What the beginning writer needs, discouraging as it may be to hear, is not a set of rules but mastery -- among other things, mastery of the art of breaking so-called rules.
How does one achieve mastery? According to John Gardner one must both read widely and write not only "carefully but continually."
Here's a thought: In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, reporting findings on why some people succeed more than others, Gladwell asserts that mastery in a craft is likely attained by reaching a number measurement. When do we reach mastery? Gladwell claims it comes with 10,000 hours of practice.
Okay, I've taken liberty with his research and simplified what Gladwell reports, but it's reassuring to know that "mastery" is not some unattainable, unquantifiable, nebulous thing. We're not talking "perfection," we're talking "mastery." I can handle that notion. I can practice writing a certain number of hours, with Gardner's carefulness and consideration, "assessing and reassessing" what I write. That's doable.
So, today I got some good advice I can grasp onto and use. Just thought I'd pass it along. Let me know your advice for the beginning writer.