Whittle: How To Write a Novel

The following is a guest post by Rob Whittle, who recently published his first novel Pointer’s War. I know Rob from the local DC marketing community (he is CEO of Williams Whittle), and the book looks awesome. Any book that features both Lucky Lucciano and Nazis has to be interesting.

Periodically, someone will ask me how to write a book, especially since publishing Exodus. So when Rob suggested this topic, I was delighted to publish his guest post. Here you go!

How To Write a Novel (Or, At Least How I Wrote One)

by Rob Whittle

My novel, Pointer’s War, was published this month. Friends are uniformly amazed, asking a) how did I find the time?; b) how did I know so much about World War II?; and c) had I always wanted to write a novel? Answers: less sleep; research; and sorta.

I write a blog on my agency website www.williamswhittle.com called “Tales of a Mad Man”. These are stories of my experiences as an ad guy and are usually only tangentially about advertising. They are more in the vein of human interest.

For example, one is called “Gore Vidal and Me” about the time I was traveling in Bangkok and was at the hotel pool reading Vidal’s latest book, Hollywood. I felt eyes on me and peered over my shades to find Gore Vidal watching me read his book. Another is about Dr. Atkins and the Atkins Diet, which was our PR client for a few years during the height of the Atkins Low Carb diet craze. It’s about how the Atkins business side tried to screw me—but I had the last laugh.

My most popular blog by far was “Mad Men Battle the Elements”, the story of my partners and me sailing through the edge of a hurricane from the Chesapeake to Bermuda. It’s a harrowing tale. My niece told me that halfway through the story she thought I was going to perish in the storm. Before she caught herself.

That got me thinking. Could the story of four guys sailing to a far off port be turned into a book? A novel?

My first idea was that the hero and his significant other would sail to Sicily as a vacation. There would be adventures along the way, but what they wouldn’t know is that the hero’s father had killed a Sicilian in WW II and the son who was a Mafiosi had gotten wind that my hero had landed in Sicily and there would be hell to pay. A real vendetta!

That idea didn’t go anywhere, but what if I combined the Sicilian Mafia with the World War II invasion of Sicily? Hadn’t I read somewhere that the infamous Lucky Luciano had helped the Allies in their invasion of Sicily? Yes! That’s it!

And so, the beginning of the story took shape. All I had to do was invent a hero, mix in real historical events, throw in some treason and a love affair, mix it up with famous people (General Patton, FDR, Wild Bill Donovan, and some bad-ass Nazis), add a dash of humor and I was off and running—or writing.

Writers will tell you that when things are going well, books “write themselves”. And that’s what happened with me.

Big plot twists seemed to suggest themselves out of nowhere. It helped that I had a real time and history arc to work with. What became Part One was all about Sicily. But I didn’t think I had a complete book, so I sent my hero to Berlin to participate in the famous Valkyrie plot to assassinate a certain Fuhrer. The plot failed so I had to figure out a suspenseful way for him and his compatriots to escape from the belly of the beast. That became the ending.

So, in less than 600 words, that’s how I wrote Pointer’s War. It’s gotten off to a very fast start, beyond my expectations. You may order it on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492953873.

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