The Orchid Tree – a fragrant edit

Siobhan submitted the opening chapters of `The Orchid Tree` – a historical romance set in post-war colonial Hong Kong. She had a suspicion that her novel wasn’t quite working, but didn’t know why. I found the narrative voice had a unique sparseness to it, a knack for succinct imagery and storytelling, and indeed the read brought a fragrant feel, almost as if one was sitting with the book beneath an orchid tree. There wasn’t much editing to do. Fluff was a rarity, as were typos and grammatical issues, and character actions and reactions and resulting mood and tone were all in top condition. An easy job for me, but we did eventually uncover the cause of Siobhan’s suspicions…

Siobhan says: il_570xN.280228601

`I was feeling despondent about The Orchid Tree. Something wasn’t right with it, but I was too close to the writing to figure out what that “something” was. One day, I saw a post on the YouWriteOn message board, where a member was singing John Hudspith’s praises. I’d seen Johnny’s name online and had heard nothing but good words about him. I sent off for a sample edit and quote, which came back within days. Impressed by his professionalism, and willingness to spread payments by working on the novel in blocks, I sent off my first section. And so began my journey with Johnny.

He applied everything he talks about in his posts “on editing” to my work, focusing on reader enjoyment and flagging up what he calls “distorters”, but also giving praise and encouragement. Comments like “wonderful imagery, beautifully done,” “an absorbing voice”, “mood and character captured perfectly” made me feel as if I hadn’t written such rubbish after all.

At first, there were only minor edits and instances where he suggested I should cut what he calls “fluff”. It was rare for Johnny to have to chip in. Then, after I’d sent him the third section, he flagged up where I’d been going wrong. My hero had started acting out of character and reader empathy had fallen away. A halleluiah moment for me.

Major rewrites ensued, at no extra cost, and emails flew back and forth as we worked together. Again, Johnny was hugely encouraging, with comments like, “this is perfect” or “this is a tingle moment”. I trust Johnny’s judgement and I’m sure The Orchid Tree is a much better novel now.

So grateful to Johnny; he’s brilliant. My confidence has soared and I’m ready to send my baby out there for others to read… and to write the sequel. Watch this space!`

Siobhan Daiko. Italy.

Thank you, Siobhan. I look forward to the sequel. Good luck with your submissions.

Leave a comment


  1. louisewise

     /  June 4, 2014

    Good luck with the book, Siobhan.

  1. Writers’ Blog Tour | Siobhan Daiko
  2. The Orchid Tree – a fragrant edit | Louise Wise

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