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It may seem to be an easy step. Just open a new document 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 accelerate his composing procedure ~600% by producing an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised 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 above means that is probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make some templates for myself.
I began by creating a template for my most common Ghost blog post structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I created a template based on how John structures his posts, 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 just Markdown files, so go ahead and save them, rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link to the bottom of every list to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file on your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot point with a couple of notes about what I need to write in that section. By 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 enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other nicely, since I understand 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 full rough draft of that post in the early hours, but it took me a few hours simply to get the outline done, so I put the draft off for another day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a solid idea about what each section would comprise and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Even though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time since I’d put myself up for success. 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 had been quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a few times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline properly. I frequently put these things off until I’m drafting, and that’s when I should be centered on writing rather. I stuck to it, though, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I’ve really coined my outline and study process by using this template. It is a more productive part of my procedure now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, too.
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