Author Archives: dannydev

How to Handle Criticism

Recently, my pastor Josh Howerton has been speaking on the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is overflowing with metaphors and analogies of the wise and the foolish. And one of the difference between the wise and the foolish is how they accept criticism and correction. 

First, let’s look at the foolish. The foolish people are the ones who are most unwilling to accept criticism. When a person corrects you, regardless of the reason, a foolish person refuses to take ownership of the error and change. Sometimes they even scoff at the wisdom that is offered to them and they belittle it. 

However, the wise are those that are willing to take critiques and improve their work. Some of the most successful people are those that were willing to take instruction and improve their craft. Dave Ramsey says that you follow the example of those that you want to emulate. So if you want to get better at saving, you follow the example of the those who have learned how to save and turn their finances into wealth. 

Now, accepting correction has been something I have had to handle in spades recently. As I have been working on my book, the biggest area I have been undertaking this summer has been editing and revisions. So, that means I have to look at my work and see what’s wrong with it. Even harder than correcting yourself, is when others correct it. I have to give my good friend Brian a lot of credit. He has been so overwhelmingly helpful in my writing. He has been very objective in offering feedback. Now, it isn’t easy to hear that something you wrote doesn’t make enough sense or that a sentence could be better this way. However, in light of what I’ve been learning about, I have had to be more willing to accept evaluations of my work. 

Now, sometimes criticism is done harshly or even unjustly. But what I am speaking to is when a friend or a colleague offers you corrections on an area with some validity. Whether it is a boss saying how you can improve productivity, or in my case, how I can improve my book. 

Most bloggers offer some sort of list like, 10 ways to be accept criticism. I am not going to go that route. But I just want to say that in order to be more successful., sometimes you have to accept criticism and grow from it. Sometimes there really is wisdom in learning from our mistakes and improving upon them. We just need to be discerning enough to glean the nuggets of truth from that correction.

L. Danny Valencia

 

 

Being Busy

If you know me, I am one of those workaholics who always has a project or something going on in my life. I’m from New York, where things are very fast paced and everyone is busy all of the time it seems. But moving to Nashville has made me see how much different life can be. For the most part, people take things much slower in this part of the country. It’s been something of a learning 

My Writing Toolbox

When I was a kid, I spent before and after school at my dad’s mechanic shop. He was the hardest worker I knew, but I didn’t realize until much later how important his work ethic would be on me. My dad was a tool guy. He always had tons of tools at the shop, most of which I had no idea what they did. However, he always knew exactly what they were and how to use them. They each had a specific function in his business and when used properly, made a repair much easier.

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The same is applicable for online and writing tools. I have been asked about some of the tools that I utilize for my own platform and book. So I thought a great way for me to help answer that question and inform future bloggers and writers out there by giving a look into my personal toolbox.

Hardware: Let’s start off with the hardware I utilize for my writing.

  1. Macbook Air: So this is the most basic and obvious of all of my tools. Everything comes down to my Macbook. I am currently using a 13 inch Macbook Air, but I am a recent Apple convert. Before that I had top-of-the-line HP laptops that were decked out with the maxed RAM and Hard Drive sizes. I tend to get whatever is the best at the time, within reason of course, because the way technology is these days, your system will be out of date before long.
  2. HP 6000 Series Printer: Even though I am an Apple fanboy these days, I still run my HP Printer. It is a great device that can scan, copy, and print wirelessly from anywhere in my house. I am not big on printing much, but when I do this is the device I use.

Software: As well as hardware, I am a huge fan of these software platforms in my day-to-day writing.

  1. Evernote: This is my FAVORITE tool by far. Even more so than my word processor or blogging SEO. I do so much with Evernote, I could probably make a separate blog post about all the ways I use Evernote. Simply put it is a terrific tool with a ton of applications. However, essentially I use this as a notebook for all of my Books. I have each book separated into its own unique “notebook” and then all of the individual ideas inside the notebook. Everything is taggable, searchable, and easily synced. Currently, I use the free version and that is completely sufficient for me, but if you need more space they offer a premium version.
  2. Pages: This is my default word processor as a Mac user. I enjoy it as it is simpler than Word, but it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of MS Office tools. However, I do use Word from time to time as it is the default word processor for the majority of the world. Also, most publishing houses require things in Microsoft Word. But I tend to prefer the simplified Pages.
  3. WordPress: From what I have heard, blogging begins and ends with WordPress. Everyone I talk to has said that everything else they have tried is nowhere near as good as WordPress, and many of them have switched from other website setups to WordPress. In the most understandable speech, it is the easiest to use website and blogging content management system around.
  4. Google Analytics: I have just recently (and I really mean recently) gotten into using Google Analytics in order to track my website traffic. At first I didn’t know what this was, or how important it was. But after some trial and error, I realized I can’t improve my website unless I can see what is working. So this tool lets me measure my traffic and see what is working and what isn’t.

So, these are my tools. I hope this was useful to all of you. I haven’t given you every single tool I use, but these are the most common and useful. If you have your own tools that I haven’t mentioned, please share them. (If you are unable to comment, it is because my comment bar has been disabled due to technical issues.)

Kickstarter Success

Well somehow the Kickstarter was a success. I honestly wasn’t sure it was going to make it, but thanks to my family and friends we did it. You all are so amazing, I can’t even fully express my complete gratitude. I would like to give a special shout out to my sister who commented, shared, quoted, and retweeted my posts and updates. Likewise, my best friend never stopped believing in me, and he was my very first donator. I am so blessed to have friends and family like I have. 

Looking back on the project, I think I would have been better off launching the website earlier. Using the website, and the Facebook page, I could have garnered some support and more awareness for my Kickstarter. But this is all such a learning experience for me, I was unaware of the importance of having a platform.

Now that I have thanked everyone, I thought I would give you my full plans so far. As I said in my last blog update, I am still pursuing traditional publishing by contacting literary agents. However, my hopes of self-publishing are still alive. So, next up I will be putting my final manuscript in for professional editing. This will allow my manuscript to be read by the eyes of someone trained to do so. This will get content editing to make sure the storyline is as inclusive as possible. Line-by-line editing to check for grammar and typos. 

However, editing is probably going to cost around $500. So the other $500 or so dollars will go to help create a professional cover for the book. I have a graphic artist in mind, but I will shop the market for a great artist to create my cover. I have posted my cover art concept on the Kickstarter, but I want to get it done professionally by someone who really can take the idea and express it in a way that is captivating, aesthetic, and still streamlined. 

Thank you everyone. 

Update: August

So this week’s blog post will really just catch you up on where I am in the writing process and give you an idea on where I am going. So the last update I did was really just me venting about the woes of editing. I was in the trenches of Book 1, titled The Gifted Complex. It was the second or third time I had revised the book as a whole, and I was just really struggling with the nitty gritty of the minute details there in. 

However, since then I have finished my revision. Well that’s not to say that Book 1 is finished completely. I still have someone reading through it for me to make more content changes and polish up the grammar. But currently my focus is on other aspects.

Currently I am working on building my platform. I have been diving into the world of Platforming as it refers to the building up of a foundation of followers, subscribers, or reviews online. My research has led me to realize I should have launched my website, 100% ready or not last year when I meant to. However, the perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow it. Looking back, I would be a full year ahead of where I am now in building my website’s followers. 

The other thing I am working on is my book proposal. A book proposal is what you use to pitch your book idea to people. I had one drafted up over a year ago, however, the book has gone through so many revisions and changes as a whole, that that piece doesn’t really work now.

With that being said, I have decided that I will look into traditional publishing as well as self-publishing, so I started work on one about a month ago. Even if I don’t end up going with traditional publishing, a book proposal is a good thing to have. It has the hook, the synopsis, chapter summaries, the overview of the whole series, and then some sample chapters. 

One of my good friends, the same one I have referred to several times, has been helping me revise it on Google Drive. We have read it through separately and together using Google Drive and making changes on parts to make it as compelling as we can. 

So, where does that leave me now? Well, my very next step is seeing where I am after the Kickstarter ends. If you haven’t, check out my Kickstarter here. If that is successful, my very next step will be to put my manuscript in for some editing. Also, I will be contacting some professional graphic designers in order to produce a real cover. Not the concept art I have on my Kickstarter. 

As of right now, the comments have been deactivated. We are working on it, but hopefully we will have it rectified as soon as possible. 

How to find Inspiration

Regardless of your field of work, inspiration is what separates the good from the best. We all need inspiration to make changes in whatever area of life you want to improve, change, or overhaul. 

In my world of writing, inspiration comes in all different ways. Sometimes it comes when I am listening to a speech, or a discussion. It could be just a phrase or a single word that sparks a whole idea. That’s when I grab my phone and use my note taking app and create a note, or if I am at home, I will write it in my notebook. But inspiration can be a tricky subject. It can be like a fickle child unable to remain in one place for more than a few minutes. Sometimes you try and you try, but inspiration is nowhere to be found.

So here are a few ways I try and find inspiration:

  1. Disconnect from the source. A lot of the time I need to remove myself from the situation I am wracking my brain over. After getting away from the topic I can start to get my mind working on other ideas, this helps my mind to clear itself out. Then, many times I will come up with an idea that is really helpful to my current situation. Now this isn’t always the fix, but more times than not my inspiration comes when I am doing something unrelated to my area of work. For me, music is a big one. I love instrumentals and classical music to help get my mind thinking.
  2. Talking it out. Now if you don’t have a mentor, apprentice, coworker, or something that you can talk your projects over with, I truly suggest you get one. Talking out a project idea can help you approach the concept at a new angle. Not only can you improve your own point-of-view, but you can get someone else’s. I have a close friend who has been infinitely helpful in getting my ideas rounded out, and he lets me bounce potential story elements off of him all of the time. 
  3. Exercise your body. Science is finally starting to show that there is a mental connection with exercise. I have to agree. When I was in grad school, sometimes the only way I could figure out how to write a paper was to go to the gym. I think getting your blood pumping just helps the mind to focus more clearly. 
  4. Jot it down. Writing is something I have a huge passion for, so maybe I am biased. I believe that writing things down can help you channel some sort of creative juices. And again, I mean writing with a pen and paper. 

So those are just a few of my techniques for finding inspiration. But they are not the only ways to reach the revelations we are all searching for in our own sphere of influence. So I would like to beg the question, what are your ideas for getting inspired? How do you get ideas to flow? Do you have a specific ritual, or a practice that helps? Please share your feedback. 

What is a Hero?

Heroes are one of the most common characters in books, movies, television, or pretty much any form of entertainment. Having a good hero is probably the most pivotal aspect of having a good story. Even if the main character is not the conventional “hero” most stories revolve around a protagonist that is enjoyable to watch. 

But I am wondering what makes a protagonist a hero? There are so many characters to choose from to use as case studies, it is hard to nail down one that is the perfect example. There are characters like Superman who are idealists and the shining beacons of all the is right and good. Then you have your darker, anti-heroes that are more in it for themselves or they use questionable means to accomplish their goals (e.g. Red  Hood.) 

This can lead to the question: is it right to do something bad if it will end in something good? I think Harvey Dent said it best in the Nolan Batman movies, “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” So are the characters that do bad things to accomplish something they deem good really even heroes anymore? But then why is it only the goodie-goodies who can be good? It can be argued that those who are willing to go against what is right and do the hard work are even more heroic, right? 

So which is right? Are there gray areas? Or are they both heroes?

I guess I don’t have the answer, but hoping to spark the debate and offer a platform for discussion. If you have a thought or a hero you wish to nominate as the best example of a hero, comment below and state why they are a hero. 

What are your thoughts on what makes a character a hero?

Dreaming Big

As a teacher, one of the things I try and instill in my students is dreaming big and setting goals. I read a quote once that said, “If your dream doesn’t scare you, it isn’t big enough.” Now, I think this is one of the most powerful things I have ever heard. When I set out to get published, it was somewhat scary. The thought that there would be failures along the way, that people would reject my work, or that I might not reach my audience all terrified me. But I am still pursuing my goal even though there are aspects of it that scare me. 

So one of the skills I teach my students is goal setting. I think setting goals is absolutely key, and a lot of my students have no idea how to set a goal. I tell my students a goal is a dream with a end point. So you dream up what it is you want to accomplish, and you set a time you want to accomplish it. With my class, we have a obvious deadline, and we call it summer break. So one activity I love doing in my classes is setting goals. Sometimes we do this at the beginning of the year, and we set end of the school year goals. Like I want to get an A in math by the end of the year. Or I want to make the basketball team this year. However, for adults we don’t always run that way. So I would say set a goal and give yourself a “deadline” on it. (I’m not saying set New Year’s Resolutions, those are never kept.) But I would encourage you to set a goal and a window of time to do it.

And write it down. In my class we make a list of goals we want to accomplish. I think writing them down makes them so much more real.I believe you make that dream more tangible by writing it down. I think you breathe life into it by actually putting it on paper and saying there it is. So I would encourage all of you to make a goal and write it down.

Now is dreaming big easy? No, it isn’t. And one of the aspects that I have to constantly keep in mind is realism. However, with my students that isn’t the case. They aren’t hindered by what is considered realistic. I have students that believe they are going to be presidents, astronauts, or actors. So why are we so ensnared by realism. I think we need to stop thinking that things aren’t realistic. 

For adults though, you need to remain grounded. It would be irresponsible for me to up an tell my wife I want to go off and become a professional soccer player. Then quit my job, move to a town with a soccer team, and try and make the team. So, make sure they are dreams that don’t hurt anyone. So, if you have a dream, I would say share it. Now, don’t share it with everyone. That will just leave you putting yourself out there in a position to get hurt. But I think it is important to have a small circle of friends, family, and mentors that you really trust. They will be the ones you share your dreams with. They will help encourage, edify, and love you in your dreams. However, they will also help you measure what is possible without getting yourself into the dangerous delusional territory. 

So that kind of sounds counter to what I said previously. Don’t be hindered by realism, but stay grounded. Now I do think it is important to stay grounded, but not to say to yourself, I can’t do this amazing thing because it isn’t realistic. I am one of those people that is super down the middle of the road. I don’t sway to far one way or the other on many subjects. I think balance is key. So, all that to say is dream big, but be careful that your aren’t being dangerous or delusional. Keep your head in the clouds, but your feet on the ground. Right?

The last thing I want to address is failure. We often want to give up on a dream the second we meet with resistance. But so many of the greatest inventors, thinkers, and leaders were met with so much failure. Edison, J.K. Rowling, Einstein. All of them met with failures on their way to achieve amazing things in the lives. I always tell my students,  you only fail when you give up on your dream or goal. In my school, we have something of a “no-fail” policy. So if the students received a  bad mark, they can work at it to receive a better grade. Now, it makes so much more work, especially for me, the teacher, but when that student received a good grade after they put in extra time, it makes the whole endeavor worth it.

Well, I hope that was encouraging to you. I know dream are what keep us going in a lot of respects. I know my dreams are what give me the desire to get out of bed and accomplish great things. Please comment below and share some of your dreams. I would love to hear from you.

Thank you,

L.Danny Valencia

Family

So my wife and I returned from a family reunion. It was her family, and apparently they do them very regularly. It was my first family reunion like this. I got to meet several family members on my wife’s side that I hadn’t met before and was reintroduced to several that I had met previously. 

Honestly, it was amazing. Usually you hear family reunion, and you think of crazy relatives that you have to avoid. But this was honestly amazing. Her family was so welcoming and loving. I was the “new guy” to most of them. So I went in with some trepidation. I was a little nervous, but mostly I was just expectant that it would be a really fun time. 

I got to meet a lot of her nieces and nephews. I hung out with several of her really fun cousins. Overall, it was a great time. 

It got me thinking about the importance of family in our lives. If you have a family, be sure to remind them how important they are. Text that brother you haven’t heard from in months and tell em you love him. Or call you mom. I know she will talk your ear off, but sometimes you need to just let them be the center and ask how they are. 

And don’t think I’m preaching. I am just as guilty as anyone of not being good at keeping in touch with my loved ones back in New York. So often during the school year I get caught up in grades and events that I forget to call my family back home. 

So, moral of the story. Don’t forget how lucky you are to have family. 

L. Danny Valencia

Editing

Well I’ve been editing Book 1 a lot the past few weeks. I feel like the editing process is so much more difficult than the writing portion. I have no trouble generating ideas and writing out the story. Even the prewriting parts are pretty easy for me. However, editing is such a long, grueling process. It requires so much extra reading and then thinking about the reading in every way possible. Asking questions like: will the reader understand this subtle detail? Is this decision going to make the character no longer likable? How can I better express this idea?

Personally, I am the kind of person who can easily overthink things. So having to look at my material and then having to overthink it is like overthinking to the Nth degree.  I have been pouring over this particular middle-portion of the book. Really trying to get it to feel cleaner and tighten up the story. Trying to make the storyline understandable and feel real. 

So, enough lamenting over my current existential crisis. Time to get back to the editing process. Please keep me in your prayers.