Make sure you know what kind of edit you are asking for.
There are differences between a developmental edit (also known as substantive editing or structural editing): “the big picture” feedback on structure, style, pacing, and voice.
“The strongest part/s of the book is when …”
“The weakest part of the book is when…”
“Try to change the opening to highlight …”
are all things your editor will comment on when doing a developmental edit.
And line editing (or paragraph level editing) – recasting sentences for clarity and flow. You may see suggestions and comments from your editor on how to fix the following:
“You use too many adjectives…”
“This wording doesn’t fit your intended audience…”
“Change the length of your sentences so they are not all the same length…”
Why vary the length of your sentences?
The reader will not get bored that way. Short sentences make your manuscript seem childish and/or choppy, and bland. Long sentences are hard to read in a row. Listen out loud to your sentences, use your computer for this, or read it out loud, to hear the rhythm in your sentences. See where you can combine your shorter sentences into a medium length one, and cut down the descriptiveness in your long sentences by eliminating passive voice (is, was, were, has), and eliminate repetition. Get to the point.
Also, be sure to pick an editor that is strong in your genre. A developmental edit for non-fiction is different than fiction, or science fiction.
Prepare yourself for feedback, criticism, and direction.
I know how it would be easy to let your mom, or your aunt, your coworker, or your best friend read your manuscript and make suggestions, and think “hey, so if they can do that, why hire an editor? They have my best interest at heart.” Yes, they do, I don’t want to take away from your friends, families, and co-workers. However, sometimes those close friends and family members won’t tell you what you need to hear, in fear of hurting your feelings, or won’t look as deeply at your manuscript to find the things that aren’t working, such as tenses and change of hair color of your main character. Don’t misunderstand me, your family and friends play an important part of your support structure. But hiring an “outsider” is the best thing you could do.
Once you release your darlings into the world, a second pair of eyes sees it from a different perspective. A fresh one. Don’t be upset when your favorite part of your book comes back all “red-penned” to death. It’s my job to give you a point of view you may not consider, ie: head hopping in your characters. Try to picture your main character with a video camera on his / her forehead, and only pointing in one direction. That’s all your character sees. Not behind the door, down the block, or what’s not in their range of vision or hearing. IF you need to change perspectives, pass the camera.
Speaking of head-hopping, check out my latest blog post, “Choosing the Right Point of View for Your Story.“ Point of view is part of head-hopping, because it’s putting on the blinders and seeing what is going on just from the character that colors the story. Consider this as you write your characters.
It’s your choice to take the advice or not that I give you, but be willing to consider the changes offered. Feel free to agree there’s a problem, but not how the editor suggests to fix it. Talk it over with me. Brainstorm with me. We may come up with a better solution.
Don’t be afraid to tell your editor what you want your book to accomplish.
“What do you want the reader to take away from this?” is a question I ask all my clients. What do you want your reader to feel when they turn the last page. If you tell me what you want, I can help craft your manuscript with the right emotion, turn of phrase, and details that will guide you to that end.