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It might seem to be a simple step. Simply open a new file and start typing, right? Nonetheless, it’s rare for that to work for me. I love to get a solid working title and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he found he could accelerate his writing procedure ~600 percent by creating a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I had been repeating the same process for every new article I work on. Like any good programmer, I realized repeating the exact same work over and over means that’s probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make a few templates for myself.
I started by developing a template for the most common Ghost blog article structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to mepersonally, I also created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve made 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 like, 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 each gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file on your favorite writing app.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot line using a couple of notes about what I should write in that segment. By 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 expand my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other well, because I know the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I had actually planned to do a complete rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the outline done, so that I put off the draft for a different day.
On the flip side, I had 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 post. Though outlining took longer than usual, drafting took less time since I’d put myself up for victory. Writing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or two.
It was quite a different procedure to the way I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a couple of times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline correctly. I frequently put off these things until I am drafting, which is when I should be focused on writing rather. I stuck to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have actually coined my outline and research process by applying this template. It is a more productive part of the process now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, also.
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