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It may look like a simple step. Simply open a new document and start typing, right? Nonetheless, it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to have a strong working title and a summary before I write a lot of. John’s written about this earlier, after he discovered he could speed up his composing process ~600% by creating an outline .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I was repeating the same process for every new article I work on. Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and above means that is probably a fantastic chance for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I began by creating a template for my common Ghost blog post structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I also 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 exactly what they look like. They’re 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 are ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link on the bottom of every gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file in your favorite writing app.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot point with a couple of notes about what I should write in that section. By the time I’m done, I will 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 understand the arrangement of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became more involved. I had actually planned to do a full rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a few hours just to get the outline done, so I put the draft off for a different day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, and a solid idea about what each section would comprise and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time because I’d set myself up for victory. Composing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It was quite a different process to the way I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a couple of times to prevent the additional research or thinking required to fill out the outline properly. I frequently put these things off until I’m drafting, and that’s when I should be focused on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I had.
I have actually coined my outline and research process by applying this template. It’s a more effective part of my procedure now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, also.