High Concept Blogging: Achieving Bloggy Goodness in Record Time

Graphic from ZDNet.com

Welcome to Thoughty Thursday! This is the day of the week that y’all get to be privy to whatever thoughts are kicking around in my brain.

Today, I’m thinking about blogging.

I think it’s because I’m about to help train up a new blogger at Writers In The Storm. Getting ready for her made me remember the awkward pain of being a new blogger and struggling to manage this new addition to my already busy life.

My top blogging compaints in the beginning (my poor hubby!):

  • Why does it take so long?
  • Why is the formatting such a pain in the a$$?
  • How do you get people to come visit you?
  • What the hell do I blog about???

Everything got a lot easier when I did the following five things:

  1. Took Kristen Lamb’s blogging class
  2. Got on social media and found a community
  3. Started trying to entertain myself
  4. Made blogging part of my daily routine
  5. RELAXED

I’m not going to lie to you. Blogging takes time.

But really, ALL writing takes time because most writers care deeply about what they put on the page. We’re not in this to just dash off a few paragraphs and slap it up on our blogs.

That being said, I want to delve into a few items on the list above that you can combine.

I took Kristen’s class in March, 2011 and again in June, 2012. To be fair, I took the second course partly to be a teacher’s assistant, but I also took it because she’s learned some great new stuff. But even though the content rocks, one of the biggest assets from Kristen’s class(es) is the community you will meet.

Kristen’s first book, We Are Not Alone, has become a bit of a mantra in the writing community. The WANAs hang together, play together and support each other.

When I think of my fave WANAs in the blog-o-sphere, I almost always think of them in terms of which blogging class they attended: WANA711, WANA1011, WANA112, WANA612. I haven’t met many of the WANA1012′s yet, but I can’t wait.

I know it sounds kind of cult-y, but your classmates become your peeps. They are your initial tribe. These people will be your beta readers and commenters and friends.

As all of you WANAs can attest, as you move on from your class and find your bloggy feet, your peeps help keep blogging fun. They also keep you from ripping out your hair along the way. Whoever your community is, you can bounce things off them. Experiment.

To get back to Kristen…
One of the coolest things she teaches nowadays is “High Concept Blogging.”

I’m not going to give away all her secrets. You’ve got to go to her if you want the nuts and bolts. But I’m going to give y’all the 50,000 foot view.

First off, let’s talk about “High Concept” and what it means in fiction. I’m going to let Scott Eagan, powerhouse literary agent, explain it. (Click here to also find out what it isn’t.)

When it comes to High Concept, we are talking about what makes your story unique from everything else out there. What is it that you are bringing to the table that no one else has done before? How can you provide a great new, and unique spin, on something we might have gotten used to.

Before you go hyperventilate or get all pressure-cookered over that last paragraph, think about what it means.

The key to High Concept is your voice.

There is no one else in all the world like you. No one else will see the world exactly as you do, and no one else will bring the same spin to a topic that you do.

(In other words, when Kristen says “blog about whatever you’re passionate about,” there’s a good reason why this is gonna work. Your voice will come through.)

High Concept blogging is actually faster, in my opinion. You get to the point faster because you know how you feel about “YOUR stuff.”

Let me give you an example…

Y’all know I’ve been crazy sick with shingles, right? Like to the tune of a 27-day headache (and counting – I still wake up with it daily, but it’s getting better).

Raging headaches do not equal “bloggy happiness.”

The crazy headache was the worst during the two weeks before Halloween and it forced me to make some changes here at the blog. Not only did I go through a lot of my reserve posts, but I cut my blogging time by at least half because I had to. I couldn’t hold up my head.

You know what the really awesome part is? I don’t think you noticed!

I employed Kristen’s High Concept Blogging techniques during those weeks for most of my posts — I literally cut my time in half. And my traffic stayed steady. (It might even have bumped up a notch.)

Example by the numbers:

The week leading up to November 1st, all of my posts combined to total 2306 words.

That means across 5 posts, I wrote about 800 words.

I could be delusional, but I don’t think these were bad posts. They were just different. And a whole lot less work.

Final thoughts:

I don’t know what your goal is for your blog. Only you know that (unless you share it with us).

Maybe it’s to:

  • Have a home for your words
  • Connect with others
  • Blog your books
  • Practice your craft
  • Teach others

My goal is to connect and entertain. That’s it.

To be more specific, my goal at More Cowbell is to give you a post that:

  1. Doesn’t require more than 5-15 minutes of your time.
  2. Entertains you for that moment. (Kind of like the comics section of the blogosphere.)
  3. Makes you laugh or think.

Deep thoughts and chuckling throughout the day are appreciated. Connection between all of you in the comments is hoped for.

But it’s really all about the moment around here.

I feel strongly that each moment is all we have and it should be as fun as possible. Let’s face it…some days/months/years just suck. My goal is to help you put the suckitude away for a few minutes and just be-bop around in your happy place.

When you think about blogging, think about what would make you happy. Do THAT.

Do you love blogging or find it to be a chore? How long does the average post take you? What do you feel is the optimum length for a blog post? If you could change one thing about your blogging, what would it be? Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!

Jenny

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About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! My passion is finding those qualities that are unique in every person and every piece of fiction. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com). Write on!
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63 Responses to High Concept Blogging: Achieving Bloggy Goodness in Record Time

  1. I’m not great at navigating around for videos. THAT is a time suck for me. And I always feel pressure to write something new. That said, I’ve cut down to writing one serious piece and one more fun piece once or twice a week — and the readers are growing faster than before. I think people are over saturated with 3-5 posts a week, so now when they see me in their inbox, they know that’s it for the week and they are more prone to read. Maybe your numbers went up because you were posting less.

    I adore Kristen. I do. But this is one area where I think people can go overboard. New bloggers need to blog more frequently to develop an audience, but IMHO folks who have a solid readership can slow down and work on other writing projects.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kristen herself just went down to 1-2 posts/week. Anne R. Allen swears by slow blogging. I think it’s an extremely viable method.

      I don’t know if I’m capable of blogging 1-2x/week, only because I use it as writing practice to get my juices going for the books. As weird as it sounds, blogging clears my mind. Plus, I use it as a reward – wrote 4 pages…go play in the comments.

      Someday soon, I’m going to cut down the number of posts, but in the meantime I’ve cut down the length. I typically average 300-500 words instead of the 800-1000 that I used to.

  2. Jenny, I’m a WANA1012, and they are a fantastic group. Kristen is getting us all on Twitter now, so you’ll start to see some #WANA1012 floating around.

    I appreciate your blog being a respite from a sucky day. Even though I like my day job, some days still suck.

    Renee, I put a video in my post yesterday–if I can learn how to do it efficiently, anyone can!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’ve seen Renee do video before and they’re darling! She’s such a perky thing that it’s fun to watch. :-)

      Congrats on investing in your blog. You can’t go wrong in Kristen’s class. I look forward to hearing how you like it, and seeing your new blog!! Wheeeeeee….

  3. K.B. Owen says:

    Jenny, I love your blog voice, which tells me I’m going to LOVE your novels! For me, blogging takes a loooong time. I had to cut back to two per week, and even then, it’s a challenge. Still trying to figure it all out. Sigh.

    Thanks for the motivation!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Well, Kathy, you put a ton of work into your posts. It shows and they shine. I’m completely in awe of you. That being said, if it were me (cause I’m a lazy ass), I’d focus my historical topics on things I’d had to research for my books.

      p.s. Thanks for making my day with that opening complement! :-)

  4. It’s awesome that you managed to cut your blogging time in half and still keep up the top notch quality, Jenny. I didn’t notice any difference :)
    The shortest blog post I have managed to write took me an hour. It was a Music Monday post where I shared 4 of my favourite songs. I could have done it faster but I had to check out a few other songs to see if there really weren’t any better choices around. Damn perfectionism.

    The other posts…. err, lets just say the average writing time for them is hours. Days with Link Feasts. Most weeks I just don’t have the energy or time for more than one post and that’s bad time management.
    But when I write a post, I want it to be something new for me. Something I need to research and organize my thoughts for. Which is silly because I have folders full of stuff I have already learned and collected over the years.

    Anyway, great example of someone, who blogs really consistently many times a week and whose every post is valuable and informative, is Karen Woodward. I think that she blogs 5 times a week, 1-2 original posts, and for the others she shares a great topical link by someone else and comments on what she learned.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Reetta! I don’t know Karen…I’ll go seek her out. It sounds like you’ve found out what stimulates you in blog writing, but I sure wish (for you) that you were using your folders full of stuff. It seems to me that you’d get to spend more time on your other stuff if you did.

      That being said, I really appreciate that you take the time to do your Feasts. :-)

  5. Ryan King says:

    My goodness I hope that headache goes away sometime soon. I can’t even fathom! I’m happy to say that after your encouragement and 2 classes with Kristen, I don’t hate blogging anymore. It’s not a chore. I’m still not in love with it but most days I actually like it *gasp*. Would you believe that I’ve got all my November posts already scheduled? Yeah, me either! So a BIG thank you :)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      See, Ryan, the problem is the shingles came out on my head. They’re lighting my greater occipital nerve on fire. Gah!

      I am sooooo glad you’re enjoying blogging more (and I’m completely jealous about that November prescheduling)!! I stopped by and it’s a whole new place. i was totally impressed. :-)

  6. Jane Sadek says:

    Where would the blog-o-sphere be without Kristen? I started because she told me writers should, but I found my passion along the way. Oh, I knew I was passionate about travel, but it felt self-indulgent to blog about it. In the beginning I tried posting on three different subjects. Over time I discovered my audience merely put up with my other two subjects to enjoy the travel posts. When that became clear, to everyone’s relief, I followed my passion.

    The goal is always 500 words and some great pictures, but since it would take me at least 500 words to tell someone how to get to the other side of the street, I usually blast past my goal. In the beginning, I looked for the pictures on the internet, but now that I’m focused on my passion, I have plenty of my own pictures.

    Since the idea of getting up three days a week and having to write a post is daunting to me, I write my bogs ahead, usually in the third week of the month for the following month. But a lot of my posts are restaurant or exhibit reviews and I write them the day after I visit. So when I sit down to get the blog ready for the next month, many of the post are already written. I just have to add pictures, schedule and that sort of thing.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I know, right?!! She’s opened some great energy into the world. :-)

      I think it’s the most amazing thing when you find your passion along the way. For example, I never knew I could write humor until I blogged. I literally found my voice about 3 months in, and if we could bottle that feeling, we’d be bazillionaires.

  7. Val says:

    I’ve been blogging since 2004 and my blogs (on various platforms) have changed as time has passed, and that’s good – blogs change and so do their authors, it’s an organic process. Currently I’m having to look at blogging with reference to the rest of my life. I’m in my early sixties and I seem to have spent too much time in this medium. The problem is that I still love it – and whenever I’ve tried to stop blogging, I’ve always returned to it. So I’ve had to admit to myself that it’s an important part of my life. That said – I don’t have the best of health (not shingles, thankfully! So sorry you have to suffer with that – my mother did, too so I’m familiar with it) – so I’m having to work out ways of limiting the amount of time that I blog and also the amount of time I spend reading and commenting in other people’s blogs. It’s a necessity.

    Before I started my current blog, I wrote enough short posts to keep me going for a year or more – depending on the posting frequency – and had intended to schedule them, but that didn’t work. I found that scheduling posts that I might not be in the mood to have going live at particular times made me more stresssed, so what I do now is manually select which I feel is ‘right’ for me each time I post.

    The thing that takes the longest for me is in – occasionally – selecting one or more videos to go with a post, as I didn’t do that for all the posts to start with (it would have taken too much energy). And also being the sociable blogger that I’ve always been. That really eats up my energy. So I’ve unfollowed a lot of people so that their posts don’t appear in my Reader (which I still look at, stupid me!) and instead I visit them via links I have to them in a folder on my desktop. That way I don’t feel pressured by a whole stream of posts begging for my attention, I won’t miss the ones that never did appear in the Reader as I’ll visit them anyway, and also I can see the people whose blogs I really really want to read rather than ones I have followed out of a self-guilt trip!

    Blogging is an art – I’ve written ‘how to’ guides to it myself (in fact I need to finish one to go on a couple of new pages on my current blog!) and so I don’t feel tempted to join any of Kristen’s classes, but it’s good that they exist.

  8. Most days I really enjoy blogging (thanks in part to Kristen’s teaching on how to do it). I feel like I’ve found my own little niche and focus. Most weeks I don’t have any trouble deciding what to blog about and the writing flows.

    But I burned out last week. (Not on blogging – just in general) I’ve been sick now for a week and a half and struggling emotionally. It’s made me think about blogging and my long-term goals. I have a few changes I’ll be making in the new year. Nothing too major, but things I think will really help me, keep the people who read my blog happy, and keep my blog growing. At least that’s the plan and then I can adapt once I see how it goes :)

    • Marcy, I’m sorry to hear you are in a bit of a valley. I just wanted to say to you, as someone who doesn’t always have a high visibility, I’ve learned a lot from many of your posts and appreciate your style and the information you share. We Wanas are always there for each other and you are not alone, IYKWIM. I hope you are feeling better soon!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Ahhh, Marcy. It’s dreadful when the burnout comes. Have you thought of taking a week’s vacation? You’re writing, teaching, social media-ing. That’s a lot to add to blogging.

      Feel better SOON. :-)

      • Thanks both of you for the encouragement. I have a little over a week off planned for Christmas and New Year’s time. I really want to be able to enjoy the holidays without feeling like I have to juggle everything, I think I may also update and replay an older post next Monday since we’re heading into Thanksgiving.

  9. So very glad you took the time to mentor our 612 group, Jenny. I love More Cowbell and am amazed at how well you’ve managed your blog during the health trial. I’m hoping to be able to do that going forward. I’ve passed through several crisis in the last nine years and they all hosed me and my writing. Most inspired. :-) Thank you!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Well, Pauline, I certainly wasn’t remotely up to my normal level of anything. But, the big key — and I learned this by watching my critique partner, Laura Drake, in action — is to show up and do SOMETHING. It works to keep the momentum going. (At least it does for me.)

  10. Amber West says:

    My reasons for blogging are varied (not just a platform as a writer) so my approach varies and doesn’t always abide by the rules.

    And yet…

    The part that I am 100% onboard with? You have to be true to your voice. That is what people will be attracted to. Someone came to my blog the other day via an old post. I pulled it up and noticed that it had a ton of comments on it.

    It was a post I did for the fun of it and mostly expected people to ignore it. Instead, it was super popular. It was just me, being me (more specifically, interviewing me).

    If I ever stop enjoying writing for my blog, or find it a timesuck, then chances are, I’ve stopped letting myself be me.

    (And Jenny, I love that you are so you. Or at least what I would assume is you. I can’t really know that for sure. Anyone who makes me sing about pants has to be great.)

  11. Another WANA1012 student. Jenny, so happy to discover you. Thank you for this post. And thank you everyone who’s commented here. You’re all inspiring.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      *waving* Hi Lynn! It’s great to meet you here. We LOVE all the “baby bloggers.” It’s a tender time and y’all need all the love and support you can get. Feel free to stop by with questions anytime. :-)

      I’m on Twitter as @JennyHansenCA

  12. Julie Glover says:

    I think the coolest part about Kristen’s perspective and what you say here is that I started out wanting to write about language and words and grammar, but I wondered if I was the only one who would care about such things. Too often, word/grammar buffs like me come off as “grammar Nazis.” Yet, I am passionate about the subject, brought my own fun perspective, called it Amazing Words Wednesday, and it is the topic that gets the most positive feedback.

    I love what you do here! I would say my blog’s goal is to inform, entertain, and connect.

  13. I’m glad your headache is getting a little better, Jenny. I was wondering how you were able to do so many posts while sick. So now we know your secret! Thanks for sharing. Pretty cool. I love Kristen’s blogging class. WANA1011 and WANA1012 here! I’m trying to set up a WordPress blog. Hope I can figure it out! Feel better!

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m so glad you’re taking the class again…it makes a big difference. I’m gonna have to crash the WANA1012 hashtag and see what y’all are up to. :-)

      And no, I didn’t spend much time blogging while I was sick. I Promise.

  14. Jenny: As always — thank you! It is like you read my mind when crafting this post. I’ve got the voice thing down – but my time efficiency and use of social marketing tools are the two areas I struggle with each day. I could easily stretch a post to 1,000 words, which time sucks at least two-plus hours. I would love to take one of Kristen’s classes – but it looks like the next one isn’t until January? Of course, if you have any other suggestions that would be great. I’m currently reading Nina Amir’s “How to Blog a Book,” which has given me some further direction.

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Kristal, since voice is harder than almost anything else, you’re ahead of the game. :-) I need to read Nina’s book as well. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you’re done. I really love the idea.

      On Kristen’s class, I think she’s teaching the WANA1012 class, then taking a break for the holidays. It’ll be here before you know it. i hope you do sign up. It’s just life changing, the energy that gets generated in that class. :-)

  15. DeeAnna Galbraith says:

    Hi, I am also in Kristen’s WANA1012 class and loving it, if a little out of my depth at times. Especially in Twitter. Everyone is so helpful, though and mostly I need to RELAX. Sorry to hear about the Shingles. I recently had a shingles shot and didn’t get the itchy, blotchy reaction my sister got, so it doesn’t feel like it worked ; P

  16. I’m one of those folk that absolutely adore your blog voice. In fact, when I’m having a rough day Your blog is one of my go-to places. You make me laugh and get out of my own head. I hope those shingles leave you soon. They hit one of my beasties last year and she was in such horrible pain! Get well soon. :-)

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sweet lady…THANKS! Y’all are just making my day down here. I’m so sorry you had to watch one of your kids have shingles. They really are miserable. (And I have no idea why they are called ‘shingles.’)

  17. Damn girl, 27 days and counting? I really, really hope they get you some relief like NOW. If you’re at the meeting Saturday, I’ll give you hugs in person, for now they’re cyber hugs filled with healing goodness.

    Amber and Marcy, I hope you both feel better, too! Being sick is simply no fun.

    I got so worried over y’all being sick, I forgot what I was going to say about blogging. I love it, need I say more?

  18. There’s no question we all love your blogging voice, Jenny, and all of us Wanas (711 here) learned a ton from Kristen that enabled us to gradually figure out what works best for us as individuals. The fact that you have carried on entertaining and informing us through all of your nasty afflictions this year is simply amazing. You know we all need more cowbell and you never fail to supply it!

  19. angelapeart says:

    Oh, poor Jenny. I really hope the gods of good health will answer your prayers soon. Same goes for Amber and Marcy.

    I absolutely love the blogging community, and thanks to Kristen’s class of July 2011 I’ve met some amazing bloggers. Many of them have become my good friends. I am better at reading blogs than writing them though, heh. And there are soooo many wonderful blogs, like yours Jenny, to keep me busy reading.

  20. In sickness and health, eh? Maybe we need blogging vows…

  21. Lena Corazon says:

    Jenny, your blog is one of the first that I stumbled upon when I started checking out writing blogs last spring, and I still adore it. Your voice is so strong, and you tackle fun and thoughty topics with equal skill. I know if I ever want a laugh and some awesome conversation happening in the comments, this is the place to be.

    I’m a WANA1011 *and* a WANA1012 (double the fun!). I learned a lot from Kristen the first time around, but between teaching/schoolwork/MA and PhD research, my enthusiasm for blogging really flagged. To top it off, nailing down my voice/brand/direction was also proving really difficult. However, I think I’ve finally figured out what I want my blog to be. I love silly fangirling and sharing my favorite books, television shows, and movies, but I’m also really passionate about social change (hence my day job as a sociologist). So I’ve been thinking that trying to unite the two is the route to take, at least for the moment.

    I’m still sending along healing energy and lots of cyber hugs! :D

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  23. good stuff Jenny. thx

  24. S. J. Maylee says:

    No, I totally did not notice any change. I’ve come to expect some great entertainment from your posts and I get it, even through shingles. Proof’s in the pudding :) Glad to hear the headaches are starting to lessen.
    As for what’s my blogs goal, gosh, I’m not totally sure. I’ve kind of been flying by the seat of my pants. It’s certainly my home to talk about my writing and talk about books I enjoy, but what else???…You’ve given me something to think about. Thanks, Jenny.

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  26. Hi Jenny. First of all, Happy Birthday today! Sorry to hear about your headaches. I can relate. I get migraines quite frequently. Not nice.

    Love your post and the name More Cowbell! :-) I blog once a week. I was wondering since I’ve already had my blog going for over a year, which of Kristen’s classes on blogging do you recommend? I need to grow my audience. What do you recommend?
    Have an awesome birthday!
    Darlene L. Turner

  27. Diana Beebe says:

    I have to second what Pauline said about mentoring us WANA612s. You inspired me to jump right in. I had no idea what I was doing (and I’m still figuring it out in Kristen’s WANA1012 class).
    Thanks for the great post (again!). Feel better!

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  32. Julio says:

    You said it! I have yet to hear about an unhappy reader of your articles.

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