Writing a Book – Making Promises to Readers


I’m fortunate enough to be writing a book. It’s due to be published by the fantastically supportive folks at Focal Press as soon as I put the words to paper.

Creative Process

Because I’m a product engineer I’m highly structured in my approach to building software. I think it’s clearly a system based on rules. I’m applying rules to my writing discipline hoping that it gets me through the sometimes grueling task of hitting deadlines on the book. Surely my process leads me to productivity.

One of my process tools is a checklist I’m calling “promises to my readers.” After I’ve finished writing a chapter I go back to my checklist seeing if I’ve delivered. It’s part of my “definition of done” matched up with a few nuts-and-bolts needs from my publisher.

Where Did My Promises Come From?

Many months passed between my book pitch and the publisher’s approval. I suppose my brain leaked data during that period and I was happy to take time discovering again all of the things I promised my readers by of way the pitch to Dave Bevans at Focal.

Because the pitch went successfully through (must have since I got the gig) a peer review, by actual (well potential) readers, I have an audience persona I keep in mind. What did I pitch that those reviewers responded to, and how can I mindfully serve their needs?

What Are My Promises?

Although the book won’t be published for a while I’m putting this checklist out there now. This is my list of promises to my future readers. If I don’t meet these at the end of a chapter I’m going back assuring they’re met, and met thoroughly.

  • Serve technically-minded designers wanting to elevate their craft, gain productivity, and power-up past their peers
  • Step-by-step guides that don’t assume too much prior knowledge and avoid frustration for the reader following along
  • Show clearly written and instructive source-code examples
  • Deliver valuable ways of testing, discovering, and diagnosing problems before they get out to production
  • Each chapter’s narrative structure consists of: start with a call-to-action, document conflicts and resolutions, finish with a reflective conclusion to the journey
  • Enable readers to suffer less frustration, stay in the iterative creative flow more often, and meet deadlines more reliably by applying the techniques written
  • Are chapters building upon each other demonstrating how connecting-the-dots pays off as we fill up a toolbox
  • Do I relate material especially appropriate for creative leaders

Why Is Process Crucial?

Sometimes I get so buried in deadlines simply trying to finish something I forget why it was important to start the thing in the first place. In the beginning of a creative endeavor absolutely anything can happen and it’s the most joyful part.

Past that it’s all grinding along trying to avoid turning the project into crazytown. Clinging to these process-oriented artifacts reminds me why my work is important when all I want to do is get it done. Professional discipline it important to me.

What’s Your Promise?

Is it useful for you to define how you know when you’re done and ready to deliver? Give this a read and have a coffee considering what your promises are. Reach out to me and tell me what awesome stuff you’re working on!