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It may seem like an easy step. Just open a new document 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 discovered he could accelerate his writing process ~600 percent by creating an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I was repeating the exact same process for every single new article I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and above means that is probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I began by developing a template for the most common Ghost blog article arrangement. Since that structure’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 created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re only Markdown documents, so go ahead and save them, 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 on the bottom of every gist to observe the plain text version, which you may copy into a new file in your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can begin by answering each dot line with a few notes about what I should write in that section. From the time I’m done, I will have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it simpler to expand my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other nicely, because I know the arrangement of the whole piece in advance.
Using the template, I found that my outlining process became much more involved. I’d really planned to do a full rough draft of the post in the early hours, but it took me a few hours simply to have the outline done, so that I put the draft off for another day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, along with a good idea about what each section would comprise and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow from the article. Even though outlining took more than normal, drafting took time since I had set myself up for success. Writing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different procedure to how I normally work, and I had been tempted a few times to prevent the extra research or thinking required to complete the outline properly. I frequently put these things off till I’m drafting, and that’s when I must be centered on writing rather. I adhered to it, though, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I had.
I’ve really overhauled my outline and study procedure by applying this template. It is a more productive part of my procedure now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, also.