Kay - concept art by Ubin Li
Johnson's version: "Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out."
Faulkner supposedly said, "You must kill all your darlings."
What this means is, don't fall in love with your prose to the detriment of your story. While you toss out what you think are clever lines hither and yon, you are apt to be so pleased with yourself that you lose the more important thing: The tale itself.
Not to say you can't make it sparkle as best you can, only that reaching for a particularly smart simile might do your piece more harm than good because it will stick out, go clunk, or howl at the moon in such a way as to take your reader out of the story.
That is one of the cardinal no-no's, taking your reader out of the story. Never give them a chance to stop and look at how you have constructed your vehicle when they are supposed to be enjoying the ride ...
So I'm going through the galleys for Tejano, and I came across one of these darlings I missed. It's a good line, if I do say so myself, and at this stage, I won't take it out. One is allowed to correct typos or obvious errors, but not to edit in galleys. This isn't really necessary in the same way it used to be. Goes back to the days when type was set and it was a bitch to change unless absolutely necessary.
I'll set it up: Two of my characters, Jo and Kay, are meeting with an officer on the opposite side of an upcoming conflict. Jo's viewpoint. The officer isn't happy with the way the conversation is going and he gets pushy, to the point of an aggressive step in her direction. Jo isn't worried, she can deck him and will if need be. And the line:
"Kay came up like hot smoke on a cold winter’s day."
At which point the guy, realizing he's way overmatched, backs off.
How do I know I should have taken it out? It made me smile and nod when I came across it. Nice line, Steve ...
Might make somebody else stop and think that, and much as I like being admired as a prose smith, being admired as a storyteller is better.