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It might look to be a simple step. Just open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I like to get a solid working title and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this earlier, after he found he could speed up his composing process ~600 percent by creating a summary .
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 . Like any good programmer, I realized repeating the exact same work over and over means that is probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make a few templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for my common Ghost blog post arrangement. Since that arrangement’s particular to me, I also created a template based on how John structures his posts, and another based on a writer whose work I respect.
For every template I’ve created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re only Markdown files, so go ahead and save , rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link on the bottom of each gist to view the plain text version, which you may copy into a new file on your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot point using a couple of notes about what I need to 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 easier to enlarge my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other well, since 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 do a full rough draft of that post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours just to have 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 contain and how they’d work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Though outlining took more than usual, drafting took time because I had set myself up for victory. Composing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different process to the way I normally do the job, and I had been tempted a few times to prevent the additional research or thinking required to complete the outline correctly. I frequently put off these things until I’m drafting, which is when I must be centered on writing rather. I stuck to it, however, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have actually coined my outline and research process by applying this template. It is a more productive part of my procedure now, and makes printing easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, too.