People become interested in developmental editing for a lot of reasons but almost always because they love to read, care a lot about the language, and want to help others succeed. These are crucial attributes that will help you thrive.
But it’s important to recognize that even though you may have experience in a related field (copyediting or teaching English, for example), you still need to acquire the skills specific to development. This is true even if you develop nonfiction and want to start developing fiction, or you have a lot of experience in, say, editing suspense but now want to start editing literary fiction.
Here are some thoughts to consider about making transitions in the type of work/type of editing you do:
- Your past experience doesn’t matter as much to clients as you may think it does. Having an advanced degree in linguistics or spending twenty years teaching high school English does not automatically mean you’ll be a good dev editor. Focus on getting the chops you need to succeed in your present goals.
- You have to read and respect the genre you’re editing in. Just because there are a lot of romance authors (potential clients!) doesn’t mean that makes the genre a good match for you. You have to read the genre, understand what it’s about it, and like it in order to successfully edit it.
- You have to keep an open mind. Just because you’re an established professional in one field doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to learn in another. Educate yourself, read, be an empty vessel. One thing teaching has taught me is how much I still have to learn about this work.
- Your colleagues are still your best go-to group. Even if your librarian friends aren’t dev editors, they can still help spread the word about your work, hook you up with good resources, and otherwise cheer you on.
- You have skills and tools that someone else just starting out doesn’t have. Maybe you were a publicist in a past career (or are one now). Then you know success for your clients isn’t just about getting the words right. Or maybe you were a sales professional. Then you aren’t going to burst into noisy tears at the first setback. Maybe you were a librarian. You know how to research to get the answers you need. Maybe you were in IT. Then you know how to focus. You were a marine: you have discipline. You get where I’m going with this, I hope. Use your strengths to help you become the best DE you can be.