The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

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Greetings from a jazz bar in Sardinia, Italy! If you’d like to see what I pack when I also hit cold weather like the pelting rain of Scotland — while still keeping it under 20 lbs. — check out my recent post on Gadling here.

The Monica grape wine here is excellent and a new taste for me. In the spirit of trying new things, I wanted to share a few tips for the would-be bloggers/writers out there (that’s you at some point). Here are five timesavers to save you grief and suffering:

1. Decide how you’re measuring success before writing a post. What’s your metric? Form follows function.

Is it Technorati rank? Then focus on crafting 1-2-sentence bolded sound bites in the text that encourage quoting. Quotes can be just as important as content. Alexa or other traffic rank? Focus on making the headline and how-to appeal to tech-oriented readers on Digg, Reddit, etc. Number of comments? Make the topic either controversial or universal and end with a question that asks for opinions (slightly more effective than asking for experiences).

2. Post less to be read more.

No matter how good your material is, too much of it can cause feed-overwhelm and unsubscribes. Based on input from close to a dozen top bloggers I’ve interviewed, it takes an average of three days for a new post to propagate well in the blogosphere. If you write too often, pushing down the previous post and its visibility, you decrease the reach of each post, run the risk of increasing unsubscribes, and create more work for yourself. Test posting 2-4 times per week — my preference is two — and don’t feel compelled to keep up with the frequency “you have to post three times before lunch” Joneses. Quality, not quantity, is what spreads.

3. Define the lead and close, then fill it in.

This is a habit I picked up from John McPhee, a master of writing structure and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Decide on your first or last sentence/question/scene, then fill in the rest. If you can’t decide on the lead, start with the close and work backwards.

A good formula for the lead, which I learned from a Wired writer, is: first sentence or paragraph is a question or situation involving a specific person, potentially including a quote; second paragraph is the “nutgraph,” where you explain the trend or topic of the post, perhaps including a statistic, then close the paragraph explaining what you’ll teach (the “nut”) the reader if they finish the post.

4. Think in lists, even if the post isn’t a list.

Separate brainstorming (idea generation) from synthesis (putting it all into a flowing post). I generally note down 10-15 potential points for a post between 10-10:30am with a double espresso, select 4-5 I like and put them in a tentative order from 10:30-10:45am, then I’ll let them marinate until 12am-4am, when I’ll drink yerba mate tea, craft a few examples to match the points, then start composing. It’s important to identify your ideal circadian schedule and pre-writing warm-up for consistent and reliable results.

5. The best posts are often right in front of you… or the ones you avoid.

Fear is the enemy of creativity. If a good serious post just isn’t coming, consider trying the obvious or ridiculous. Obvious to you is often revelatory for someone else, so don’t think a “Basic Confused Terms of Blogging” or similar return to basics would insult your readers. Failing a post on something you take for granted, go for lighthearted. Is this self-indulgent? So what if it is? It might just give your readers the respite from serious thinking they secretly crave. If not, it will at least give them an excuse to comment and get engaged. Two weeks ago at 3am, I was anxious because the words just wouldn’t flow for a ground-breaking post I wanted to finish. To relax, I took a 3-minute video of me doing a few pen tricks and uploaded it as a joke. What happened? It promptly hit the Digg frontpage the next morning and was viewed by more than 120,000 people within 24 hours. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t cater to readers who have no sense of humor. If blogging can’t be fun at least some of the time, it isn’t worth doing.

[Originally posted late last week at Problogger.net]

If you didn’t like this post, perhaps you’ll like this video of me kissing a hairy “coo” in the Scottish highlands:

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Posted on: September 26, 2007.

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75 comments on “The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

  1. Always one to set the record straight even on blogging, thanks for the tips there Tim. I always heard you traveled light and by the looks of what was in your bags I would say that that can now be confirmed. Happy travels and brainstorming as you travel.

    Regards.

    Oh yeah, that is one sexy coo!

    Like

  2. You are so right about post less to be read more.

    When i first started blogging daily I thought that is what people wanted, but now I get better results with one post a week.

    Like

  3. Dear Tim

    Really enjoying your blog! Thought you might like to see a little video of us enjoying your book – which stars about half way through – while taking a short trip to Pisa, then Florence, from the UK, to see our sister singing Bach in Pisa Cathedral, with the Montiverdi Choir. All three of us were able to take the time out for this family trip, because we are all devotees of the Four Hour Work Week, even before we knew what it was. I filmed this on a Flip Video, edited it roughly on the fly with Windows Movie Maker and uploaded it from our boutique hotel, straight to Google Video. What fun!

    Like

  4. Good post…I am reminded of the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Good points. Sardinia is a good time but Sicily can be better. I am on my way to run the budapest Marathon this weekend otherwise I would host you to some good Italian vino and Pasta. Sicilian wine and olives are some of the best in the world. Pistachio (sp?) spaghetti is a nice way to start the Sicilian marathon of eating.
    Ciao for now, G

    Like

  5. Tim,

    You are an inspiration.

    Do you use any seo technique when writing? If so, what do you use?

    Joe

    ###

    Hi Joe!

    Thank you for the kind words. I don’t currently use any SEO (Search Engine Optimization) technique when writing, but I’m open to suggestions. Any good methods you or others have found to work without messing up the composition of the writing?

    Cheers,

    Tim

    Like

  6. I think the most important thing is getting enough ideas out there and whittling those down to only what is good.

    “If I had more time I’d write you a shorter letter.”

    Like

  7. As always intersting post Tim. Checking your packing items, you might want to switch to an iPhone. Now that I successfully unlocked mine, I can use it with any provider. You can then eliminate the ipod and voice recorder. There is a voice recorder that can be installed as a third party app. Less to carry!

    Safe Traveling,

    Chris

    Like

  8. See your technique was wrong. You had to hold it’s hoof for at least one date before you kissed it.

    You do a great job on your posts. They are concise and usually humorous. Keeps me coming back.

    twist

    Like

  9. Tim,

    That poor coo had to first stick the tongue out to catch the biscuit… It wasn’t a “kiss” yet…

    Don’t be so sensitive… give the pet a kiss! Common!

    And around the mouth wasn’t that hairy, kid!

    I see you’re having great times! Enjoy it and thanks for sharing with all of us!

    Inspirations for me and all, thanks again.

    Do you like maybe a try with bull/horse bareback riding? See my picture linked … ;-)

    Cheers!

    Like