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It might seem to be a simple step. Just open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to have a strong working name and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he found he could speed up his composing 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 new article I work on. Like any good programmer, I realized repeating the same work over and above means that’s probably a fantastic chance for automation.
So I decided to make some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my common Ghost blog article structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to me, I also created a template based on how John structures his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I respect.
For every template I’ve made a gist to show you 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 write. Click on the”view raw” link to the bottom of each list to view the plain text version, which you may copy into a new file in your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot line using a few notes about what I need to write in that section. 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 into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow into each other well, because I know the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I had actually planned to do a full rough draft of that post in the morning, but it took me a few hours just to get the outline done, so that I put off the draft for another day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, along with a good idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a sense of flow from the post. Even though outlining took more than usual, drafting took less time because I had put myself up for victory. Composing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or two.
It was quite a different process to the way I normally do the job, and I had been tempted a few times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to complete the outline correctly. I frequently put off these things until I am drafting, and that’s when I must be centered on writing rather. I stuck to it, though, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have actually overhauled my outline and research procedure by applying this template. It is a more effective part of my procedure now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, too.