Google “rules of writing,” and see what you get. You’ll get hundreds of recycled and conflicting bullet-points of advice like “don’t use adverbs,” or “don’t use any other dialog tag but said,” or “don’t use the dialog tag said.”
Truth: traditionally published books use adverbs, the dialog tag said, the passive voice, and wonky dialog tags. They break every “rule” of writing out there.
Writing is knowing what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Sometimes that involves an adverb, the passive voice, or an awkward dialog tag. (Does it?)
The number 1 rule of writing – the only one that cannot and should not be broken – as stated by the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut is:
“Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”
In short: don’t waste the reader’s time.
He’s got a few others rules, but those are for another post.
Note that he doesn’t give a solid, tangible “do” and “do not” list. There’s nothing about writing style, adverbs, or likable characters.
You, the writer, are charged with 1 thing – to entertain a reader. That’s it. That’s why I write, at least. It’s not about being the next this or that, or getting a movie deal and retiring at 35; it’s about spreading that sense of magic and adventure that I feel whenever I dive into a fantasy.
How does one waste the reader’s time? It varies from reader to reader. Personally, I find book with cringe-worthy writing a waste of my time, as well as stupid protagonists, obviously plot holes, and uneventful and underwhelming plots. Anything that doesn’t entertain me is a waste of my time.
How does one know if one is wasting the reader’s time? I don’t know. Does your story entertain you? If not, well… there’s your answer. Your stories should entertain you; they should contain heart and soul that you put into it, because you are extending yourself into your characters and setting.
***Source: These bullet points found here. I had a piece of paper from college with all these written on it with some notes, but Lord only knows where that went to. It’s probably under my bed.