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Know Thy Enemy!

We began discussing what’s involved in writing a political commentary book on Tuesday. How you can be snarky or serious, factual or downright dishonest.

On so many levels, anything goes when you’re writing a political commentary book. So coming up with a proper Writing Challenge for this genre seemed a bit daunting at first.

For so many other writing categories, Innovative Editing’s advice for authors and authors-in-the-making has always been to be bipartisan or nonpartisan – to work hard at setting their opinions aside in favor of honest assessments.

It’s impossible to be completely successful in that endeavor, of course. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. But mature, honest writers still work hard to see a variety of angles about their topic throughout the writing process.

As it turns out, that advice holds true if you’re writing a political commentary book. It just holds true for very different reasons…

Read some stuff from the other side.

This has nothing to do with coming to a Kumbaya moment where all political parties meet to hold hands and say nice things about the other side.

As if!

It’s all about finding holes in the other side’s arguments that you can then throw into your own book, quoting them for saying something inaccurate or illogical or downright stupid, then showing exactly why it’s inaccurate, illogical or downright stupid.

This not only bulks up your book, making it look more impressive to potential readers; but it also bulks up your argument, making it look more impressive to actual readers.

Admittedly, it might not be more impressive. Your argument might be full of more holes than a Navy Seal’s target sheet.

That’s not the point though. The point is that it looks airtight. And isn’t that what politics are all about? Smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand?

At this point, you might be getting rather ticked off with Innovative Editing for impugning your integrity. Yes, you’re writing a political commentary book, but you don’t have to rely on smoke and mirrors.

You have truth on your side!

In that case and in all seriousness, more power to you. If you’re genuinely writing a political commentary book with unsullied facts meant to educate, not destroy, then good for you.

However, your Innovative Editing Challenge remains the same.

Read some stuff from the other side.

Consider it as opposition research – what the online English Oxford Living Dictionaries describes as “investigation into the dealings of political opponents, typically in order to discredit them publicly.”

Or here’s another political term to consider: echo chamber – what that same source describes as “an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.”

Echo chambers are unhealthy in general. But they’re especially unhealthy for anyone writing a political commentary book that's genuinely meant to educate their political base.

Note those four last words. “Educate their political base.” Those will come into play with tomorrow’s Writing Rule.

For now though, just realize that by interacting with the other side, you’re learning about them. And by learning about them, you’re figuring out how to anticipate their arguments and counter their opinions. And by figuring out how to anticipate their arguments and counter their opinions, you’re strengthening your own presentation.

And isn’t that what you really want when writing a political commentary book?

Besides, you never know. You might truly discover something valuable in the process. It could happen.

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