Monday, June 22, 2009

Under promise, over deliver

This weekend I took some time to listen to the teachings of a man [Dan Stratton] who formerly held a seat on the New York Mercantile exchange and grew from humble Midwest roots to going to Yale and earning a seven figure income. While that may be impressive, what impresses me most about him is his ability to not allow the cut-throat nature of the pits on Wall Street to make him cut corners or cheat.

In the discussion I was listening to he was focusing on integrity in our business dealings. He said at one point, and I’m paraphrasing, under promise and over deliver.

This struck me because a writer’s group I’m a part of had recently spent some time commenting on the lackluster performance of some books. This led to a rousing conversation on the strengths and weaknesses of certain books. It makes you cringe as an author. You wonder, “Is that what someone will say about my writing?”

I think these disappointments are even more prominent when expectations are raised beyond an author’s ability to deliver. There is a tendency to try to make our writing stand out, but it is done using compelling language that whets the appetite [good] and raises the expectations of a work artificially high [not good].

While I always encourage you to write the best possible hook, [see def. below] I don’t want you to become so obsessed that your hook over promises your craft. The hook should be the same flavor of the book and set the tone for the story.

Likewise, in your business, make sure that you can do what it is that you promise. Don’t get in over your head. All of us have unforeseen circumstances [the fact that my 6 year old daughter was up at 5:15am today with a very high temperature is the one in my life], but we should always plan them in to our work schedule. I set every Thursday as a “catch-up” day. I schedule little or nothing on that day in terms of work. If I am behind in projects, I can catch up. If I am caught up I can do Friday’s work [and get a 3 day weekend…unlikely] or spend time on my own projects [more likely].

By only promising what you can reasonably accomplish you will build a reputation of integrity and a happy clientele/ readership.

Hook=a short sentence or couple of sentences meant to grab the attention of a reader, editor or agent. You will also sometimes see this in reference to the opening of a book to. Ex. “The book opened with a strong hook.”

Tiffany Colter is a writer, speaker and writing career coach who works with beginner to published writers. She can be reached through her website at
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