Tips on writing an angling blog

So you want to write an angling blog? The first question you need to ask yourself is why. That’s not necessarily to question your own motive of course, but a little self-examination and inner reflection at this stage is no bad thing. Thinking about why you want to step out into the world of the angling blogger prior to actually putting words on a screen, will help you to determine where you are hoping to go as the blog develops.

For example you may want to share a few thoughts for your own personal reference. In that case what you are going to be writing is a diary. It will probably contain short statements of fact as opposed to lots of anecdotal prose and meandering illustrative stories. It will be more of a personal reference point rather than existing for the benefit of others. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s your blog, decide where you want it to go.

On the other hand you may want to write so that you can inspire others. This is my motivation. I get a lot of pleasure in life from encouraging other people and seeing them move on and develop, and this applies to angling as well. It’s great when someone sends me a message saying that they took on board something I wrote and it led to a personal best fish, first of a species, helped them crack a water or whatever. In fact as I write several examples of all come to mind. It’s good to encourage people.

You may just like writing, and if you can combine that with your angling experiences, then that is a good starting point for commencing a blog. We can all have multiple reasons and I would tick that box as well. I’ve always enjoyed writing and expressing myself that way. And I still write with a Parker ink pen as well, although all of my creative writing these days is on a screen via a keyboard. But it’s just a different medium, the result is the same – an outlet for expression via words on a page.

Beware of negative motivation though when blogging. Obviously it’s up to you what you do with your blog, but I would say avoid creating a platform to attack other people. On a personal level I stay away from all that stuff anyway. I’m not interested. Of course I may write about specific incidents such as litter, anglers behaving badly etc. After all we don’t live in a utopian world, and as well as expressing our displeasure at certain things we can also educate and change through our words, as long as they are crafted carefully.

But as for naming people and basically using the piece as a way of trying to get one over on someone, that sort of things turns me off. I remember an editor saying to me some years ago that controversy and personal attacks were good as they attracted lots of interest. That may well be, after all look at a forum and the thread where there’s a good old argument on will get lots more views than one which is about which float to use for chub. But it’s all short-termism. You want to build a following based on the fact you have something positive to say not because you’re putting people down all the time. It’s a fishing blog not a daytime TV show where people queue up to slander one another.

You may see the blog as a stepping stone to ‘greater’ things. You may have an agenda whereby you want to make it in angling, make a name for yourself, get noticed, get into full-time fishing or whatever. That’s your choice and if your ambition extends into any of those categories that’s fine. Just be honest about it but above all be realistic. Just remember that the grass is always greener on the other side. But it’s just as hard to cut once you get there. The glamour associated with making a living from fishing will soon wear off. And into the bargain, very few make it anyway. But back to the blog, it’s yours and you take it where you want.

I think it’s important to spend time in preparation prior to actually launching out. I’m sure a lot of anglers impulsively decide to start a blog. But just like a firework shoots upwards in a blaze of light, a few moments later it falls to the earth in darkness. Time planning and knowing that you really want to do a blog will help you stop falling into the trap that many do. Namely, starting something, doing a couple of entries and then never returning again. In fact if you want to launch a site then ‘sit’ on it for a few weeks. If you still feel the same enthusiasm and desire a month later, go for it.

So you’re ready to launch and it’s time for the practicalities. First of all find yourself a blogging platform, there are several around. When I started doing mine back in July 2003 nothing was available, so I got hold of some web space, bought a domain and took it from there. But if I were to be in the same position today I’d probably go for WordPress, which I think is the best of the bunch. In fact in the autumn of 2011 I copied all my archived articles onto a WordPress blog I started. Do some research, look around and see what works for you. Then go for it. The great thing is you are talking free, the only cost is your time. And if you’re like me, you won’t mind as the hours you invest are a labour of love anyway.

It’s really important to keep your blog regular. The more regular it is, the greater the chances of attracting a following. One of the main reasons for the success of my own is that an update is published every Saturday without fail. As that has been the case for so many years, many tell me that it has become a habit (not all habits are bad!) for them to check out my site on a Saturday morning with their breakfast, Sunday afternoon after lunch or some other fixed day, time and occasion. In other words they know it will be there and they incorporate it into their schedule.

So consider setting a day on which you publish your entries and then make it known. I always promote mine as ‘Updated every Saturday’. You may have another day. Or it may not be weekly, perhaps fortnightly or monthly, although I would add that the longer you go between updates the harder it is to build a faithful following. Even ‘Updated regularly’ can be a bit vague and open-ended. People will soon tire of dropping by without an update.

Of course there is commitment required on your part and that’s why you need to devote some time to making sure it’s something that you really want to do. You may actually want your blog to be occasional, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. You may not be interested in growing your site and if that’s the case it’s not a problem. As I wrote at the beginning, give it some thought as to where you want it to go. Always remember it’s your blog. But more of that later.

In life it’s just as vital to know not only what we have been called to but what we haven’t. Don’t be a peg in a round hole as often it is embarrassing observing people who are quite clearly out of their depth but don’t realise it. Don’t become the angling blogger equivalent of the drunk on the karaoke machine who really believes they sound like Frank Sinatra. I think there are two basic limitations that we need to understand. First of all where we are as anglers and secondly where we’re at on an educational level. Let’s look at those two points as they are important.

Don’t let your lack of angling experience or even youthfulness of years put you off writing. Just remember where you are at that’s all. In fact even if you are a good angler of many years, a dose of humility and a genuine understanding that we’re all on a learning curve is a good foundation to lay in your writing. And just because you’ve caught one or two good fish from one swim on one venue doesn’t make you an authority either. You may have 10 double-figure barbel, but they could all be repeat captures from the same ‘goldfish bowl’ peg.

Statistics on a sheet of paper in many ways don’t mean a thing. That’s why I prefer to match my fish weights to the venue rather than a general benchmark when talking about specimen fish. I digress slightly, but I’m sure you get my point. Even if you are experienced, write like you are an equal with whoever may be reading or piece, as opposed to some sort of elevated god who is sharing their wisdom with any mere mortals who are honoured enough to read what you write. People will pick up where we are coming from as they engage with us and arrogance will turn them off. If we want an audience you need to treat them with respect, and genuinely so, not with a patronising attitude.

Then there’s the grammar, spelling and general educational factor. If you are privileged to have had a good education and know when to use ‘their’ instead of ‘there’, you know that plural photos isn’t photo’s and understand the grammatical rule as to why it’s ‘you and I will go fishing’ instead of ‘you and me’ then that’s a good start. It means that your writing will generally be more presentable and easier to read. Even spell checkers can’t perform miracles. And it’s highly unlikely you are going to employ the services of a proofreader for your blog so if you’re not a certain standard then that will show.

But don’t let that deter you. Unless you’re dealing with grammar snobs, it won’t be a problem. And even if you do get criticism, remember it’s your blog. Recognise your limitations and major on your strengths. I enjoy reading other anglers’ blogs and what I’m looking for first and foremost is for the author to portray their enthusiasm for fishing. I certainly don’t sit there marking the piece out of ten for presentation. If others do, then that’s up to them and no doubt you will get people contact you with ‘advice’ on what you should be doing. On that front there are three types of people out there – big heads, big egos and big mouths – and whenever I go through the comments on my YouTube channel, in with the positive ones, those are definitely there as well. Don’t let it bother you, it’s life. Sadly, but it’s life.

Remember to include photographs. Even though this article is text-only, an angling blog presented in the same way will always fall short. Vary your shots as well, with fish, scenes, bait etc all featuring. Spend some time visiting the blogs of other anglers to get an idea of what works – and perhaps what doesn’t. Well, I could go on and on, but I’m not intending to write a book; just share a few tips and thoughts on writing a blog.

If nothing else, I’ve certainly had enough experience, having published a weekly entry since July 2003. And I’m still as passionate today about my angling site as I was back then when I decided to kick it all off. In fact I remember clearly the time I spent thinking it through, working stuff out and developing a plan of action. So, if you decide to go down the same route, then I wish you the best. Hopefully this piece will have been useful. Happy blogging!

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