Advice on Creative Writing from Daniel C. Lavery

My professors in creative writing classes and forums stressed writing every day for at least an hour at a place where you are comfortable and will have hopefully no interruptions. Some like to write at night, others early. Everyone is different so you should find your time. For me it is 10 am to noon. Some people like to go to a Starbucks to see the faces of people, the bustle of the crowd, and the coffee for inspiration. I prefer my desk overlooking my front yard. Another suggestion is to always use your favorite writing pen (preferably not a ball point-and not typing). The connection of your hand to the pen and what you write is a stimulating one for most writers.

List the most compelling words you can think of in a notebook. I always keep a writing notebook for inspiration. When you have that dream that you won't remember in the morning, get up and write it as you recall it right after you have experienced it. Waiting later will lose it usually.

 

Don't be afraid to copy a writer's style. This is especially true of a poet. Find a poem you like, and take out your thesaurus, change the words, move around inserting your similar experiences and use the format. Amazingly simple way to create a new poem by just following someone's road map. Always read a great author for at least 30 minutes before writing. This is warming up your creative thinking. Your brain needs this. You will see a difference in your attitude, and willingness to explore language and its beauty.

Revise: All creative writing requires once you have written your piece, to go back and revise with an eye to use of heightened language (metaphor/simile, evocative vocabulary, sense driven language, action verbs and brilliant nouns) and remove any boring adverbs and adjectives. Check spelling by starting at the end of the piece and work backwards so you aren't lulled into accepting a misspelling you may make frequently. Read it aloud and see if there are awkward words when spoken that should be changed. If it doesn't sound right, it won't read effectively. Make sure each of the five senses appear somewhere. See if you can't make your descriptions luminescent.

One of the secrets of nonfiction storytelling is the use of description. Much as a novelist would, these nonfiction storytellers set a scene and describe their story's action. Above all, they have an eye for detail and employ these carefully observed facts to bring scenes alive for readers.

Look for opportunities to put the reader into the action. Where are we? What's it look (smell, sound) like? Who are the characters? What do they look like? How do they act? Strive to be specific, not general: Name names, measure things, count so you can report exact numbers. Learn to identify trees and birds, car makes, and architectural styles.

So instead of writing, "A lot of birds perched on the ornate rooftop," do the homework and note taking necessary to report, "Thirteen purple martins perched on the Italianate rooftop." Rather than describing "a big pile of old cars," aim for "a 20-foot pyramid of rusting, windowless Fords, Toyotas, and Chevrolets."

This kind of descriptive writing starts at the very beginning—at the note-taking stage. You can't just plop down at the keyboard and conjure this up; you have to be there, all eyes and fully alert, and noting details. Don't forget the senses beyond sight. Are the bees buzzing, trucks rumbling, horns honking? Do cockleburs scrape your pant legs as you walk to your subject's front door? Is your interviewee's desktop smooth and new or pitted with age and use? Give detail and description a try, and you'll find that you can be every bit as "creative" a writer when you're not making things up.

Here are my social media:

djasb@aol.com (email) http://www.danielclavery.com (author website) https://www.facebook.com/danielclavery (Facebook) https://www.linkedin.com/danielclavery.com (Linkedin) https://twitter.com/Danielclavery

All the Difference, a memoir by Daniel C. Lavery, available at Amazon.com. for purchase or free look inside of the first 6 1/2 chapters at Dan's website: http://www.danielclavery.com, and on Amazon's Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BNXHV9Q, A paperback version is available at http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ book-cover-all-the-difference.jpg

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Book Review of All the Difference from Author USNA Class of ’71

Book Review of All the Difference from Author USNA Class of ’71

4/8/14

Hello Dan,

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book.  I jotted down a few things that resonated for me.

My dad was a Beta at University of Cincinnati.

Reef Points!  How can we ever forget them!

Naval Academy indoctrination of plebes in etiquette

Rifle range.  Who can forget those Marines!Scientist CliffsTarget for BB gun

Heinz Lenz was still there for me, too.  (I think he died only in the last couple of years?)

Joe Duff.  He still coached baseball, but he and I never crossed paths.  I made the plebe and varsity sailing teams while I was there (1967-1971), but was not the athlete you were.  But those T-tables plebe year were a Godsend!  And for the sailing team, it was for BOTH fall and spring sets.

Joe Bellino.  I loved watching those games.  And Roger Staubach, how lucky you were to be there during his era, too.  Roger came and talked at our pep rally in 1967 before the Army/Navy game.  (He was trying to make it with the Cowboys at that time.)  We won that year and received "carry on" like you did.

Bancroft Hall Mishipman in Whites parading to meal

Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the "plebe detail" second class year.  As luck would have it, the very next summer the Academy decided to put first class in charge of the detail, so I got to do it again!

Bancroft Hall USNA 1960

Pensacola.  Great times!  I certainly wasn't the "ace of the base," but finished high enough (4 of 30 that week) to choose any pipeline I wanted (helos, jets, or props)---and they were all open that week.

Vigilante Clamshell Cockpits opened

My A-7 primary instructor  in T-34's nearly shot me for picking helos, but guys from '68 and '69 were telling us how much fun they were having flying them (while we were still back at the Academy).  Plus, I found that whenever I climbed above 5000 feet, I lost the real sensation of flying.  I also found that to be true as a second class midshipman flying in the back of an F-4 at Oceana (the "Diamondbacks").  In helos I knew I would spend most of my flying career at 500 feet and below.  (In Desert Storm we frequently flew at 10 feet and as fast as that Blackhawk would go!)  I never regretted my decision.

Army helo pilot Hugh Thompson.  What courage!  (I used his example in my first book, Inspiring Leadership: Character and Ethics Matter, now used in the Leadership/Ethics curricula at Villanova and Regent Universities.)

Vietnam Hugh Thomspon forgotten hero

Olongapo!  Amazing place.  If you closed your eyes, you actually thought the Rolling Stones were playing---or any other big name group for that matter.  And those kids diving for pesos!  The helo hangout was the Roofadora Club, as I recall.

CHAPTER 27-Y RA5C landing on aircraft carrier 1965

Our helo squadron aboard the USS Constellation in 1974 made three daily trips ("liberty runs") to Bagio, Manila, and Clark AFB while we were in port at Cubi Point/Subic.  We charged a dollar per person (which went to the rec fund).  Needless to say, we were the most popular squadron on the ship, especially among the Filipino stewards!  LOL.

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott

And last but certainly far from least, your amazing work as a lawyer for the UFW.  What a legacy for you!  You can be justifiably proud of those years!

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Anyway, Dan, thought you should know how much I enjoyed your book.  One of these days we'll have to meet for lunch.

All the best,

Stew Fisher (USNA '71)

book cover all the difference
 

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Enoshima: Sacred Japanese Island Refuge

enoshima tide pools           

Leaping rocks over incoming tide

I swerved the splashing ocean

Exploring the pristine island at fifteen

Crabs and fish overflowed tidal pools

Fujiyama’s snow peaked cone pierced blue sky

 

Enoshima with Fujiyama behind

 

Giant Tombe hawks squawked and dove

Surf pounded caves under high sea cliffs

Hiking through verdant pathways

The shrine of Benzaiten playing lute appeared

Nude, milk-white, half-crossed legged

Sea Goddess revealed graphic genitals.

  enoshima naked Lady            

Shoguns and public prayed to her for success

Ancient Enoshima was sacred

In one decade cars drove on two bridges

Horns honked and exhaust fumes choked

Escalators snaked to slick viewing tower

Shrill souvenir shops thrived

Pop music blared and tobacco smoke wafted

At the rapture of the sanctuary’s subtle secret

Nature is resilient

  enoshima 1955

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A Lucky Love by Chance

Dan and Joan with Shiva in Berkeley

     

We were both at Long Beach State

Met by chance for a blind date

Each of us was passing through

Looking for something to do

Dan-and-Joan-1983

I saw your enchanting smile

And became quite beguiled

Wanting to explore its source

Pulled by your magnetic force

McGrath State Beach Sunset

We strolled down the sandy beach

Afraid I would over reach

Showed many a photo slide

Music for us to collide

Aleksy-as-Batman-and-Joan-1976-300x232

We kissed I massaged your skin

Spent the night unrav’lin

I was leaving for Frisco

Asked wouldn’t you like to go?

Dan-Joan-Aleksey-Sean-and-Brette-Elizabeth-232x300

You smiled and said yes I would

Our eyes and hearts understood

We had touched each other’s heart

Didn’t know we’d never part

Batman Aleksey at Two with Dan 1976

Three children all made us proud

Each gave their best to the crowd

Almost fifty years it’s been

Yes we would do it again!

  Aleksey-Sean-and-Brette-1983-232x300  

Happy Birthday

My Dear Joan

Love Dan

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Astounding Yosemite Hike

After the first UFW labor convention was held in Fresno from September 21-23, 1973, Joan and I decided to visit Yosemite for a natural uplift. We rented a tent in Curry Village at the floor of Yosemite Valley not far from swift flowing, Yosemite River. My body and mind felt so relaxed in this pristine environment, I laid back and allowed the sun to warm me and the wind to blow in my face. Attracted by the magnetic force of nature’s beauty everywhere, we walked out through the waving meadows, towering pines, and resting deer to steepled rock formations and fallen red woods.

We were mesmerized by the reflections of nature in the Yosemite River! Most of the water flowing in Yosemite comes from snow-melt in the high country, so runoff decreases during the dry summer. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls often only a trickle or completely dry by August. Other waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil run all year; however, their flow can be very low by late summer.

 

Near Yosemite Lodge, I watched the smoothed rocks glistening through the surface of the river from eons of time, billions of molecules of water striking surfaces, ever shaping the meandering river so that it appears different each visit.

Our trek took us to a bridge and the ever-energetic Vernal Falls tumbling from a precipice a few miles away yet in walking distance up a steep pathway of seemingly carved rock. As we ascended the pathway known as the Mist Trail, we traveled under overhangs and around huge granite formations balancing carefully close to the mountain’s edge. Our eyes drifted to the chasm below ever spiraling down to a pool of greenish blue clear water.

There the sparkling waterfall dropped its winding column of water twisting in the wind over a four hundred foot fall, then shattered the silence with its skittering splashing sounds. Nature had created a rainbow that quivered with the falling water separating into one, two, or three waterfalls in a constantly changing pattern.

Slowly as we trudged carefully on an incline flexing our hamstrings and calf muscles with a full stretch each lunge, we eventually reached an escarpment where we rested. I looked down above the wavy stream of descending translucent chilled liquid from the melting snow-pack above. As we looked upstream, we observed a natural channel through which the blue green fluid passed over a bronze smooth volcanic surface. There it had cut patterns over the many years of erosive activity as if nature had taken a knife to sculpt it for the pleasure of those who admire it. We had reached a hard fought location where the view of Vernal Falls appeared completely different from the vantage point of the pedestrian bridge. Most travelers only saw it from that quick stop and did not tackle the steep and challenging rugged trail we enjoyed.

In another half mile we reached the vista all Yosemite visitors covet, which one can see even from Yosemite’s Valley at the right perspective. We had an unobstructed view of Half Dome and a 360-degree panoramic spectacle of the surrounding peaks, crags, mountains, and huge granite boulders of every size and dimension under white puffy clouds dotted with patches of blue sky.

Red Tailed Hawks, Falcons, Buzzards flew in circles riding thermals and gliding great distances when they rhythmically moved their outstretched wings. We saw Steller’s Jay, American Robin, Acorn Woodpecker, Ravens, and Mountain Chickadees in the pine forests and near rivers and streams American Dipper Dart, White and Gray Herons, and a curious squirrel.

Yosemite Valley’s astounding and marvelous rock formations soaked our spirit. Hungry for sights foreign to the flat San Joaquin Valley, magnificent splendor contrasted with our Bakersfield shanty. We gradually worked our way down a mule path, which dropped rapidly. Soon the trail’s angle encouraged us to trot, then lope like deer. We tried to find a cadence and rhythm to ease our way down. Ever nearer the edge, we followed the trail until we reached the Valley floor.

We returned to our tents in tranquility to dream of the astounding images we had seen. At sunrise, we left this wonderland on the curving road back to work, industry, and commitment. We felt refreshed from our energetic experience of nature’s most wonderful gifts that feed the soul, always available to the observant when in need of inspiration.

 

Daniel C. Lavery, www.danielclavery.com, djasb@aol.com

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