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It might look like an easy step. Simply open a new file 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 too much. John’s written about this before, after he found he could speed up his composing process ~600% by producing a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I was repeating the same process for every single new post I work on. Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and above means that’s probably a fantastic chance for automation.
So I decided to create a few templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for the common Ghost blog article structure. Since that structure’s particular to mepersonally, I created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another according to a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve made a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re only Markdown documents, so go right ahead and save , rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to write. 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 in your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot line with a couple of notes about what I need to write in that section. From the time I’m done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it simpler to enlarge my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow into each other well, since I understand the arrangement of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I found that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I’d really planned to do a complete rough draft of the post in the early hours, but it took me a few hours just to have the outline done, so that I set off the draft for another day.
On the other hand, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a good idea of what each segment would comprise and how they would work together to create a sense of flow in the post. Even though outlining took more than normal, drafting took time because I’d put myself up for success. Writing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and I had been tempted a couple of times to prevent the extra research or thinking required to fill out the outline properly. I often put off these things until I’m drafting, which is when I should be centered on writing instead. I adhered 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 the process now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, too.
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