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Clichés: A Dime a Dozen

Clichés: A Dime a Dozen

By Jen Parks, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Two years ago, a friend encouraged me to start writing. Think Forrest Gump here. I had no idea what I was doing; I just started writing. Fifteen months and 250 pages later, I had reached the proverbial “end” of what became my first book. And it was bad. Really bad. And I didn’t know just how bad, until Tom Franklin gave a craft lecture at Bluegrass Writers Studio. 

Mr. Franklin handed out two published stories: the first was full of painfully obvious clichés and overt sentimentalism, the second story was well written and evoked a much deeper emotion than the first. Then, he dramatically tossed the first story behind him as he admitted that he had written it. As well all laughed, I wanted to crawl in cave. And not just hide, mind you, but to take myself and that first book that I wrote deep into that cave, then cover and camouflage the entrance in hopes that no one would ever find me and those 250 pages of garbage. Because, you see, those 250 pages were filled with sentimentality, clichés, and pathetic “overwriting with words to convince the reader of feeling.”

Mr. Franklin went on to discuss how “eliminating unwanted sentimentalism” made for a better story. His words began to echo around in my empty writer’s skull, and I hoped that someday, somewhere, the advice would manifest into something.

Later I found myself in conversation with Julie, my workshop instructor. At one point, she said, “Oh yes, I remember your application,” and I cringed. I cringed because I had submitted twenty or so pages of that fantastically bad first book as my writing sample. At the time, I wanted to run back to my cave. Now I realize they must have seen something in my writing, beyond what I now see as weaknesses. I won't say they read between the lines, but somehow they saw me and what I want to accomplish, and offered to help.

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Kristen Thompson

Published on March 04, 2014

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