Writers Bloke – Rob Ridley

Messages

Imagine having the ability to write sophisticated novels full of hidden messages intertwined with the story. It is easy to think that only a genius can do this. Firstly, the writer simply sits down and decides the messages he or she wishes to convey. The writer then assembles the words in the right order to tell the story and encapsulate a message not explicitly set out in these words. Brilliant.

All this pre-planning must be fiendishly clever if the story has not yet been written. After all, can you imagine how difficult it is to weave your messages into something that does not yet exist? Equally, adding the messages after the story is written is a mammoth task of hideous complexity. It is hard to imagine how any book could be written whilst trying to overcome such obstacles.

The good news is that the messages are not really hidden at all. The written words that deliver the story and all its elements are brought together in a cohesive way by messages better known as themes. You might recognise some of the following themes: good triumphs over evil, wealth does not always equate to happiness, monsters can have human side to them, power can be corrupting, be careful about what you wish for, love can overcome everything.

Writers do not have to be blatant in communicating themes because a reader will soon pick up on them. Themes are part of the human experience and are found within our personal lived reality. The various experiences a character is made to undergo by the writer can illustrate a theme chosen by the writer. For example, a ridiculed inventor that refuses to give up on an idea and eventually wins a Nobel prize or the ugly duckling child that becomes a movie superstar. The story of each character’s journey in achieving their ambitions can have all sorts of themes attached to them.

These themes can also be used to create the lived reality of characters written into stories. Coming up with a completely original theme will be something out of reach for most writers I think. That does not matter as inventing new themes is not the name of the game. The magic is to communicate familiar themes in ways that are different and entertaining to the reader.

These themes will be gradually introduced as the story progresses whilst others will only be recognisable after the whole story has been read. Writers should not have to agonise about this or that theme because if they really believe in their story their themes will emerge as they write. These themes will inevitably become part of their story as it unfolds. Readers might even find themes the writer did not realise were there. Imagine how interesting that might be. After all, what use are undiscoverable messages to anyone?

 


The Ideas Factory

Whether or not anyone has written a book called The Ideas Factory is an interesting question. There are plenty of self-help guidebooks relating to the types of ideas you might want to manufacture. There must be stacks of these books for aspiring writers or those who may want to refresh their jaded imagination. Some writers may be looking to do something different and are looking for a different route to take in their writing. One thing the world is not short of is possibilities.

Stephen King believes writers should be tuned in to the world around them and recognise opportunities when they arise. I happen to work in this way. No sitting around at night forcing ideas into my empty head (no jokes please). For example, a friend of mine made a comment and it struck me as the name for a novel. That novel was The Masters of the Chandelle. It took a few years, on and off, to finally get the story into print but I finally got there.

The thing is that ideas breed ideas. I am nearly at the end of a sequel of the next Mike Armstrong novel. There is yet another Mike Armstrong novel ready to go after that. The thing is once you get the ball rolling there is plenty to work on. But what is it that makes you take the first step? For instance, I had no idea what I was going to write about next on this blog. I wondered where I was going to get my next idea from and the ideas factory theme popped into my mind.

You may already be toying with an idea for a novel. Note it down or keep a reminder in your mobile phone (I have hundreds of these!). Eventually, you can return to that note and start something good. Be observant; that quirky bookshop you just walked past may be the start of a fantasy novel. Take photographs of where you have visited or look back over the old ones. Parthenope Reborn resulted from a field trip (really a holiday) to Naples.

The world is an ideas factory. Off-world or a world of your very own. I am often accused of living in my own world, but the reality is we all live in our own world. There is an infinite variety of ‘worlds’ lived in or waiting to be created. The ‘real’ world is getting more and more complex. Every action we take has an impact on the world and changes it forever. Each person’s worldly experience is unique and past actions cannot be changed.

So, there it is, we all live in an ideas factory. It just depends upon what we choose to do with it. We can even reminisce about the old days when life was simpler because it really was. In a novel, I read a character talks of the world becoming ultimately complex. I don’t know what that world will be like, but an author is the creator and absolute controller of his or her world (who shouted megalomaniac?). You can make your written world as complex or as simple as you like. After all, it was your idea in the first place.


Time is of the Essence

I would love to write a novel, but I just don’t have the time.

I would love to be a blogger, but I just don’t have the time.

I would love to [insert your unfulfilled pet ambition here], but I just don’t have the time.

Does the above sound familiar to you? Modern living does not allow much free time for us to pursue our dreams. The important stuff such as work, family commitments, getting educated, getting professionally qualified, decorating the bedroom, finishing the last stage of the latest Xbox game, answering yet another email etc always get in the way. Life’s essentials outweigh the desirables at every turn. Not so for some people.

Take writers for example, they appear to be such layabouts when it comes to dealing with life’s real responsibilities. They spend hours of their free time scribbling or typing away without a care in the world. They obviously have money to burn or have some kind soul working themselves to death to support them whilst they chase their dream. Where do they find the focus for what they are doing? They somehow manage to ignore life’s distractions and go on to climb their writing Everest. How do they do that?

Let’s be realistic. There are no life exemptions that writers can apply for, myself included. So how did I manage to pull off the task of completing two novels and writing a third whilst working full time? I thought I was time poor so became ambition rich and forced myself to make my writing a habit. The outcome? My second novel was completed many times faster than the first.

This wasn’t about taking a typing course to tap keys at high speed or becoming a time and efficiency guru. The simple answer was to write instead of contemplating writing. I ignored the pings announcing the latest important (not!) email/text message on my phone/tablet/laptop and all other distractions such as another cup of coffee or the latest episode of Breaking Bad. That was how I climbed my metaphorical Everest. Many small steps on a regular basis until it felt strange not to write something each day.

Writing does become addictive (but does not make you a billy-no-mates candidate!). Once you really get going all those ‘important’ reasons why you can’t write today will simply evaporate. Even if you write only a few hundred words on some days you will be getting down four figures worth on others. Once you start to see the chapters piling up you will ask yourself where did I find the time to do all that!!?? You didn’t ‘find time’ at all, you simply used it. If becoming a writer is your ambition just focus, just write, your time will still pass as usual. The difference is that you will have something to show for it.

P.S. Paradoxically I still find myself doing all the distracting things I was supposed to avoid doing in the first place. Life is great.


Dare to go it alone?

I am going to assume that a lot of people reading this blog have an interest in writing and some of you might one day like to see your work published. My assumption might be totally wrong but as this is my blog I will continue to make similar sweeping statements. The big decision is what route to publication you might want to take. Unless you have celebrity, are in some way notorious, have social connections you can exploit, or you are able to blackmail a literary agent getting published could be a challenge*.

Persuading a literary agent that you are the new shining star in the writing firmament will always be difficult. If you are not a fabulously talented writing icon such as Hemingway, Highsmith or Steinbeck then, like me, be prepared for being damned with faint praise that passes for rejection emails. This is not an excuse for you not to try nor am I criticising literary agents for not recognising my, ahem, brilliant writing talent.

Writing is seldom a get rich quick exercise. You need to be resilient, realistic and patient. However, if you really believe in yourself you can go it alone to see what happens. Independent publishing allows your book to be read and judged by the public rather than literary gatekeepers.        WARNING: If you write rubbish be prepared for an appropriate response from your readership.

My chosen route to the public is via Amazon. This route is full of high tension, excitement and challenge. No one is marketing your work unless you do. You must come up with your own fancy book cover design, decide on the book size, trust your own proofreading ability (I don’t), decide on a selling price, sort out tax issues… the list can seem endless. Yet, when it all comes together you can proudly say ‘I did that’.

Think of it a bit like a holiday that you plan from scratch. Rather than accepting the holiday packages on offer you decide where, when and how you want to do things. You also decide who you are going to do these things with. You may not get the holiday you imagined but at least it was your holiday. If you do hit the jackpot and your work is taken on by a literary agent and subsequently published, you can disregard all the foregoing. The choice is yours.

Don’t think going it alone means you are totally on your own either. There is plenty support out there if you choose to tap into it. I found most of mine on the internet but the more socially minded amongst you can join an interest group of one sort or another.

No literary agents or publishers were harmed in the making of this blog.

*If you have noted frustration/envy/bias/an opinionated point of view in this blog you are correct. I am as unashamedly ambitious as the next writer and reserve the right to be so single minded.


The Masters of the Chandelle Locations Challenge Results.

Rob Ridley’s first novel, The Masters of the Chandelle, is set in West and North Norfolk and he set a challenge for website users to identify the real locations used as a basis for his fictional locations used in the novel.

This has proven to be an interesting challenge and judging by the answers received not as straightforward as you might imagine. The was only one person who came close to identifying three locations and that was Sue Nash of Weasenham Road, Great Massingham so very well done to her.

A copy of The Masters of the Chandelle will be finding its way to her very soon. Thank you to all the other participants.

Here are the questions followed by the answers:

  1. In which real market town is the fictional bank set?

The Eastern Counties Bank formed part of a small triangular group of buildings that sat in the center of the market town of Walsham. The triangle had roads on all sides that were currently filled with market stalls. Thursday was market day and this was the bank’s busiest day of the week.

The bank’s large entrance door faced south into the main market square across the road. The stone steps up to the entrance were worn as the past one hundred and fifty years had seen no shortage of custom. The name was something of a misnomer, as no Eastern Counties Bank could be found outside the county of Norfolk. The bank was so successful the directors had decided there was no need for further expansion.

Answer: Fakenham.

  1. Which real beach does the character Mike walk along?

He turned off on to a track that took him to a massive shingle bank, completely blocking out the view of the sea. Mike got out of the car and walked up to the summit. Looking east and west, the bank stretched off into the distance. The tide was out and exposed the steeply banked shingle dotted with numerous small islands of sand. A few wartime concrete and brick pillboxes sat either way in the distance. The pillboxes were slowly being claimed by the sea and already sinking into the shingle.

Answer: Weybourne.

  1. On which real ex-RAF base was this large dome situated?

They walked along a track with the perimeter fence of the airfield on one side and small conifers on the other. In the middle distance were the hangars, clearly visible with the dome at the eastern end. Mike knew this would be a good entry point to cross the airfield at night. He estimated he would need to cover a distance of one thousand yards to get to the dome.

Answer: RAF West Raynham.

  1. This farmhouse complex is situated by a road between Great Massingham and which village?

Mike parked the Maserati by the side of the road that passed the farmhouse. The main building was set back from the road and sat at the base of a small hill that climbed away from what must have been the back garden. Despite the freezing temperature of the early morning, the farmhouse looked almost idyllic in the sunlight, which gave the green of the hill an intensity that was almost like summer in its nature. Above the small hill the sky was cloudless and blue as the brightest of any July day. The whole property was intermittently spread with Scots Pine trees that allowed the light to stream on to the ground.

Answer: Grimston.


The Masters of the Chandelle Locations Challenge.

Rob Ridley’s first novel, The Masters of the Chandelle, is set in West and North Norfolk and he has created fictional locations based on real buildings or locations.

Using the extracts set out below, the first three individuals to correctly identify at least three locations will receive a free copy of his novel.

You can email your answers to Rob at raridleywrites@gmail.com. Just one attempt per person and the challenge ends when the first three sets of correct answers are received by Rob or at midnight on 20th of February 2018. The correct answers will be published on this website after the challenge ends.

  1. In which real market town is the fictional bank set?

The Eastern Counties Bank formed part of a small triangular group of buildings that sat in the center of the market town of Walsham. The triangle had roads on all sides that were currently filled with market stalls. Thursday was market day and this was the bank’s busiest day of the week.

The bank’s large entrance door faced south into the main market square across the road. The stone steps up to the entrance were worn as the past one hundred and fifty years had seen no shortage of custom. The name was something of a misnomer, as no Eastern Counties Bank could be found outside the county of Norfolk. The bank was so successful the directors had decided there was no need for further expansion.

  1. Which real beach does the character Mike walk along?

He turned off on to a track that took him to a massive shingle bank, completely blocking out the view of the sea. Mike got out of the car and walked up to the summit. Looking east and west, the bank stretched off into the distance. The tide was out and exposed the steeply banked shingle dotted with numerous small islands of sand. A few wartime concrete and brick pillboxes sat either way in the distance. The pillboxes were slowly being claimed by the sea and already sinking into the shingle.

  1. On which real ex-RAF base was this large dome situated?

They walked along a track with the perimeter fence of the airfield on one side and small conifers on the other. In the middle distance were the hangars, clearly visible with the dome at the eastern end. Mike knew this would be a good entry point to cross the airfield at night. He estimated he would need to cover a distance of one thousand yards to get to the dome.

  1. This farmhouse complex is situated by a road between Great Massingham and which village?

Mike parked the Maserati by the side of the road that passed the farmhouse. The main building was set back from the road and sat at the base of a small hill that climbed away from what must have been the back garden. Despite the freezing temperature of the early morning, the farmhouse looked almost idyllic in the sunlight, which gave the green of the hill an intensity that was almost like summer in its nature. Above the small hill the sky was cloudless and blue as the brightest of any July day. The whole property was intermittently spread with Scots Pine trees that allowed the light to stream on to the ground.

 


The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer.

Being a writer is not something you can make a group activity. Discuss.

Writers should suffer alone in a leaky garret surrounded by self-imposed angst and insecurity. At night the stars must be clearly seen through the roof tiles to help understand how to convey their suffering. Every time they go to write they have to break through the ice on the ink or wait until their last depleted candle melts the stuff back to liquid form. Dependence upon rocket-fuel alcohol and/or an illegal substance is also required for a more psychedelic writing style or perspective.

This is not my experience of writing. I use my imagination and write something that conveys suffering rather than rely purely on experience. Yes, I have suffered terrible things in my life. In the 1970s I wore kipper ties, flared trousers and platform shoes. I even wore them in public. Writers never experience all the myriad things he or she chooses to write about. Their imagination will suffice or perhaps borrow another person’s memories. My ‘garret’ is always at a comfortable temperature, well lit and if I want to see the stars I go outside after dark. Freshly ground coffee and a cantuccini biscuit provide all the rocket fuel I need.

My understanding of writing is that it will be anti-social even if my chosen garret is within the home environment. I don’t like being distracted when writing so no TV, no radio, no talking. Being alone is preferable so my thoughts are uninterrupted, key words can be recalled, minute alterations in sentence structure do not go awry, the paragraph I just ‘cut’ is ‘pasted’ in the correct place. Sad as it is I guess for most writers they probably will say the same. Writing encourages the obsessive side of a person so watch out.

Long-distance runners can be likened to those who write. Any televised marathon shows thousands of runners starting off shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow, in the initial crush. Although the runners are all physically crammed together you can argue they all run their race in their own separate world. They are focussed on their race not the race and do not want their concentration broken. The runners find a rhythm that will carry them to the end. Together yet quite alone. Writers will hopefully finish their books once they find their rhythm. However, there is no crowd start and instead of a finish line there is a deadline.

Writers can be a singular lot as they complete each written marathon. They sometimes start without knowing what the route is and not knowing if they are going to make it to the end. Wrong turns and the odd cul de sac are significant risks that will be encountered at some point. They may have the wrong equipment and suffer mental cramps and blisters. They will need understanding, support, sustenance and, of course, readers. What writers do not lack is optimism, endurance and determination. Just don’t forget to cheer them on.


Inspiration.

Having the inspiration to write is a wonderful thing. Inspiration is also something very difficult to grasp as it arguably only exists in the mind. What inspires one person is totally ignored by another.  For me, this means inspiration is infinitely variable and can be found anywhere if you get those antennae twitching. The paradox is this concept cannot be quantified until after you do something about it.

So where do you find inspiration? It may be the germ of an idea that pops into head apparently from nowhere. A person might give you an idea that you can expand into a whole book. This is exactly what happened to me and led to the writing of my first novel. If you want to put a crude value on this, you could say the output was 378 pages made up of over 90,000 words.

They say travel broadens the mind, especially the writer’s mind. This worked for me and led to my second novel. The world is incredibly diverse and full of incredible experiences to feed the mind. If travel is a problem I also recommend reading, lots of it. Read anything that you like, fact, fiction, newspapers, comics, blogs, to get the creative and inspirational ideas appearing. You get to learn an awful lot as well as further fuelling your ideas. Becoming a writer gives you the ability to see and experience the world in ways you may not have experienced before.

Looking at the world in new and different ways fuels your imagination and ideas will start falling out of your ears. I think this is where I get so much of my inspiration. This inspiration can be short-lived and fleeting in nature. The fantastic idea for a novel that came to you yesterday as you put the rubbish out is half forgotten the next day. I make a note of a good idea using what is to hand and is often stored in the notes section on my mobile phone. Strategically placed notebooks and paper come in very useful too. Warning: Don’t be surprised/disappointed if your brilliant and inspirational idea loses some of its shine when you revisit it later.

Being open to inspiration is a habit you might need to learn, perhaps relearn and then practice. Once you become proficient you can find inspiration everywhere. You can tune into the world differently, see things differently and sometimes look past the obvious to find an original idea. An example? Think about how many science fiction novels you can find in a book shop. Human imagination is limitless.


Writing Rollercoaster.

Writing is something of a long-distance rollercoaster. The worst kind because you do not get to see the approaching falls, rises and curves. If you get the writing bug you do not want to get off either. Like a nightmare, you are glued into the seat and have no option other than complete the journey come what may. Even if you can see what is ahead and close your eyes the ride never stops. All a bit dramatic and scary isn’t it? Well, like it or not you do have to face your fears.

You are about to do something that puts you right in the spotlight. You might fear that writing tells the world about you. Something of your soul is suddenly available for all to see. Yes, indeed, but have you thought how people then see you in a new and positive light. You have demonstrated a new and fascinating capability to think and create. Your story prompts imagery and thoughts in the minds of friends and complete strangers in ways never before.

There is the constant, yes constant, fear of failure. The brilliant story you have written may be a turkey that will end up being ridiculed. For the record, the only other person to read my first novel before it was published was the proof-reader. I had no idea if I was going to make a fool of myself or not. The same thing with my second novel. I am writing my third novel, a sequel to the first, so my fears turned out be imagined and not real.

Rollercoasters are also thrilling and exciting. Grab the many positives to be had. The excitement of receiving the printed copy of your first novel through the post. Getting to hold it in your hands and flick through the pages. Priceless. You then have the buzz of giving shiny copies to friends and family. The look on their faces is also priceless. Later, you can experience the thrill of unsolicited feedback from someone you don’t know as they praise your work.

Remember rollercoasters put the fun in fair. There is excitement, there are thrills and only a remote whiff of danger (except, perhaps, from the burger bar…). Funfair rides can deliver a terrifying ride, but you get the satisfaction of saying ‘I did that’. A completed book goes one further and allows you to say, ‘I made that’. Your work is unique, you own it completely and with a bit of luck may even earn a little something from your efforts.

When were you last paid to take a rollercoaster ride?


Fiction is a Waste of Time.

Many books are written with a purpose in mind and are not necessarily written to provide entertainment. Workshop manuals, history books, and cookery books do entertain in their own way, but they won’t challenge our morality or sense of right and wrong. Books dealing with travel or educational might stretch to the limit of what we might expect in the way of entertaining non-fiction. No Haynes manual will take us on a journey that climaxes with the fitting of a new engine and delivers closure with a tightening of the last nut. Fiction delivers all this and more without the need of real-world props or activity.

A good story can play with your imagination regardless of who you are. A certain young wizard is an excellent example of that. Words fire up the imagery that then runs amok in the reader’s mind. Stories twist and turn with unexpected outcomes the reader may or may not wish to happen. The writer must make the words come to life and engage the reader so that they want to know what happens next. The reader hopefully gets to care about what happens to characters portrayed in the story, they can be disappointed by flaws in a doctor’s character or uplifted when a heroine finally saves the day.

Using a recipe book to create a homemade dessert will be an emotional rollercoaster for me, depending on how it turns out, but the action still takes place in the real world. The outcome is largely down to me as well. Not so reading a novel; the reader has no influence on the outcome and is swept along in the torrent of words spilling from the pages. These words are both magic and immutable. The writer creates and communicates messages that force the reader to think and respond.

This is because fiction is an amalgam of reality and imagination. Everything the writer communicates is his or her reimagination of the real world and their experience of it. Reality gaps are covered over/totally rebuilt with the writer’s imagination to make a story work. The story must reflect reality to some degree or how could the reader possibly understand it? Even fantasy novels must reflect reality, or the fantasy simply doesn’t work.

Fiction turns out to provide a way of understanding our lived reality. Stories may be morality tales of goodies and baddies or victories and defeats. These types of opposites litter the lives we lead. They can also create feelings that are happy or sad and make the reader process their own emotions in response. Just the same way as in real life. Reading fiction provides all this without the need to physically fight a dragon or hunt down a psychotic serial killer.

Safe reading.

Rob Ridley

 


As English as a Cup of Tea.

As a mature student, I studied social science with the Open University. The very first unit I read was entitled As English as a Cup of Tea. The idea we students were meant to take away was when you stop and think about it, tea is not English at all. You can say that the unit was simply pointing out the obvious. Yet if we knew this all along, we still went through life accepting the saying ‘As English as a cup of tea’ without question. Things are often not always what they seem when you start to think about them.

As a child, through my early years and right into my later years I carried the idea that writers must be very special. Writing a novel was something way beyond someone like me. To be a writer you had to be highly educated, have lots of time etc, etc, so aspiring to be another Salman Rushdie or Graham Greene was a little crazy. Contemporary writers such as Ray Bradbury and Hilary Mantel prove otherwise. Equally, many other less successful ‘ordinary’ people make a very good living as writers doing something they love.

The reality is writers exist in ALL walks of life and they all have something in common: a desire to write. This can come at any time or place. Mine? Sitting inside a concrete bunker waiting for a storm to pass whilst on one of my working trips to South Uist in the Outer Hebrides. That day I put pen to paper. The first story was never finished, nor was the second but the desire to write never left me. Today, I have written two novels and my third is underway.

Just have a go and ignore anyone who says you can’t write. Their opinions are more than likely based upon their own life experience and are not necessarily applicable to your own. You probably can write, though it may take time to get it right. Be persistent and patient because no writer has ever written the perfect novel. Writers eventually decide the novel is good enough to publish.

So aspiring writers, next time you have a cup of tea (or coffee!) do not believe your dream is simply that. Like your English tea, things are not always what they seem. Close inspection will show all those insurmountable barriers to you writing are simply baseless fears. Lorry drivers can write. Supermarket shelf stackers can write. Builders can write. You can write.

Simply overcome your fears and feed the germ of desire within you.

 

Rob Ridley

October 17


Parthenope Reborn is a contemporary crime thriller set in and around Naples, Capri and Ischia. This is the second novel written by Great Massingham resident, Rob Ridley.

The Bay of Naples faces a threat that will dwarf even the greatest eruption of Vesuvius.

Englishman Leo Grant travels to Italy in search of love and adventure. Soon after arriving in Naples finds himself enmeshed in deadly crime conspiracy where he meets three beautiful women but only one becomes his lover.

Events spiral out of control and Leo is soon caught up between the Neapolitan Camorra, the American FBI and the Italian Guardia di Finanza as he races to prevent a cataclysmic disaster being inflicted upon modern-day Italy.

Find out what happens to Leo and the cast of characters drawn from across Europe and the USA.

 

Parthenope Reborn is available now from the Amazon Bookstore.

If you are a resident in Great Massingham you can get in touch with Rob and he will be pleased to get a copy for you. He can be contacted by email at raridleywrites@gmail.com and you can visit his Author’s Page on Amazon . He can also be found on Twitter by searching RARidley.

Rob’s latest project is a sequel to his first novel, The Masters of the Chandelle , and will be published next year.

 

The Masters of the Chandelle is a thriller set in early sixties Cold War Britain and is the first novel written by Great Massingham resident, Rob Ridley.

The novel’s hero, Mike Armstrong, is a successful criminal who escapes to the tranquillity of a small village in Norfolk, England.

He is soon befriended by a beautiful woman who blackmails him into spying upon a mysterious businessman.

Once entangled in a deadly conspiracy to spy for the British secret services, Mike finds himself in mortal danger trying to uncover the secret plan of a murderous and powerful sociopath.

A vicious struggle ensues between the two men with the fate of world peace hanging in the balance.

Find out if Mike can survive his ordeal and find true love against a backdrop of death and destruction.

 

The Masters of the Chandelle can be found at the Amazon Bookstore using the following link  goo.gl/OXUdTT  for the paperback version or goo.gl/sOVVUk for the Kindle version.

If you are a resident in Great Massingham you can get in touch with Rob and he will be pleased to get a copy for you. He can be contacted by email at raridleywrites@gmail.com.

Rob has an Author’s Page on Amazon at goo.gl/SEhGSp  and can be followed on Twitter @robwritesnovels. His second novel is a contemporary crime thriller set in Naples and will be published later this year.

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