Outdoor activities and writing go hand in hand for me. I don’t know where I acquired the passion for writing, but I have it. Many people I run across have the same passion and ask me for direction, so I thought I would share my thoughts on seeking success through writing.
Many anglers post fishing reports in online forums. If you do this, you are already an outdoor writer. You can see the difference in styles very clearly from the anglers who post short “this is what I caught” posts and those who weave a tale complete with photos of the rising sun and vivid descriptions of fish fights. This is where many writers start. If you post on forums and frequently receive positive comments on your story, you are doing well. Sometimes, the website that the forum is on will feature forum posts on the front page of the site. Having your forum post featured in this manner is another good sign you are on the right track.
|Putting in the hours is a must|
From forum posts to article writing is a big leap. Fortunately for the outdoor writer, there are many sites willing to post your content. There are some pitfalls, however. The vast majority will not pay for your content, but it’s not always about the money. What you have to look for is a website that appreciates the writer. What this means is if you are a writer providing free content to a website, you can certainly expect a little cross promotion. You are letting people know where to find your articles through social media, thereby providing traffic to the website; you should expect them to promote your articles as well. If you are not getting that, it’s time to move on. Keep in mind that you are investing a lot of your time, so don’t get taken advantage of.
|Attending seminars and conferences give you ideas for new stories|
Another thing to look for are good editors. A sign of a good outdoor oriented website is having the people who run the site recognizing their roles as editors. You should feel comfortable sending an article to your editor and getting feedback in a timely manner. Even if they are not interested in the story, they should offer feedback. Beware the folks who will blindly publish online whatever you send them, no questions asked, or the people who don’t offer feedback, no matter what you send them. You will learn nothing and eventually will lose interest.
After writing a few articles and honing your style, there are a few websites that actually pay real money for your content. This is when you learn if you have been headed in the right direction. Because they are investing in your story or article, they expect more out of your writing. Always research and never write about something you don’t know about. The fact that these sites pay for their content is a reflection of how much real traffic they are getting on their site. Their readership is vast and you don’t want to submit something only to find out you didn’t know enough about the subject to begin with.
|Winning awards lets you know you are on the right track|
You are going to want to be published. If you are already writing for a magazine’s website, like Kayak Fish Magazine, you may already have a good relationship with that magazine’s editor. This is very good as you will have an idea of what they are looking for. Editors are busy so it’s not a great idea to constantly email article queries or ask questions, but do ask questions from time to time. Find out what they are looking for and seek “assignments”. Eventually, you will find the right combination that works for you and your editor, and you will be published.
Lastly, but arguably most important, is network with other writers. There are very good professional associations out there that want to help you. Being based in Florida, I am a member of the Florida Outdoor Writer’s Association. There are similar organizations based in most states. I am also a member of the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America. All of these groups provide valuable tools and advice on how to become successful outdoor writers and hold annual conferences and seminars. Don’t be afraid to submit your work to these groups for review and entry into the Excellence in Craft awards. These are peer reviewed contests that will recognize the best submissions in a series of categories. Although these groups are professional writers groups whose members are paid for their work, many also offer memberships levels even if you are not yet paid for your work.
|Join a writers association|
As a disclaimer, I would like to add that I support all writers being compensated for their work. Most publishers, whether online or printed, sell advertising and have some sort of income. If you are putting in time to write an article that someone wants to print, they should buy it from you. I stated earlier that it’s not always about the money, and it’s not, but don’t get caught up in providing content for someone who is making money from your work, but not passing that along. We all share a passion for outdoor activities and some of us like to put that passion to words. It’s not for everyone, but it provides rewards for those who want to pursue it. Know that there will be frustrations and setbacks, but with time and effort, you will eventually be successful.