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It may seem like a simple step. Just open a new document and begin typing, right? Nonetheless, it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to get a strong 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 process ~600% by creating a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I was repeating the exact same procedure for every new article I work . Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the exact same work over and above means that’s probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I began by creating a template for my most common Ghost blog post arrangement. Since that arrangement’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John constructions his articles, and another according to a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They’re just Markdown files, so go right ahead and save , rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link to the bottom of each list 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 by answering each dot point with a few notes about what I need to write in that segment. From the time I’m done, I will have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it easier to enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other nicely, because I know the arrangement of the whole piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my outlining process became much more involved. I had actually planned to perform a complete rough draft of that post in the early hours, but it took me a few hours just to have the outline done, so I put off the draft for another day.
On the other hand, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a good idea about what each segment would contain and how they’d work together to create a feeling of flow in the post. Even though outlining took more 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 extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline correctly. I often put off these things till I am drafting, which is when I must be focused on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I’ve really overhauled my outline and study process by applying this template. It is a more productive part of my process now and makes printing easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, too.
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