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It may look like an easy step. Simply open a new document and start typing, right? Nonetheless, it’s rare for that to work for me. I love to get a strong working title and a summary before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he discovered he could accelerate his writing process ~600 percent by creating a summary 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 . Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and over means that’s probably a fantastic chance for automation.
So I decided to make some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my most common Ghost blog post arrangement. Since that arrangement’s particular to mepersonally, I also created a template based on how John structures his articles, and another according to a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve made a gist to show you what they look like. They are just 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’re ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link to the bottom of each gist 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 with answering each dot line with a few notes about what I need to write in that section. By the time I’m done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it easier to expand my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other nicely, because I know the structure of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my outlining process became more involved. I’d really planned to perform a complete rough draft of the post in the early hours, 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’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, and a good idea of what each section would contain and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Even though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time because I’d put myself up for success. Composing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It was quite a different process to the way I normally work, and I had been tempted a few times to prevent the additional research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline correctly. I often put these things off till I am drafting, and that’s when I should be centered on writing rather. I stuck to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I’d had.
I have really coined my outline and research procedure by using this template. It’s a more effective part of the process now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, also.