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It may look to be a simple step. Just open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I love 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 speed up his composing process ~600 percent by creating a summary first.
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I was repeating the exact same process for every new article I work . Like any good programmer, I realized 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 developing a template for my 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 based on a writer whose work I respect.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re just Markdown documents, 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 on the”view raw” link on the bottom of each gist to observe the plain text version, which you can copy into a new file in your favourite writing app.
With this template, I can begin with answering each dot line using a couple of notes about what I need to write in that segment. By the time I am done, I’ll have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it easier to expand my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other well, since I understand the structure of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I found that my outlining process became much more involved. I had actually planned to perform a full rough draft of that post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours simply to get the outline done, so that I put the draft off for another day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, along with a solid idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Even though outlining took more than normal, drafting took less time since I had set myself up for victory. Writing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes from the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It was quite a different process to how I normally do the job, and I was tempted a few times to avoid the extra research or thinking required to fill out the outline properly. I often put these things off until I’m drafting, and that’s when I should be focused on writing rather. I stuck to it, though, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I had.
I’ve really overhauled my outline and study process by applying this template. It’s a more effective part of the process now and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better function, too.
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