Author Cindy Ervin Huff and I go way back. I can’t tell you how far back because, honestly … I can’t remember! We’ve known each other online for years, and recently we’ve had the pleasure of meeting IRL at writing conferences.
Today, Cindy’s here to talk about her writing and editing processes, challenges, and more!
Thank you so much for being here! What do you write? How did you pick that genre?
I write historical and contemporary romance. I could say I write it because I love Hallmark and Mary Connelly, but the truth is I love history. Plus, I care about the struggles people have that can make a relationship challenging. I address things like PTSD and abuse in a fictional setting. I’ve had readers tell me my characters are relatable and that I handle the sensitive subjects authentically without excessive details.
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre?
There are tons of romances out there, and they range from very erotic to no touching at all. The hardest part of writing a romance is to produce believable characters—flawed not only on the inside but also imperfect on the outside—that readers are drawn to. It is so cliché reading about the guy with the ripped body and the girl with the perfect shape. That isn’t realistic. Most of my heroines don’t believe they are beautiful, but their love interests see them differently.
Romance is one of the biggest selling genres and finding the audience who loves to read my style of clean romance is the biggest challenge. But once I find my gals, they are so loyal and anxious for more.
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
I’d love to say a few months, but I’m not that energetic, and I want to produce something that is publisher ready. It takes three to six months to get the story written (I get interrupted, okay?) and the first two rough drafts finished. Then another couple months to edit it. I have three critique groups I run it through and my hubby. Then after I’ve corrected every typo, grammar error, and writerly mistake I can see before I become blind to them, then I’m ready to create a proposal and pitch it.
If you have written multiple books, which is harder: the first book or the following books? Why?
I have two series I’m working on now. I found the next book in the Healing Heart series easier to write until I got to the end. Then I struggled with providing the damsel-in-distress a totally different ending than the previous book. I’ve started the second book in the Village of Women series, and it isn’t flowing smoothly yet. The first book in a series sets the tone and then you have to keep the same standard or up your game so the reader wants more. I hate reading a series where it feels like the second novel is the same as the first novel’s storyline but with different characters.
For sure! What’s your favorite Writers Conference? What do you like about it?
I love Write to Publish. I’ve attended it for years because it’s right in my backyard. It is well organized and gives off a warm, friendly vibe. And not having to spend money on housing is a plus. I love the Florida Writer’s Conference, which I attend when I can afford to. It has great teachers and that same warm feeling being around fellow writers.
If you’ve ever worked with a freelance editor, how did you find that editor? How would you describe the experience?
I love working with a freelance editor. When my debut novel Secrets & Charades was contracted, I enjoyed working with the editor they provided. I hired her to work with me on another manuscript. I learned more about editing and writing craft while working with her than I did reading craft books.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
I run ProWriting Aid as I create to catch typos and grammar as I go along. Then when it is finished or at the minimum, a chapter is finished, I turn on the Read Aloud tab in word and listen to a monotone male reader as I follow along. It’s amazing the errors you still find. Even in a monotone, a terrible sentence can be caught, because a terrible sentence stands out when read aloud. Then I’m ready for my hubby and me to go over it together. I print out the manuscript, and he takes the seat at the keyboard. I read it out loud and find dialog, etc. that needs fixing.
What does your revision process look like?
While hubby and I go over the manuscript, I delete lots of unnecessary things, shorten sentences, and aggressively tighten scenes. Then I send the manuscript to one of my critique groups and revise according to their suggestion. Then I clean it up again.
Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She is addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be live theater.