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It might seem like an easy step. Simply open a new file and begin typing, right? But 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 speed up his composing procedure ~600 percent by producing a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I had been repeating the same procedure for every new post I work on. Like any good programmer, I realized repeating the exact same work over and over means that is probably a good chance for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I began by developing a template for my common Ghost blog post arrangement. 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 every template I’ve created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re just Markdown documents, so go ahead and save , rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to compose. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of each list to view the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file in your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot point using a couple of notes about what I should write in that section. By the time I’m done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it easier to enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other nicely, since I know the arrangement of the whole piece in advance.
Using the template, I found that my outlining process became much more involved. I had actually planned to perform 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 I put the draft off for another day.
On the flip side, I’d over 1600 words written in my outline, and a good idea about what each segment would contain and how they’d work together to create a feeling of flow from the post. Even though outlining took longer than usual, drafting took time since I’d put myself up for success. Writing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or two.
It was quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a couple of times to prevent the additional research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline properly. I frequently put these things off until I am drafting, and that’s 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 glad I’d had.
I have really coined my outline and study process by applying this template. It is a more effective part of my process now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, too.