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It may seem like a simple step. Simply open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I like to have a solid working name and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he found he could accelerate his composing process ~600% by producing an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I was repeating the same procedure for every single new post I work . Like any fantastic programmer, I realized repeating the exact same work over and over means that’s probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make a few templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for the most common Ghost blog article structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They are just Markdown documents, so go ahead and save them, rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to write. Click the”view raw” link to the bottom of every gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file on your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can start by answering each dot point with a few notes about what I need to write in that segment. From the time I am done, I will have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it easier to enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow into each other well, since I know the structure of the whole piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I had actually planned to perform a complete rough draft of the post in the early hours, but it took me a few hours just to have the outline done, so I set off the draft for a different day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a solid idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a feeling of flow in the article. Even though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time since I’d set myself up for success. Composing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different procedure to the way I normally work, and that I had been tempted a couple of times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline properly. I frequently put off these things till I’m drafting, which is when I must be focused on writing rather. I adhered to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have really overhauled my outline and study procedure by using this template. It is a more effective part of my procedure now and makes printing easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, too.