[This is a re-blog of a post I did back in 2010]
Every writer has their own unique method, style, and voice, and with this comes unique issues. There are certain quirks, turns of phrase, and specific cliches that they tend towards in their writing. Recognizing these is the first step in avoiding them. It can be hard to figure out what they are, but having others read your writing is one way. Be humble and willing to accept feedback and apply it according as you see fit.
My suggestion is to make a list of your own personal writing cliches, make a "personal editing list", and keep it up by your writing area. If you know that you have certain bad habits, you can consciously keep from falling into them.
Here are some things from my own personal editing list. Some of them are specific, sentence level things, and some have to do with the overall, general idea.
-Struggle vs. slump: I have the bad habit of setting my characters in emotionally hard situations that they can't really do much about except passively accept it and try to be happy despite the problem. This can turn into simple "portrait of a saint" (as my creative writing professor called them) stories, which may show kind, generous characters, but they are passive and not interesting as characters. Every story needs active, immediate and relatable conflict, and this is something I have to consciously remember as I come up with my story ideas.
-Words that don't do enough: I have a list of words that I have a habit of overusing, which don't do as much as I want them too. Some of those words are smiled, laughed, sighed, cried and looked. Words like this are so generic that they don't really show whats going on. Its not that they're absolutely forbidden, but in general, for them to be effective they need context.
-A story isn't poignant/meaningful/significant just because its about infidelity/abandonment/abuse. These things are poignant and important, of course, but they are often such huge topics that they overwhelm the piece. An incredibly meaningful, successful piece can be about things as simple as sister jealousy, unmet expectations, or just the small things that make meaning in our every day life. I have a habit of picking topics like infidelity just because I assume that if its about something significant like that, the piece itself will be significant. That is not necessarily the case, and remembering that helps me steer away from sentimentalism.
What are your bad writing habits, and what are some good ways for getting over them?