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It may seem like a simple step. Simply open a new file and start typing, right? Nonetheless, it’s rare for that to work for me. I like to have a solid working title and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this earlier, after he discovered he could accelerate his writing procedure ~600% by creating a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised 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 make some templates for myself.
I started by developing a template for my most common Ghost blog article structure. Since that arrangement’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 admire.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They are 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 to the bottom of each gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file in your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot point using a couple of notes about what I should write in that section. From the time I am done, I will have a rough sketch of what the final piece will look like. This should make it simpler to enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other nicely, because I know the arrangement of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I found 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 the draft off for another 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 would work together to create a feeling of flow from the article. Though outlining took more than usual, drafting took time because I had set myself up for victory. 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 was quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and that I had been tempted a few times to prevent the additional research or thinking required to fill out the outline correctly. I often put off these things until I’m drafting, which is 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 glad I’d had.
I have really overhauled my outline and study process by using this template. It’s a more productive part of my process now and makes printing easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, too.