First, examine the stand you wish to persuade your reader to accept, and then develop your goal. If you're writing a persuasive essay on how important it is for motorcycle riders to be able to choose whether or not to wear a helmet and your reader is a mother who lost her son due to head injuries sustained during a motorcycle accident, your assignment is going to be tough. It would be impossible to convince that mourning mother that it's a good thing the law allows riders to make their own choice in head safety, but it's not impossible to persuade her to see why that law is in place. Spend a fair amount of time really thinking through your issue. The best persuasive essays leave no stone unturned, meaning that every argument and angle have been inspected and discussed, sometimes even before the reader can think about them!
Like most assignments, pre-writing is a crucial first step to the process of writing your persuasive essay. First, define your intent or goal in one sentence, and include what your basic plan is to bolster this goal. One example of this could be, "I'm arguing in favor of increased health care benefits for veterans, and I will do so by sharing stories of war injuries, ways to overcome the economic dilemmas of these benefits and the ethical advantages of doing so." By developing this one sentence statement, you've already created a rough outline of your persuasive essay.
It's very important to know all you can about your side of the issue, but it's equally important to know about the opposing viewpoints. First, jot down your side. Ask yourself such questions as "Why is this issue important to me?" and "Why do I want to persuade others to accept my position on this issue?" It's hard to persuade someone to your point of view if you don't legitimately care or have anything invested in the issue, so choose one that you care about.
Second, write down some arguments from the other side. Going back to our first example, if your stance is that wearing a motorcycle helmet should be optional because you have statistics that prove helmets present more dangers during accidents, be prepared for the argument that they've saved countless lives, as well. Carefully absorb these arguments, even if they make you angry or uncomfortable. Essentially, if you can persuade yourself to accept these opposing views, you will make yourself an even more persuasive writer. Once you have the two sides of the coin sketched out on paper, your writing can begin.
If your essay is between 500-1000 words, you will want to develop three key standpoints to expound upon to your reader; add more points if your essay calls for more text. These three elements will be the framework of your essay; now it's time to start writing. There are a few different ways to design your essay, and whether you list your arguments first or last is up to you. Just remember to always talk about the counter arguments too to prove you've researched all sides of the coin.