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It may seem like a simple step. Simply open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to have a strong working name and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this before, after he discovered he could speed up his composing procedure ~600% by producing an outline first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I had been repeating the exact same process for every single new post I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realized repeating the same work over and over means that is probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create a few templates for myself.
I started by developing a template for the most common Ghost blog post structure. Since that arrangement’s particular to mepersonally, I created a template based on how John structures his articles, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve made a gist to show you what they look like. They are only Markdown files, so go ahead and save , rename them if you prefer, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to write. Click the”view raw” link to the bottom of each list to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file on your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot line using a couple of notes about what I should write in that segment. From the time I am done, I’ll 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 into each other nicely, since I know the structure of the whole piece beforehand.
Using the template, I discovered that my outlining process became more involved. I’d 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 set off the draft for a different day.
On the other hand, I’d over 1600 words composed in my outline, and a good idea about what each segment would contain and how they’d work together to create a feeling of flow in the post. Though outlining took longer than normal, drafting took less time because I had set myself up for success. Composing the draft was just a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling it out into a readable paragraph or two.
It was quite a different procedure to how I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a few times to prevent the extra research or thinking required to fill out the outline correctly. I often put off these things till I am drafting, and that’s when I must be centered on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I had.
I have really overhauled my outline and research process by using this template. It’s a more productive part of the procedure now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, too.
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