If I am to be honest with myself, I'm not much of a PvPer. At least not yet. I am, however, starting to become a decent a pirate.
In my view, there is a clear difference between the two: a PvPer is someone who enjoys the challenge and thrill of a good fight against a well-matched opponent. A pirate on the other hand would prefer to gank, loot, and otherwise cause mayhem by whatever means necessary. Whenever I undock, I'm out to cause explosions and collect loot, and if I'm engaging someone it's because I believe strongly that I'm going to win. Thinking more like a pirate has made me much, much more successful. I managed to score 23 kills with the incursus hull that I finally just lost a couple hours ago, which is a level of success that was basically unthinkable to me a month ago. I can list a couple of principles that have helped me:
1. Combat probes are your friend
I have an alt on a second account that trained into Covops frigates, scanning, and hacking. I was using him for null-sec exploration in order to make some extra isk. One day about 3 weeks ago when I was hanging out at a mid-safe in Hevrice, Araziah (a Tusker) tried using his scanning alt to probe me down. I noticed his combat probes and left the system immediately. I had already learned my lesson when I was probed down and ganked by Brave Newbies after I killed several of their miners (loss: http://eve-kill.net/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=19985823).
As I was jumping out of the system, I finally made the connection. I already had a second account with a scanning alt, so why wasn't I doing the exact same thing? It's taken me a while to become proficient at dual-boxing, but I had one particularly good day recently:
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101792 Scanned down and ganked a retreiver at a mining mission site. I podded him after he declined to pay a ransom.
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101797 Ganked a Probe at a data site. Unfortunately, Eve-Uni guys are very fast with their pod saver tab.
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101802 I found an Executioner at a FW plex that had closed. I assume he was afk. I got the pod too.
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101800 Another gank at a hacking site. Much nicer ship this time. I've always wanted a Sisters' probe launcher!
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101864 After I killed his Atron, the guy warped his pod to a mid-safe and then logged off. Big mistake.
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101863 Finally, I found an empty shuttle floating in the middle of nowhere
2. Good Target Selection
When I started soloing two months ago, I would take just about any fight that I could find, and I was losing the vast majority of the time. Today, I scout all of my targets carefully before I engage. I described the process in detail in an earlier blog post: http://recklessabandoneve.blogspot.com/2013/11/above-class-kills.html. I have several recent kills which may look impressive to some on the surface, or might make me look like a crazy bastard for taking.
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101685 Incursus vs. Harpy. Harpies are slow, he was blaster fit, and he wasn't carrying Null ammo. I knew all of this from his killboard before engaging, and therefore I knew I was capable of winning without much trouble provided that I could get to the edge of scram range early in the fight. Worst case scenario, I could have overheated my web, pulled out of range, and warped off if I was losing. I had a very similar fight with an Enyo about 3 weeks ago, which I also won. It's fights like these that make me very unenthusiastic about flying assault frigates.
For similar reasons, I've been engaging destroyers with much more confidence recently. Even if they are well fit, my superior speed means that I can always pull away and escape if I am losing:
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101384 Comet vs. Thrasher
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101712 Incursus vs. Talwar
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=100484 Incursus vs. Algos
I'm only really wary of fighting Dragoons, because of the neut range bonus.
3. Take every advantage you can find
If I come across two cruisers who are fighting each other, I am certainly not above killing them both:
Apparently this is dishonorable, since they were pretty upset with me and made sure to let everyone else in local know about it.
I also recently took another look at Leadership skills. I previously rejected them, because what use does a pirate who mainly flies solo have for these? That was until I realized I could have my scanning alt train the skills, and pick up free bonuses to locking speed, armor, shields, targeting range, and agility for my main in the process. Shortly after this, I took another look at links and I just started training my alt towards a boosting Loki.
I've also been naming my ship after my scanning alt. I figure that a fairly new player in an NPC corp looks much less scary than a Tusker.
4. Be Aggressive
I'm getting to the point where I'll engage almost anything if I can catch them ratting. If your opponent is not expecting a fight, it places you at such a huge advantage. Most people will panic and not respond appropriately. It helped that none of these guys were fit particularly well:
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101505 Comet vs Dragoon. Yeah, so I lied about not engaging Dragoons. Big whoop, wanna fight about it?
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101857 Incursus vs Caracal
http://killboard.the-tuskers.info/?a=kill_detail&kll_id=101174 Comet vs Hurricane