Jonathan Williams

The Prophet’s Ladder by Jonathan Williams

A seventh century Arab general, an American robotics engineer, a Tunisian activist and her journalist fiancé, and a famous Moroccan explorer; each have a tale bound together in a novel of exploration, self discovery, and betrayal that spans centuries.

When Todd Wittry is invited to work on an astounding piece of technology — a space elevator — for an aerospace tech startup, he moves to the Middle East and learns firsthand the meaning of the term ‘culture shock.’ His journey intertwines with that of Amina Hannachi, a Tunisian activist and her journalist fiancé Ali ibn Abd al-Aziz who are attempting to build on the success of Tunisia’s Arab Spring revolution. Paralleling these modern day tribulations is the account of several of North Africa’s most famous historical figures, whose adventures eventually shape the world Amina, Todd, and Ali fight to save.

The Prophet’s Ladder is a historical science fiction novel, complete at 53,000 words. 


The Book Doctors: This is a very cool idea and very timely.  It’s got historical figures, culture shock, activists, fiancés, and a space elevator.  We have no idea what that is, but it sounds absolutely awesome. All that being said, this pitch is not everything it needs to be.  First of all, start with your title.  As we said earlier, when you mention your title, it makes your book seem more like a book.  Second, that first sentence is just way too long and packed with way too much stuff.  By the time we get about halfway through, we’re completely lost, and have no idea who anybody is.  When David was making his living as a screenwriter in Hollywood, he once had a meeting with someone at the Roger Corman company.  Roger Corman was a B-movie producer who made like 10,000 films.  Every single one of them made money.  The executive told David that the first thing Roger Corman would do when he started a project, before writing a word, was design the poster.  This forced him to ask: Who’s the star on the poster?  We don’t know who’s the star on your poster.  Yes, it could be one of those posters with five different stars on it, but those stories usually don’t do as well as the stories that just have one star.  It’s very difficult to pitch a story with lots of characters.  Usually we suggest that you pick one of your characters and make that person the hero for the purpose of the pitch.  When you start your pitch by telling me  it’s a novel of exploration and self discovery one part of our brains just shut off.  In a certain sense, every novel is a story of exploration and self discovery.  You have to start off with a bang or a hook that gets inside us and won’t let go.  There’s also too much tell, not enough show.  Show us that space elevator. If you’re going to dangle the idea of famous historical figures, and  deliver us at least some specifics of who they are.  Very of-the-moment, sounds taut, tense and brimming with fascinating characters going through amazing changes, just not enough specifics of who these people are, what the action of the book is, and the world the author is taking us to.


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