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It may seem like a simple step. Just open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I like to get a strong working name and an outline before I write a lot of. John’s written about this before, after he found he could speed up his writing process ~600% by producing an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I had been repeating the exact same process for every new article I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realized repeating the exact same work over and above means that’s probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my common Ghost blog post arrangement. Since that structure’s particular to me, I also created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For every template I’ve made a gist to show you what they look like. They are only Markdown files, so go ahead and save , rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of each list to view the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file in your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can begin by answering each dot line using a few notes about what I need to write in that section. By the time I am done, I will have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it easier to enlarge my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow into each other well, because I understand the arrangement of the whole piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my outlining process became much more involved. I’d actually planned to do a complete rough draft of that post in the morning, but it took me a few hours simply to get the outline done, so that I set the draft off for a different day.
On the other hand, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, and a good idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a feeling of flow from the post. Even though outlining took longer than usual, drafting took less time because I had 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 two.
It had been quite a different procedure to the way I normally work, and I was tempted a couple of times to prevent the extra research or thinking required to complete the outline properly. I often put these things off until I’m drafting, and that’s when I must be focused on writing instead. I adhered to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I’d had.
I’ve really overhauled my outline and research process by using this template. It is a more effective part of the process now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, too.
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