How many times have you started out with a great topic and found it meandering down well-worn paths? If you think about how many books have been written over the ages, the probability that your particular story is fresh and unique is fairly low. That's not to say that a story cannot be interesting, and even contain new elements. But it's safe to say that there are redundancies in literature. It's a generalization to be sure, but one that rings true in some respects.
So how do you take your particular tale and break new ground? One problem I find myself encountering time and time again is this. I have a great idea for a story. I start writing it out, I get some portion of the way in, and then I start to struggle with avoiding becoming "one of the masses". After all, I want my story to be unique, but unlike alot of writers, I rarely know where my story is going to go after it leaves the starting gate.
We can even make this more simplistic than the grand view of a story. How do you avoid cliches in sentence structure, in turns of phrase? Do you edit as you go or do you just let the cliches fly across the page? I think it's probably quite difficult to avoid our own tendencies towards certain words, certain phrases. That's what makes writing so difficult (at least one of the aspects of writing, anyway). If anyone has exercises or advice on how they deal with this, I'm all ears.