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It might seem to be a simple step. Just open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I love to have a strong working title and a summary before I write a lot of. John’s written about this earlier, after he found he could speed up his writing process ~600 percent by producing a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the exact same process for every new article I work . Like any fantastic programmer, I realised repeating the exact same work over and over means that’s probably a good chance for automation.
So I decided to make a few templates for myself.
I began by creating a template for my common Ghost blog article structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John structures his articles, and another based on a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They are only Markdown files, so go right ahead and save them, rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of every list to view the plain text version, which you may copy to a new file on your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot point with 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 to fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other well, since I understand the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became more involved. I’d actually planned to perform a complete rough draft of that post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours simply to have the outline done, so that I set the draft off for a different day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, and a good idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time because I had put myself up for success. Writing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or two.
It was quite a different procedure to how I normally do the job, and I was 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’m drafting, which is when I must be focused on writing rather. I adhered to it, however, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have actually coined my outline and study process by using this template. It is a more effective part of my procedure now, and makes printing easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, too.