This is a phrase that the raptor and I coined this morning (although I doubt we’re the first). We reckon it’s a kinder way to say ‘your writing is full of clichés’. The trouble with clichés is that they’re pretty deeply ingrained in our language banks. It’s how they became clichés in the first place, really. So when we’re writing a first draft, swept along on the internal visions and fighting desperately to type fast enough to keep up with events, we tend to take the first phrases that come to hand.
I wrote a new prologue for Corpus yesterday – something to kick-start the action of the book, before leading into a couple of chapters of character build and philosophy. Reading it back this morning, I found that it was filled with people gripping swords tightly, screaming shrilly and lying in pools of blood whilst the wind howled mournfully around them. Mmm, cliché-tastic.
The point about first generation sentences, though, is that clichés are entirely okay. The aim is to get the rough lines of the scene down on paper, and using place-holder phrases to do that is perfectly acceptable. They’re tools, basic building blocks. The important thing is to recognise them when you start editing, and reshape them into original descriptions that give your own voice space.