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It might seem like an easy step. Just open a new document and begin typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to have a strong working name and a summary before I write a lot of. John’s written about this before, after he discovered he could speed up his composing procedure ~600% by creating an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the same process for every single new post I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realised repeating the exact same work over and over means that is probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create a few templates for myself.
I began by creating a template for the most common Ghost blog post structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
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 prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to compose. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of each gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file on your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot point with a few notes about what I should write in that segment. From the time I am done, I’ll 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 to each other nicely, since I know the arrangement of the whole piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became more involved. I had really planned to perform a full 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 put off the draft for a different day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a good idea about what each section would contain and how they’d work together to create a feeling of flow from the post. Even though outlining took more than usual, drafting took less time since I had set myself up for victory. Writing the draft was only 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 work, and I had been tempted a couple of times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to complete the outline correctly. I frequently put off these things until I’m drafting, and that’s when I must be centered on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I had.
I’ve actually coined my outline and research process by applying this template. It’s a more productive part of my procedure now and makes printing easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, also.