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It might seem like a simple step. Simply open a new document and begin typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I like to get a solid working title and an outline before I write too much. John’s written about this earlier, after he found he could accelerate his writing procedure ~600% by creating an outline .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I had been repeating the same procedure for every new post 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 creating a template for the common Ghost blog post structure. Since that structure’s particular to mepersonally, 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 only Markdown documents, so go right ahead and save them, rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to compose. Click the”view raw” link on the bottom of each gist to view the plain text version, which you can copy to a new file on your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot line with a few notes about what I should write in that segment. 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 to fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow into each other nicely, because I understand the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I found that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I had actually planned to do a complete rough draft of that post in the early hours, but it took me a couple of hours simply to get the outline done, so that I put the draft off for a different day.
On the other hand, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a solid idea of what each section would comprise and how they would work together to create a feeling of flow in the post. Even though outlining took more than normal, drafting took less time since I’d set 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 two.
It had been quite a different procedure to how I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a few times to avoid the additional research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline correctly. I often put off these things until I’m drafting, which is when I should be focused on writing instead. I stuck to it, however, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I’d had.
I’ve really coined my outline and study process by using this template. It is a more effective part of the process now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better work, also.
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