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It might seem like an easy step. Just open a new file and begin typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I like to get a solid working title and a summary before I write a lot of. John’s written about this earlier, after he found he could accelerate his composing procedure ~600 percent by producing an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the same procedure for every new article I work on. Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the exact same work over and over means that is probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make a few templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my most common Ghost blog post structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I also created a template based on how John structures his posts, and another according to a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They’re just Markdown files, so go right ahead and save , rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link on the bottom of every list to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file on your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot point with a couple of notes about what I should write in that segment. By the time I’m done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it simpler to enlarge my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other nicely, since I understand the structure of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I found that my outlining process became much more involved. I’d actually planned to perform a complete rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours just to have the outline done, so that I set the draft off for a different day.
On the flip side, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, and a good idea about what each segment would contain and how they would work together to create a feeling of flow in the post. Even though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time since 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 2.
It had been quite a different process to how I normally work, and I had been tempted a few times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline correctly. I often put these things off till I’m drafting, and that’s when I must be centered on writing rather. I adhered to it, however, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I’d had.
I have actually overhauled my outline and research process by using this template. It is a more productive part of my procedure now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, also.
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