I love that term. I was chatting with an author client of mine today and he referred to my editing as “literary liposuction.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Lipo, as it is called, is a fat-removal procedure used in plastic surgery. Lipo is not a treatment for obesity, nor a substitute for proper diet and exercise.
The same can be said for editing. Editors help to remove extra verbiage and tighten the writing, but it is no substitute for careful crafting of each sentence, and careful attention to detail in story and plotting.
That said, I do encourage my clients to give their ideas room to breathe during their first draft, concentrating on telling the story and creating memorable characters. In the editing process, we go through and take out the dross, the word waste. We suck the fat out of sentences, honing and sculpting. Think of the finishing work of a sculptor, starting with a shapeless lump of stone and whittling it down to perfection.
As Gras, my client, says, that’s the hard part of writing. The easy part is getting the story on the page, giving your imagination free rein. Editing is much less fun, requiring the writer to trim and streamline focus. But the result is shining prose and a work worth the effort.
Don’t fret if your writing is wordy in the first, or even second, draft. The fine-tuning comes during the edit cycles. Get the story on the page, and then trim, trim, trim.