I've worked as a copy editor for more than three years now, but have been editing other people's writing (and my own) for more than a decade. I'm counting friends, friends of friends, and random schoolmates asking me to read over their passages as well. Friends who are in college will still, off and on, ask for my editing help even now.
All of this is background to the following statement: I hate style guides.
To be more specific, I hate the differences between them. The Chicago Manual of Style is followed, as I understand it, by the publishing industry at large and several major publications; the Associated Press Style Guide is the Bible for practically every major media outlet in existence; the American Medical Association Style Guide is the standard for medical writers ... you get the picture.
It seems that wherever there's writers, there's a style guide telling them what standards to follow. The fun (not really) bit comes when a writer tries to go across style guides in their writing life. An example: My background is journalism. As a result of this, I've had the AP Style Guide drilled into my skull ever since I took my first journalism class in college. That's essentially seven years following the Associated Press's grammar rules for writing. And also seven years writing mostly fact-based writing. This comes through in my fiction, as you'll note Iapetus999 picked up on in the last sample I posted from CALLARION AT NIGHT. I also mentioned that as a weakness in the next day's post.
My master's degree is in technical communication, for which I had to learn not one, but two style guides during the course of. The first was the AMA Style Guide and the second was Microsoft's Technical Writing style guide. By this point, I'd already added The Elements of Style to my internal style guide repertoire. You can imagine that the rules of grammar are getting very clogged up in my head by now. So what, you may ask, do I do in order to keep everything straight? Well that's easy.
I ignore around 80% of all style "rules."
My aim is to write in a way that's pleasing to the ear. If that means ending a sentence on a preposition, so be it. If that means splitting an infinitive, then I'm going to do it. If, by some stretch of the imagination, it means writing an entire page in sentence fragments? You can bet your butt I'm going to go that route. Does this mean I don't use style guides at all? Of course I use them ... all I do is take the things that work for me and leave the rest.
A novel is like a symphony, and you're the composer. Some of the best composers know the rules well enough to break them. The same goes for writers. I know the grammar rules I ignore, but I ignore them because writing a good novel cannot be done (in my opinion) with a slavish devotion to rules. The rhythm of storytelling doesn't allow for rules. It allows for transcendent talespinning that stands the test of time because you the writer are tapping into the universal music behind the words.
And that, my friends, is the most important part. Tap into that rhythm in your story, accept the cadence of the words in your ear, and you will write something beautiful.