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It may look like a simple step. Just open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I like to get a strong working title and an outline before I write a lot of. John’s written about this before, after he found he could speed up his writing procedure ~600% by producing a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realized I was repeating the exact same process for every new post I work . Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and over means that’s probably a good opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create some templates for myself.
I started by creating a template for the common Ghost blog article 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 every template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They are just 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 are ready to compose. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of each gist to observe the plain text version, which you may copy into a new file on your favorite writing program.
With this template, I can begin by answering each dot point with a few notes about what I should 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 easier to enlarge my notes into fully-formed paragraphs and make them flow to each other nicely, since I understand the arrangement of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became more involved. I had actually planned to do a full rough draft of the post in the early hours, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the outline done, so I set the draft off for a different day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words composed in my outline, along with a good idea of what each section would contain and how they would work together to create a sense of flow in the article. Even though outlining took more than usual, drafting took less time because I’d put myself up for success. Writing the draft was just 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 the way I normally do the job, and that I was tempted a couple of times to prevent the additional research or thinking required to complete the outline correctly. I frequently put these things off till I am drafting, which is when I should be centered on writing instead. I adhered to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was glad I had.
I’ve actually overhauled my outline and research procedure by applying this template. It’s a more productive part of my process now, and makes drafting easier. Hopefully it will lead to better function, too.
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