Are there any conventional rules of writing (replace "said" with descriptive alternatives whenever possible, avoid -ly words, etc) that you feel are made to be broken?
That is such a hard one. My writing mentor always said he identifies with said at the beginning, and then doesn’t use any reference at all until you can’t keep track of the characters, then he uses said again. I can’t do that. It drives me crazy. Of course, I’m not the one with the PEN-Faulkner Award, he is.
On the other hand, overusing said bores me to death. I do like to indicate the mood or intent of the speaker, within limits.
You have to find your own way, basically. There are always going to be people who say you have to do this, you have to do that. I do what works for me.