead of taking the easy way out, be willing to invest your time, commit your sweat equity and give 110% in your quest for publication. You’ll be glad you didn’t cut corners or sell out. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but the ball is in your court. Any minute now, you should be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.Now go kill those clichés!

Contributing columnist, Leslie Wilson, is the co-author of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts.