Everyone's doing this, so I'll have my rather pedestrian go at it. I'm just not very self-analytical, I suppose, because I have no idea what my personal writing rules are. And you know, doing a commentary on one of my stories is something you'd have to pay me to do. A lot.
I am however planning on putting up some writing guidelines on my site, so I suppose I'd go for:
- Know the mechanics (punctuation, how to write dialogue, when to start a new paragraph etc) and use them. It makes things a lot easier for the reader.
- Do find out how to spell the names of characters and places. I have to look them up fairly often and for B7 find the Sevencyclopaedia and Liberation very good for that. Well, Liberation had to be worth its price somehow.
- Don't be afraid of the little word 'said'. It's an almost unnoticeable way of telling the reader who's speaking (take a look at pro fiction). I do use words like 'shouted', 'whispered etc when I need to tell the reader how someone is speaking, but there's no excuse for 'returned', 'intoned', 'supplied' (I mean, supplied?) or my personal hate, 'pronounced', a verb which caused me to throw a Hollister Twins book across the room as a 10-year-old and swear off them forever.
If you really don't like 'said', you can always use 'beats', which have the character doing something. In fact they're a good way to break up dialogue and give readers some visual clues.
- Don't be afraid of characters' names and avoid epithets like 'the curly-haired rebel' or 'the blonde pilot'. They should only be used if you're writing from the POV of someone who doesn't know the characters and would think of them that way.
- Otherwise, I have no rules: everyone has a different style. In fact you can even throw a lot of #1 out depending on your narrator.