Every Writer Should Consider Writing Opinion Pieces —they offer a new channel and they are fun to do
So, you’re a writer or you want to be a writer but you’re not sure what you should be writing about. Yeah sure, you’re working on those two novels and you’re compiling material for a short story collection; and yes you churn out a few passable poems a week, but it feels like you’re just doing the same as everyone else?
Do you feel deflated when you see your writing fading on the distant horizon, or disappearing into the swarming web that is the internet, never to be seen again?
Well. here’s the thing, that’s exactly the fate of most writing, it fades. It is read, it has an impact or it doesn’t and in a very short period of time, it is forgotten.
Rather than bemoaning that fact, why not embrace it by writing opinion pieces. Let’s be straight here, everyone has an opinion and writers are more opinionated than most, but do they always convey those opinions in a compelling way, a way others will want to read? Writing opinion pieces is a test of your mettle as a writer. It’s also a pragmatic way to hone your writing skills and to develop your writer’s voice
There are some rules that will help you to write good opinion pieces, and often, good opinion pieces will sell, (and before anyone asks; no The Blue Nib don’t pay because we offer our services free.)
Opinion pieces have the advantage of being immediate, intense and often fun to write. (Who doesn’t want to vent their spleen in 1000 words or less?) They are also a wonderful way to get your writer’s brand out into the world and start generating a following.
1. Be unique: Your opinion piece should express your own, unique opinion, if it simply regurgitates the opinion of popular media or the masses it will not hold a reader’s interest. Write from your own unique perspective, are you a business owner? An employee? A union official? A nurse? How does your current position offer you a niche point of view? Figure that out and you will know where to start writing from.
2. Be on top of your subject: If you’re (for instance) writing for The Write Life at The Blue Nib (cough, cough) which focuses on work informed by the craft of writing and/or the events that are occurring globally and how they affect the work of writers, then you will need stay up to date with those things. If you are writing about literary events in your local area, then you need to attend those events. If you are writing about next year’s Booker Award Nominees then you need to research the writers, predict the winner, espouse a personal favourite or better still a dark-horse (nominations are usually announced in March or April by the way).
3. Get the first punch in! Lots of people will read about what has happened, but many more are interested in what might happen. And, this is the absolute beauty of writing opinion pieces, you get to predict the future, surmise, provide a broad hypothesis of why you are expressing a particular opinion. Remember, it is your personal opinion, so you cannot be challenged on it. (That doesn’t mean you can write untruths, it means you can express what you believe to be true.) If it turns out you are right, then you are declared a genius, and if you are wrong, well….your article just disappeared over that distant horizon and has been forgotten. Move on to the next one.
4 Be Opinionated: Yes, it may seem obvious, but I will repeat it anyway. Every good opinion piece is written by a writer with strong opinions. Be angry, be outraged. A good opinion piece is not a place for tactful language.
5 Back up your opinion: If you are writing about something you are passionate about (and if you are not passionate, then don’t write about it), then you will know a lot about the subject of your piece. You may be an expert or a hobbyist, but you will have access to facts, quotes and examples and you will use them to support your opinion. If you are writing about childcare, mention that you are a parent/teacher/carer; if you are offering opinion on healthcare during a pandemic, state your credentials as a professional/doctor/nurse/victim/service user.
6 Don’t be predictable: Yes, I said it above but it is worth repeating. Approach your subject from a different angle, be controversial, pose the hard questions and listen for the sound of your readers squirming! A good opinion piece does not have to convince the reader that the writer is correct, but it should leave the reader with a modicum of respect for the writer’s stance and opinion.
7 K.I.S.S: Keep it short and simple. Winston Churchill famously said; “A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” This advice is as relevant to writing opinion pieces as it is to giving speeches. Write your piece, wax lyrical, rant, rave and vent, this is the creative element of writing. Then, turn off the anger and edit, edit, edit. Structure your work so that it is easy to follow: have an opening argument or statement, prove your point in the body, and end with a strong conclusion. One of the tools of the great writers is brevity. Remember that other great quote, “A good speaker should electrify the audience, not gas them’.
8. Write for your audience: This is something many writers fail at. They fall in love with their work and think readers will love it also. However, if you write a riveting piece on the political and religious implications of drilling for oil in Venezuela on Sundays, don’t expect your favourite literary magazine to fall over itself in a bid to accept it. Every magazine or journal has a leaning, and its readership are of a similar ilk, so if you plan to submit an opinion piece to a particular publication, go read it first, then you can judge if your essay is a good fit or not.
9. Responding to editorial or rebutting another piece: One simple rule, do not thrash the other writer’s work! Yes, it is fine to disagree and state why, but keep it professional and factual. The beauty of opinion pieces is that they are opinion, so open to opposition.
10. Find the right editor: Opinion pieces are fun to write, they are an excellent way to flex your creative muscle and they often unlock inspiration for further creative writing. If you decide to write opinion pieces, then find a publication and an editor who shares your passion and is empathetic to your viewpoint.
The Write Life at The Blue Nib publishes essays and opinion pieces that are informed by the craft and the life of writers, both emerging and established. If you have something to share, send it to Clare Morris [email protected]