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It might look to be a simple step. Just open a new file and start typing, right? But it’s rare for this to work for me. I love to have a strong working title and a summary before I write a lot of. John’s written about this before, after he found he could accelerate his composing process ~600 percent by producing a summary .
As I wrote an outline for a post this week I realised I had been repeating the exact same procedure for every new post I work on. Like any good programmer, I realised repeating the same work over and above 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 structure’s particular to mepersonally, I also created a template based on how John structures his articles, and another based on a writer whose work I admire.
For each template I’ve created a gist to show you what they look like. They’re only Markdown files, so go ahead and save them, rename them if you like, and copy-and-paste the contents into a new file whenever you’re ready to write. Click on the”view raw” link on the bottom of every gist to view the plain text version, which you may copy to a new file in your favourite writing program.
With this template, I can start by answering each dot point with a few notes about what I need to write in that section. From the time I’m done, I will have a rough sketch of what the finished piece will look like. This should make it easier to enlarge my notes to fully-formed paragraphs and cause them to flow to each other nicely, since I understand the arrangement of the entire piece beforehand.
Using the template, I found that my summarizing procedure became much more involved. I’d actually planned to perform a full rough draft of that post in the early hours, but it took me a couple of hours just to get the outline done, so that I put off the draft for another day.
On the flip side, I had over 1600 words written in my outline, and a solid idea about what each segment would contain and how they’d work together to create a feeling of flow from the article. Even though outlining took longer than normal, 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 out of the outline and filling out it into a readable paragraph or 2.
It had been quite a different procedure to the way I normally do the job, and that I had been tempted a few times to avoid the extra research or thinking necessary to complete the outline properly. I often put off these things till I am drafting, which is when I must be focused on writing instead. I adhered to it, though, and from the time I got around to writing the draft I was grateful I’d had.
I’ve really coined my outline and research procedure by applying this template. It is a more productive part of the process now and makes printing easier. Hopefully it’ll lead to better work, too.
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