The Opinion Writing Process

I find it comes in drips and droves.

Some days I’ll be sitting, pouring through Twitter feeds and news sites for hours, contemplating story after story. What do I think about this subject? Is what I think unique? Can I articulate it the way I want to? Do I know enough about it? Is it going to be of interest to enough people?

As the ideas circle around in my head, I get dizzy. Not knowing what to do, I often just keep reading, keep watching the world. Maybe if I watch for long enough I’ll see something I can write about.

So often I find it’s the ideas which I lack. Execution can sometimes be tricky, especially if it’s a particularly contrarian or controversial argument. But sometimes it pays to be edgy.

Never edgy for edgy-ness’ sake, no, never. Your audience can always tell, I think. Fake rage is frivolous. What’s more, it’s harder to write. When you’re in a true position; have considered all the angles; really have this yearning desire to speak up, that’s when you’re ready to write.

Or, at least, when I’m ready.

My process of writing opinion typically follows an order not greatly dissimilar to this:

  1. Find an opinion –
    As mentioned, this tends to be the hardest part for me.
  2. Research that opinion –
    I’ll sometimes look up other opinion pieces on the subject to grasp an understanding of the common arguments to differentiate myself or to refute those points, but more often than that I’ll do some serious fact-finding to shore-up my position. Often, though, these facts have appeared before me when I saw a news article somewhere, so I tend to start with their quoted sources, and then move on to find competing and supplementary ones.
  3. Develop a mental plan –
    Sometimes I have too much evidence or too many points to make regarding an opinion, so it’s a matter of condensing the arguments. These are my favourite and easiest articles to write. Other times it’s the opposite, and I’ll be trying to really focus on key evidence, expanding upon it as necessary. I find this harder.
  4. Start! –
    When I’ve finally figured out my logic for the argument – what my key points are – I start writing. Unprofessionally perhaps, I don’t often dot-point or have a tangible, over-arching plan written anywhere. It’s normally just all up there in my head.
  5. Make it funny, make it stick –
    After a first draft, if I think it needs more or is a bit dry, I try to spice up paragraphs or sentences one at a time by adding hints of humour or making the phrasing more digestible. More often than not, I opt for humour. Jokes are memorable.

I hope that if you’ve happened across this blog and are keen to start sharing your ideas with the world, that I’ve given you some practical advice to do so. The best advice you’ll get most of the time, though, is from yourself, from your experience, and from your gut. Good luck.

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3 thoughts on “The Opinion Writing Process

  1. I think it is wrong to strive for an opinion on every subject under the sun. When I was younger I was like that but now I realise that it is perfectly acceptable not to know something or have a particular view on it. Furthermore if you are pushing yourself to find one then maybe you do not actually have one at that particular moment in time. Knowledge of a subject is however essential otherwise you end up exposing your ignorance. I always think too it is a good mental exercise to engage with those more intelligent than yourself as it raises your game. Also to be humble when told you are wrong rather than double down and try to justify why you think you are right just to save face. And to focus only on the idea and not the individual making it too. If your only means of debate is to dehumanise your opponent then you have already lost the argument. Also it can be better sometimes to just engage without actually trying to score points. There are many subjects where there are not definitive answers after all so all opinions can be equally valid

    • All great points, but notice I don’t “force” an opinion. As I stated in this short piece, finding the ideas/opinions is the hardest part of the process for me, c.f. not the writing itself, because without a genuine position one can never write an opinion piece well and your audience will pick it up. Thus I don’t simply speak to ‘anything’.

  2. I agree on that point a hundred per cent. If you write a piece that is lacking in perspective your readers may pick up on that because they may be more knowledgeable than you. But if you have difficulty in finding subject matter how about something that you already have a strong view on ? I imagine that it would have to be contemporary but that aside are there any other requirements ? You said you have just submitted your first professional piece so you are just starting out. Like all things it will improve with practice. Do you have any contacts who have been in the profession a long time who may give you some good advice ? I do not know how useful you might find mind mapping as it is primarily for writers of fiction but have you tried that ?

    I do some writing myself but find the hardest thing for me is to come up with a good plot. I am alright once I have something but I have no great imagination so have to do with what I can. But I am an avid reader. I read physics and biology and history and science fiction. That all sounds very intellectual but I just an average joe trying to understand as much as I can. I try to read as many subjects in order to broaden my horizons

    Anyway that is enough about me. I hope you are successful in your career. It is a great privilege to work for a serious publication like the Huffington Post. I do not know much about it other than it is a left of centre political journal. So keep up the good work. As I said it will get better over time

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