I will be using this exercise to share many "sins" that I have discovered by reading and writing, and I hope to use this as a guideline for my future works. Feel free to discuss these in the comments, or add a page of your own.
The first 3 rules;
Don't start your story with action and lead it nowhere.
- Eg. Your main character wakes up dramatically from a nightmare. This is such an overused cliche, and it tells your reader what the rest of the story is going to be like - a pit of dead ends and unprovoked gut-punches. An example of this is "Vampire Academy". I couldn't get through the first page of that book and it took them three hours to coax me off the ledge of the hospital roof.
Show. Don't Tell.
The whole idea of your writing is to create a story with art. If your story become a simple retelling of facts, or off-the-shoulder segues, it reads more like a documentary, than an actual narrative. An example of this is "A Casual Vacancy", by JK Rowling. Now, I love JK Rowling, but if you were to strip the segues from that book, it would be about 100 pages long, and leagues more interesting. So, instead of saying "He felt sad," or "She told him to drop the gun," say; "He felt a lump in his throat," or ""Drop the gun!" she cried."
KEEP POP-CULTURE REFERENCES TO A MINIMUM
I can't stress this enough; it's been really bothering me lately. Shakespeare did this on occasion ("They say the owl was a baker's daughter"), but he always did them with taste. If you'll read in the comments, I have posted a quote by Derek Landy's "Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men". Just a warning; don't read this is you're faint of heart, or a fan of Batman. Pop culture references like this are cheap pandering to the audience, and they don't stand up to the test of time. Most of your audience will see through this.