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It might look to be a simple step. Simply open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I love to have a strong working title and an outline before I write a lot of. John’s written about this earlier, after he found he could speed up his writing process ~600% by creating an outline .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the same procedure for every new post I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realized 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 started by developing a template for the most common Ghost blog article structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John structures his articles, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve made a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They are only Markdown documents, so go ahead and save them, rename them if you like, 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 list to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file in your favorite writing app.
With this template, I can start by answering each dot point with a few notes about what I should write in that segment. From the time I am 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 make them flow into each other nicely, since I understand the structure of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered 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 few hours simply to have the outline done, so I set off the draft for a different day.
On the other hand, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a solid idea of what each section would comprise and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Even though outlining took more than usual, drafting took time since I had 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 had been quite a different procedure to how I normally work, and I was tempted a few times to prevent the extra research or thinking necessary to complete the outline correctly. I often put off these things till I am drafting, which is when I should be centered on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I had.
I have actually overhauled my outline and study procedure by applying this template. It’s a more productive part of the process now, and makes printing easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, too.
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