It’s a BONUS BLOG FRIDAY!
With lockdown still in full flow and more time on my hands than usual I thought I’d finally publish this post.
This is no ordinary post though, no, this is in fact my 50th published post.
Since it’s a fairly important milestone in my blogging journey I thought it fitting to put this specific post out this week.
I actually started writing this post a good few weeks ago (or months maybe? Time is a bit strange at the moment) just as a ‘side-thought’ as I tried to recall what exactly got me started in doing this blog (not this post but the whole blog in general). I jotted some notes down and then started to expand on things as I thought about them (or got time) and would just pick it up and put it down, intending to get around to it at some point.
Then a couple of things happened in conjunction.
On publishing a new post (and spamming Facebook groups with it as per normal…) someone commented saying that they had really enjoyed my posts (which is always great to hear, by the way…) and was thinking about doing reports on their own games in the near future. After a little bit of commenting back and forth to encourage him to start, we started to message directly as I relayed some of my thoughts. Jacob has now published his first post here and followed it up with a second post, covering his first game in the Vagabond Open. Go take a look!
Secondly, as I mentioned before, I’ve got a little more time on my hands recently and on the week I started writing this all down properly I had no game and, therefore, no ‘content’ (and, as normal when talking about this blog, I use that term very loosely) for the next BLOG TUESDAY. Sure, I could have got in touch with someone and organised a game or just opened up Vassal at some point to see if anyone was online to play (I did actually do this, resulting in this blog post covering a game against Chris Burnett). But with things the way they are in the world right now, some people (not all people, but some, me included) have more spare time on their hands and maybe, just maybe, want to take the opportunity to try something new.
So with a small amount of experience and an even smaller amount of expertise this is my (very) rough guide on ‘how to get started with an X-Wing blog’.
The…umm…first main bit..?
So you’ve been lurking on Facebook or Reddit looking at posts about X-Wing and thinking ‘I’ve got something to say but ….’ (fill in your own but).
Now let’s get this straight. I don’t really consider myself a blogger. A year ago I would look at Facebook posts (and later Reddit posts too) thinking to myself ‘I have an opinion on this but …’ and would often just let it pass by. Now those ‘buts’ would be many and varied. Some would be valid, others would not. Normally they’d include the following:
- I don’t have the time to respond (valid)
- Someone has already given a similar answer (valid)
- I don’t know how to express what I want to say (valid but fixable)
- I can’t concisely express what I want to say and don’t want to post a HUGE reply (semi-valid ish)
- Someone else has a better opinion than me (not valid)
- Nobody will listen to what I’ll say (not valid)
Maybe you’ve got thoughts on strategy or tactics. You might have developed a super duper list and want to share it with the community. Perhaps you can perfectly recall the step by step events of a game and want to batrep (JARGON ALERT!!). Maybe you just like to unburden your brain of things by spewing them out (metaphorically) onto your keyboard. Maybe it’s none of those.
The thing is, if you’re reading this then you’re looking for original and (hopefully) entertaining X-Wing content. You’ve maybe got 10 minutes to fill at the end of your lunch break or are waiting for a bus. You love the game and want to find out more, to get better at it, become more informed about it and find out what other people think about it. You want to know what a tournament is like or how to prepare for one.
Now, if you are looking for that and trawling Facebook groups or the X-Wing subreddit for things to read then you should consider that you’re not the only one. Far from it.
So before we go any further, let me encourage you. You matter, your opinion is valid and creating a blog is as difficult or as easy as you want to make it.
How to blog – the very basics…
What you will need:
- An internet enabled device
- A platform to post to
- Some courage
- The ability to accept feedback
Here’s what you WON’T need:
- To be a top tier player
- To stick to a strict schedule
- Technical expertise
So let’s break these down…
Ok, let’s start with basics. Do you have something to write about? Now before you go overthinking anything here, it doesn’t have to be some earth shattering revelation.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I did. In fact, I thought that after 5 or 6 posts I’d run out of ideas and that would be that. That was 11(ish) months and 49 posts ago. Somehow I’m still going. And that’s not because I’m making things up (well, most of the time anyway…) but the more I think about the game, what I’m doing, what I want to achieve, etc, the more I find to write about. If you have thoughts about the game, don’t be afraid to share them. I’ve found that lots of people have reservations about asking questions for fear of looking stupid. By offering up your opinions, you create a friendly forum and focus point for people to speak up.
Also I have learned quite a lot by being honest and vulnerable about my weaknesses and being open to take advice off the back of making them public. It’s helped me to grow as a player.
An internet enabled device
Right, this one is a bit more straightforward and (hopefully!) obvious. If you want to blog, you will need access to the internet. Be that a PC, laptop, tablet or phone, it’s fine. Don’t worry about needing anything super duper special, if you can browse the web on it, you can blog from it. Sorted.
A platform to post to
To write a blog post you need a blog site. Simple, right? Well, mostly. I’ll cover some specific sites a bit further on but there are many blog hosting websites that are free to use. There are many different systems but the crux of them are the same – you create a post, add the content (words and images) and then you publish it. Yes there are many bells and whistles you can add to make it look pretty but at the end of the day, people will come to read your words.
It sounds daft with hindsight but I was terrified about publishing my first post. I didn’t want to be judged harshly or criticised and didn’t know whether what I was saying was any good or held any value. I just wanted to put out something to encourage people. Don’t be afraid to post. The majority of the X-Wing community is very friendly and helpful and are always in search of more X-Wing content.
The ability to accept feedback
Ok, I’m going to say it. Not everything I write is good. It’s obvious when I think about it. I mean, I’m not a professional writer, I’m not trained and school was a LONG time ago. I’m going to make mistakes, I’m going to talk about things that people don’t care about, I’m going to miss typos (even with spellcheck). It’s ok. Nobody is perfect and very definitely nobody starts out that way. Be easy on yourself, reassess what you’re doing from time to time and if someone makes a suggestion take the time to listen and consider whether they’ve got a point. It’s how we get better.
And now what you WON’t need:
To be a top tier player
This one is actually part of the reason I started to blog in the first place. Many blogs I read talk about making cut in tournaments and how well they do. That’s not my reality. In fact, I don’t get to go to many tournaments and those that I have been to I’ve lost more games than I’ve won. Now I know in my head that only a small percentage actually make cut regularly but I found that so many blogs about how well people would do made me feel like I wasn’t good at the game and therefore my opinion is no good.
THIS IS NOT TRUE.
As I mentioned before, part of the reason I started this blog was actually to show people that it’s ok to not win every game (or even most of them. Or half of them!). That you can enjoy the game whatever the result. That getting better at the game is a process that you have to choose to apply and takes work to do BUT that it’s also ok to play the game casually and not care about that. No matter what your skill level (or however you want to phrase it), you’re allowed to have opinions and thoughts and to share them with other people. In fact it encourages conversation which gives you the opportunity to learn from others and grow.
To stick to a strict schedule
Ok, I’m going to be a bit of a hypocrite here but I have a reason which I’ll get to in a minute.
Don’t feel like you have to produce posts regularly. Putting pressure on yourself to ‘just put something out’ for the sake of some self imposed deadline will probably end up with you rushing it and producing sub-par content. Most blogs that I follow only post when there’s something to talk about, mostly accounts of tournaments that they’ve attended. This might be once a month but could also have 3 month (or longer) gaps. This is all fine. Just be yourself and do what suits you.
(Yes, I do BLOG TUESDAY and, going against what I’ve written here, put something out every week. Here’s my reason – I tend to work best with a deadline. In fact, often I ONLY work when I have a deadline. If there’s no point at which I *have* to get something done then there’s a fair chance I won’t do it. And so for me, personally, I set myself deadlines that I have to hit. Not just with the blogs but with a lot of stuff in life. So with no deadline I’d probably have produced maybe 8 blog posts over 6 months and then just given up completely. This is also fine if you find that blogging isn’t for you.)
Honestly, web technologies have come a very long way in the last few years. Websites are becoming easier to use and developers seem to be focusing on making systems more intuitive to use in order to attract more people to use them. Now, I am an IT engineer but don’t let that fool you. I do not know how to code. I have dabbled a *little* with HTML a few years ago but by comparison it is SO easy now to create web content that you won’t need any previous experience to do it. Honest.
Like, really. Don’t worry. Just give it a go! There’s no cost (y’know if you’re using a free blog site) and no pressure. If you enjoy writing, write. If you want to get better at writing, ask for feedback. If you want to teach people about the game, get your thoughts down. But don’t worry about any of it. Really. Just don’t.
Here are some general things to keep in mind when putting a blog together.
- Have a point. Batrep, analysis, advice, review, whatever. Anything goes but have a point (and make sure that you have covered it by the end).
- Don’t limit yourself. Just because your first post is a batrep, you don’t have to ONLY do batreps. It’s ok to write about anything you want. ANYTHING. The whole point of blogging is to share thoughts. Don’t limit them.
- Don’t waffle. Oh the irony. Yes, I know, I know, I’m rather guilty of this (probably even in this post…). The thing is, many people will open your link and scan read it (I know I do!). Is it short or long? Have I got enough time right now to read this properly? Too long (or rather, too waffly) and people may not stick around to read the whole thing (or even any of it).
- No pressure. Don’t put pressure on yourself to write posts. I personally put a blog up every week. That works for me. Others only post when there’s something specific to talk about. Do what works for you and don’t compare with others. Comparison is a killer (not just for blogs but for life in general).
- Know the subject. Be honest with your writing. If you don’t have knowledge about something, don’t try and write about it, people will see through it (and possibly challenge you on it). Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions, our community is made up of amazing people who love to help.
- Pics! Much like a children’s book, images help to break up long blocks of text and help the reader to keep focus. I try to think more comic book than school text book.
- Editing is important! The first blog post I wrote I must have read and re-read more than 20 or 30 times before posting. I was paranoid about mistakes. I’ve relaxed since then but always take the time to read the post through (at least once but normally 3-4 times) before publishing to make sure it’s readable (in terms of layout) and makes sense (grammar and stuff) and that I haven’t left any sentences half complete (which, since I write then re-edit later does sometimes happen).
- Editing is important! Part 2 It seems like a minor thing but paragraphs are important. Long blocks of text are hard to read and if presented with a really large paragraph with long sentences it’s more than likely I will scan read it quite quickly and possibly miss some points. Break things up into smaller chunks (as well as the pictures I mentioned before) and people should keep reading.
Part of the reason I started blogging is because I actually had some of the technical bits already in place. I had a domain name that I wasn’t doing anything with and I had hosting. I pay for both but I have the hosting in place for other things anyway (so the cost is no extra) and the domain I had for free a few years ago and had been renewing at a cost of about £7 per year.
You don’t need either of those to get started.
A quick Google search will show you that there are quite a few free blogging platforms that use popular systems. Most will be free because they put ads on your site (which you need decide if you’re ok with) and will use a subdomain for the URL (something like – mysuperawesomeblog.wordpress.com).
There are more options than this, these are just the first ones that popped up with a quick search for free blogging platform.
To be honest, ads and subdomains won’t really matter to most readers (me included). I normally find new blog posts via Facebook and Reddit posts anyway (so snappy domain names don’t really matter) and will accept ads on a post if it’s worth reading (and the ads don’t slow the page loading time by too much).
Most of what you’ll want to do will be possible just through these platforms with no extra work (like installing apps on a server or plugins, etc).
I always include images in my posts. It helps to break up large
So there we have it, my (not very) brief guide to making an X-Wing blog. One question to ask yourself is – is this right for me? Because it isn’t right for everyone. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it was right for me but I wrote a few things down to get it out of my system and almost a year later I’m still going.
If you put some things down and it goes no further, that’s ok. But then again you might just have the content there for the ‘next big thing’ and help to inspire someone to pick up the game or try something new.
If you DO decide to give it a go, let me know somehow (Reddit, Facebook, Contact page, whatever!). I would LOVE to have a read!