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It may seem like an easy step. Just open a new document and start typing, right? But it’s rare for that 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 before, after he found he could speed up his writing process ~600 percent by creating a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the exact same process for every single new post I work on. Like any fantastic programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and above means that’s probably a fantastic opportunity for automation.
So I decided to create a few templates for myself.
I began by creating 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 posts, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve made a gist to show you exactly what they look like. They’re just Markdown files, so go ahead and save , rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you are ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link to the bottom of each list to observe the plain text version, which you may copy to a new file on your favorite writing app.
With this template, I can start with answering each dot point with a few notes about what I should write in that segment. From the time I am 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 well, because I understand the arrangement of the entire piece in advance.
Using the template, I discovered that my summarizing procedure became more involved. I’d actually planned to perform a full rough draft of the post in the morning, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the outline done, so that I put the draft off for another day.
On the other hand, I’d 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 post. Even though outlining took more than usual, drafting took less time since I’d set myself up for victory. Writing the draft was only a matter of taking each chunk of notes out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It was quite a different procedure to the way I normally work, and that I had been tempted a couple of times to prevent the extra research or thinking necessary to fill out the outline properly. I frequently put these things off until I am drafting, which is when I must be centered on writing instead. I stuck to it, though, and by the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I have actually overhauled 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’ll lead to better function, too.