Editor: Melyssa Van Lydegraf Company: Comma, Dash & Dot Number of years in editing: I have officially been a full-time editor since November 2020. I was doing a few minor projects on the side a few months before, but I would say November is really where I jumped off the proverbial high dive.
Tell us a little about yourself, including how you got started as an editor?
My journey to becoming an editor is definitely different than most! I went to school to become a social worker. I worked in that field for about 5 years, and I found that I was pretty burned out. I had a moment where I had been doing mental health work for so long, I couldn't even list other professional skills that I had. I felt trapped in a field that I no longer enjoyed. I was taking as many career aptitude tests as I could find so I could have some idea of what else I was good at.
I have always loved reading, and I did well in all of my English courses in college. I was often the colleague that would proofread various professional documents, and it logically made sense to move into a copy editing position. I did lots of research, assessments, and applications to see if this was a field that I could actually enter. After enough minor successes to justify my abilities, I left the field of social work and never looked back!
I completed the Poynter ACES Editing Certificate and began working on various freelance projects. I recently registered my business and I have been working full-time with editing through Comma, Dash & Dot.
What is your area of focus and why did you select this niche?
My area of focus is currently fiction novels. I love working on sci-fi and fantasy books, and I feel these authors really create a world of their own that is fun to learn about! When I get to edit a novel and I actually get invested in the story and characters, it's a great day to be an editor.
Walk us through a typical workday. How do you manage your time?
I am still working on building my client list, so my workdays can be pretty different! I usually set aside time in the morning to network, whether that is on marketing leads, social media, etc. Sometimes I have a list of leads I work through from my website submissions, sometimes I send out emails and social media messages to authors I would be interested in working with one day.
When I have projects on my agenda, I try to devote 5-6 hours a day to strictly editing. I offer developmental editing, copy editing, and proofreading, so my brain is working on different contexts throughout the day. I enjoy this, and I think I stay engaged with my work better when I have to refocus on what lens I'm reviewing the material through.
What is your favorite thing about being an editor?
I love the flexibility that I have being my own boss. As a lifelong introvert, I greatly appreciate being able to work from my own environment. After working in mental health for years, being able to sit at my desk and methodically read books all day long is like a dream!
What is your biggest challenge and how do you work through this?
Right now my biggest challenge would have to be marketing. Editing is a great field to be in, which obviously attracts a lot of people. I've learned quickly how to get out of my shell and promote myself! I found that instead of focusing on what other people are doing, I try to focus on what I do well. I have a background in interpersonal relationships. I know how to genuinely connect with others in a meaningful way. I have found that when I use my strengths to connect with authors, I have way more success than trying to demystify the Facebook algorithms.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished a Korean drama screenplay (written in English luckily). It was vastly different from the manuscripts I have been working on, but it was a really great project to work on with an awesome writer. It has definitely opened my eyes to other types of creative work that I hadn't given thought to before.
What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their career as an editor?
Don't give up! I have had many moments on this crazy journey where I feel completely inadequate. Editing is a field that if you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can do well. Don't focus on what others have that you don't. Focus on what unique skills and abilities that you bring to the table, and find clients that will appreciate how you approach projects.
My other piece of advice is to remember to take a breath. When I first started out, I felt like going 1000 miles per hour. I wanted to be full-time as soon as possible, and I was sacrificing a lot of time and energy to promote myself. That is a recipe for burnout if you aren't careful. Set personal boundaries for yourself, especially if you are freelancing. These days, I try my best to complete as much work as I can during the workweek, so I can have my weekends to recuperate and decompress before another week of work.