Clichés are not just in phrases (“he ran his fingers through is hair,” “her heart pounded”). Clichés can be larger scale—your characters, your setting, your plot premise.
The problem is that often, these larger scale clichés are not so easily realized.
For example, there are a LOT of pastor heroes in Inspirational romance. Editors were commenting that they’d like to see less stories with pastor heroes.
However, as a writer, unless you heard the editor say this at a conference, you wouldn’t know. So how can you find these things out?
You should be reading extensively in the genre in which you’re writing. Why? So you can discover what’s already been done in your genre, so you don’t repeat it.
If you haven’t read many Inspirational romances, but you’re targeting Steeple Hill, you wouldn’t know that there have been a lot of pastor heroes in the past few years. However, if you’ve been reading Steeple Hill novels, you would know that.
You don’t have to read every single title that comes out, but an hour or two of browsing the book blurbs on Amazon.com or Christianbook.com will enable you to see clearly that there are lots of pastor heroes in previous titles.
It’s not just character occupations that can be cliché. Plot premises or settings can be overdone in fiction and become cliché, also.
For example, unless you’ve read extensively in chick lit—both non-Christian and Christian—you wouldn’t know that the plot premise of single-girl-in-New-York, or single-girl-working-at-magazine/publishing-house, or single-girl-working-as-wedding-planner have all been done to DEATH.
READ BOOKS. BROWSE BOOK BLURBS ONLINE. Check to make sure that your characters, their occupation, their storylines, your plot premise, haven’t already been done by several other books in your genre.