Over the years, I have often been asked, “what sort of things do you edit”? When I first started out, in my complete naiveté, I found this puzzling… I’m an editor; I edit everything. I discovered that this, through trial and much error (we call it a learning curve), is the wrong answer to the question. I am capable of editing anything you throw at me; years of experience make that relatively easy, but that I have preferences and areas that I’m particularly good at editing.
You can be a natural at spotting grammar mistakes and run-on sentences. You can even have a natural talent for reading something and being able to intuit what is missing or what might tighten up a scene. However, that is your base talent, that’s what drives you and what helps you push forward and, yes, that instinct is what helps you find your niche.
Because editing is a honed skill, there are usually genres at which you are particularly adept. I, for example, am very skilled at editing academics papers because of my academic background and familiarity with a wide range of style guides and disciplines. I am adept and skilled at doing Developmental Edits of Fiction.
A better answer or thought process to the question of “what do you edit” can in part be found in restating the question: “What do you prefer to edit” or “what is your area of expertise in editing” or, the more obvious one given the title of this post, “what is your niche?” and how do you find it?
In an earlier post, The Beginning of the Blog, I briefly talked about how I grew up in the Academic world. Obviously, if you are surrounded by a certain discipline, that does tend to steer you in a particular direction. What you learn along the way is that it is important to dabble in other areas, maybe areas that you are not as comfortable with, or haven’t experienced. Or, if you are like me, and also a writer of fiction and non-fiction, you will find that you can become proficient in the areas you yourself write. That being said, some people cannot edit their own genre, so if that’s you, you’re neither alone, nor a rarity.
What we, as editors, have to do as we explore our chosen career and try to decide what our specialty or niche is, is accept that we cannot be the best at everything, and understand that having a niche can be a great benefit. Knowing what you are most passionate about, what your area of expertise is, can open up doors for your business as a freelancer. It also can help you hone your skills in ways you never imagined.
My personal example, is that while I specialize in academic editing and fiction (specifically Romantic Suspense), and you could easily call either of those my niche market, an area that I’m a particularly focused on is Poetry.
Poetry? That’s a niche, a specialized skill?
Why, yes it is, and a surprise to me, too. (That journey will be another blog post, I am sure.)
So, for me, I actively seek out poetry manuscripts to edit. As a poet myself, I know that there is a special skill to being able not only to edit poetry, but to also RESISTING over editing it. The Poet’s voice can be more important than whether or not you used proper punctuation. My favorite example of why editing can be a very different experience when editing a poet is to simply suggest you go read a few of his poems (https://hellopoetry.com/e-e-cummings/). Yes, there is structure; yes, he does stick to most grammar rules, but not always.
Sometimes, with poetry, the rhythm is more important than whether or not you use a period at the end of the sentence.
I have a fellow editor friend who specialized in children’s books, for kids between 5 and 7. She’s very specific, and that is what she loves, and how she finds herself best able to serve the publishing community. Other editors specialize in Technical Editing/Writing. This is NOT my forte, in fact, so much so that I don’t usually accept jobs that are predominately technical editing. I can do it. I just don’t like it.
Each of us, in our own way, when we picked Freelance Editing as a career, had something we prefered to edit, just as authors have a genre preference. Yes, you will find that you will edit outside this preferred niche, or your specialty. For the most part, once you are truly up and running, you can fuel your job as a Freelance Editor with your chosen niche and enjoy the process with all the passion you have for that area of expertise.
And, that’s enough on that subject. Have a wonderful day!
An Editor’s Journey
If you are interested in reading some e.e. cummings, this is one of my favorite ‘carry it around’ books. It lives on my bedside table.