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It may look like an easy step. Just open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that to work for me. I like to get a strong working title and a summary before I write too much. John’s written about this earlier, after he discovered he could speed up his writing procedure ~600% by creating a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I was repeating the exact same procedure for every new article I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and over means that is probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to make some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for the common Ghost blog article structure. Since that structure’s particular to me, I also created a template based on how John constructions his posts, and another according to a writer whose work I respect.
For every template I’ve made a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They are just Markdown documents, so go right ahead and save , rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link to the bottom of every gist to view the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file in your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can begin by 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 expand my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other well, since I know the structure of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my outlining process became much more involved. I had really planned to do a complete rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours simply to have the outline done, so that I put the draft off for another day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, along with a solid idea of what each section would contain and how they would work together to create a sense of flow from the article. Even though outlining took longer than usual, drafting took time since I’d put myself up for victory. 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 2.
It had been quite a different procedure to the way I normally work, and I had been tempted a couple of times to prevent the extra research or thinking required to complete the outline correctly. I often put off these things till I am drafting, and that’s when I must be focused 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 have actually overhauled my outline and research process by applying this template. It is a more productive part of the process now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, also.
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