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It might seem to be an easy step. Just open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I love to get a strong working name and a summary before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he found he could accelerate his writing process ~600% by creating a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the exact same procedure for every single new post I work on. Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and over means that is probably a good chance for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my common Ghost blog article structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to mepersonally, I created a template based on how John constructions his articles, and another according to a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re only Markdown documents, so go ahead and save , rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link to the bottom of each gist to view the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file on your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can start by answering each dot point with a couple of notes about what I need to write in that section. By the time I am done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it easier to expand my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other well, since I understand the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I found that my outlining process became much more involved. I had actually planned to do a full rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the outline done, so I put the draft off for a different day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a solid idea about what each segment would contain and how they would work together to create a feeling of flow in the post. Though outlining took longer than usual, drafting took less time since I’d set myself up for victory. Composing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and I was tempted a couple of times to prevent the additional research or thinking necessary to complete the outline properly. I frequently put these things off until I am drafting, which is when I should be centered on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I had.
I have actually overhauled my outline and research procedure by using this template. It’s a more effective part of the procedure now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, also.
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