My Best Teaching Is One-on-One

一対一が僕のベスト

Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.

当然、先生方と共同レッスンも、特別レッスンの指導もします。

But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.

しかし、僕の一番意味あると思っている仕事は、講義が終わってから、
一対一と
個人的にその課題の勉強を応援することです。

It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.

まあ、コンピュータプログラムにすると、得意先の方に出来上がった製品を体験させるようなことと思います。
役に立たない製品はまだ製品になっていないと同様です。

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two Book Reviews: The Witch's Reward and Beyond the Sands by Liz McCraine

Liz McCraine is another author I met in the LDS Beta Readers group on Face Book. She let me help beta read her novels The Witch's Reward and Beyond the Sands, from her Kingdom of Aggadorn series.

These are both medium light fantasy romances with some medium heavy and dark parts, no sex. Fun reads. As a sort of spoiler, the girl does get her guy in the end. But you knew that.

The Witch's Reward begins in a small kingdom patterned after medieval European kingdoms, in which magic is an operational principle, but it's practice is strictly forbidden to humans.

Lara, a farm girl whose mother was visited by a fairy before meeting a terrible fate has been raised by her grandmoher. When the men of the village go hunting, she takes her neighbor's young daughter Kiera out to gather berries.

Not unpredictably, they are attacked by a fearsome beast. But at the brink of death, Lara's unknown and innate gift from the fairies awakens and saves them, restoring both to life and health.

The villagers, duty bound, report Lara's magic to the authorities, and Lara, also duty bound, goes docile but captive to meet her fate. Her fate comes in the form of the Crown Prince and a small band of soldiers sent to escort her to the capitol for trial, and the novel tells how the Prince wins her trust and love and how she wins her freedom and her Prince.

In the process, hints of a terrible intrigue are uncovered, and an evil wizard is defeated.

The characters are likeable and fairly real, and it is with some regret that the reader leaves Kiera behind when Lara is taken away.

In Beyond the Sands, we get to mostly ignore Lara and her Prince, and follow a young adult Kiera in her own adventure.

Her adventure starts with tragedy when her father and her brother's best friend are killed by a pack of depraved formerly human kind of creatures. And we learn of Kiera's skill with the bow and her fearlessness as she dispatches these creatures in time to save her brother, if not her brother's leg.

Of course, she determines on her own to use her skill with the bow in finding where these creatures come from and put an end to the evil.

But the brother's best friend was also the best friend of a high-ranking warrior of an allied Kingdom, and this warrior, feeling guilt that he had let his friends go without him, perceives Kiera's intent at the funeral. Quite unilaterally, he determines that he must join forces with her in spite of their inauspicious first meeting.

The novel then tells of their forced partnership and their trek. Together, they gather information and make friends among the mountain villagers and help the mountain people defend themselves from the creatures while they learn to work together and defend each other.

Crossing the desert sands, they face severe tests in which they forge strong bonds and the ability to trust each other in battle. Their friendship and partnership is tested further in the enemy kingdom beyond the desert sands, as they resolve a significant part of the intrigue uncovered in The Witch's Reward.

And then, their first quest solved, as they return to their heros' welcome, they face the ultimate test of their friendship -- with a little help from Lara and her Prince.

Both novels stand on their own, but are even better together. I quite enjoyed them, and look forward to reading more in the series. (The Pirate and the Princess is already out.) I think many readers will enjoy them as well.

Monday, April 9, 2018

No Time Left to Finish My First Novel

Why is it that I am trying to write my magnum opus in my first novel?

Why am I doing this again?

If I didn't insist on moving the story to a planet far, far away, where they use hexadecimal instead of decimal numbers, including hexadecimal time, I'd probably have been finished by now. But I'm trying to use the novel as a vehicle for exploring all the problems of modern society.

And I thought I was progessing, but I'm now out of time.

Why is it that I tried, in my senior projects in computer science, to reinvent the entire computer industry from the bottom up, and then threw away the assembler and Forth interpreter that I did finish?

Why is it that, for my first information systems term homework assignments, I wrote real-world applications, and then threw them away?

Why is it that my father-in-law thought he had to teach me how to fill a small bag of rice from a larger one without spilling any? And why is it I found it so hard to bear his unnecessary demonstrations and hand-holding? He was wrong, but it was his house and his cockroaches he was trying not to feed, not mine. And it was his daughter I married against his wishes, so it isn't really all that unsurprising that he would want an excuse to slap my hands.

People are always telling me I'm doing things wrong, and I am always trying to prove that different is not wrong just because it's different. It's been that way all my life. And I end up proving nothing, in particular, except that, while their methods might work for them, mine tend to work for me, if they'll just let me do things my way, and we'd all get a lot more done if we didn't waste so much time arguing about who is wrong and who is right.

But, of course, if you can't figure out what I'm doing, what I'm doing has no value for you. Or, at best, the value is limited.

Apparently, argument is not a very good vehicle for bringing value back from the wilderness, not the best way to communicate.

And I'm really out of time. Got to go work for people who will pay me money.

[JMR201804101259: 

The secifics about this novel:

When I go out to find work teacching English, I only have a bachelors in computer science -- no advanced degree, and the major is not clearly related to English or teaching. And I don't have any teaching certifications.

I'm too late to pick up a Japanese certification. They have age limits in Japan. And I have not had the extra time or money to go back to school or pick up one of the international Teaching English as a Foreign Language certifications. And I have to compete with too many younger kids. So it's getting harder to find work.

I thought, if I get a novel published, that would be pretty good proof that I can read and write English well enough to teach it.

How's that for a pile of non-sequitur?

So I thought, what would be an easy idea for a story that my high school students could read, that I could write quickly, and that would be easy to sell?

Man and woman stranded by themselves somewhere.

Space ship? I want to sometime write about why that presents serious engineering issues far beyond simply getting people up there and keeping them safe, but that would take a lot of research and a bit of computer modeling. Putting them on a planet of their own would add additional religious philosophical problems. I would have to lay proper groundwork for Adam and Eve, essentially, which is another thing I want to do when I have better skills and more time.

Ultimately, I settled on a desert island. That would sell. (Look at the market two and a half years ago. If I could have gotten it out on the market then, it might well have sold.)

How to get them on the desert island alone, long term? Storm? Accident?

Kidnapping.

Now I am nominally a (good?) Mormon, so I don't want my main characters to have sex without getting married. So they would have to have a back story that would support them refraining from that kind of behavior. On the other hand, romance is what sells, so I want them to have romance.

I thought about having the man be Mormon, and having the woman spend the whole novel trying to wear him down. That might sell, but I really didn't want to write that story -- or the gender converse. It's a bit misogynistic. And man-hating, as well.

So I settled on two graduate students from a Church school doing fieldwork in an island country.

While I was working through this, I was also thinking how desert island stories are the sort of simplifications relative to sociology and economics that the cannonball and feather in a vacuum represent in physics.

And that is how I got to Economics 101.

That's how the novel developed conflicting goals -- one, to keep them apart, and two, to get them together -- Three, to entertain at a level to get people to buy, and four to instruct in some ideas that people current (falsey) consider to be pretty arcane.

Various aspects of the story took me away from the general folk Mormonism, and I don't want to argue with people about that, so I initially intended to resort to alternate reality.

But that wasn't enough separation, and the back story and the island story started to diverge, so I decided to move the story to another planet, far, far away. I thought that would give me some wiggle room in bringing the back story and the island story together. I've tried twice, even, and the result just makes the pieces that much harder to fit together.

If I had just been willing to stick with a simple story, where they are found in a few months, and religion is not a big part, but they do respect each other's freedom of association, I could have been finished.

Too many additional requirements. It's the story of my life.

But you know, I don't feel like I have sinned. I've lived long enough to realize that, even if I get stuck, refusing to add necessary additional requirements is what gets us things like the Intel 80x86 processors that make the Internet ten times the energy waste that it should be, MSWindows OSses that are magnets to malware, and so on.

A truly secure OS would be a different kind of evil, as well.

The one thing I have not yet succeeded in doing is figuring out how to get people to support what I'm doing. Even the friends who read my stories want me to take them different directions.

Hmm. Now that I know something about the terrain, maybe I could do a couple of the simpler stories in a way that would not be just adding to the body of bad literature. That would be good, too, and maybe I could finish it while I work some other job to try to pay for food. And it might help get the problems in the first one worked out.

]

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Progress on my first novel, Economics 101, a Novel, Rough Draft

The first half of my desert island romance is a college romance. I think It's finally ready to be read -- chapters 01 to 09 in my blog.

The blurb (for now):

Bobbie and Karel are single, early-thirties returned missionaries with a lot of emotional baggage, returning to school to pursue advanced degrees in anthropology. Can their mid-twenties friends Kristie and Dan help them to get safely together in time for their fieldwork in an island country?

Rating: clean romance, but contains some discussion of sexual matters.

Something less than 90,000 words, not including the second half (chapters 10 and beyond).

I'll be extracting it from my blog to libreoffice docx and pdf, so anyone who prefers that over blog, let me know.

Warning: The second half (the desert island part) is not yet ready for prime time, and will take some time to finish the move to the planet Xhilr.

(Here's a little about how this novel got started.)

LDS Beta Readers: LDS Beta Reader Online Conference 2018

I've been working with a group of writers who share an interest in things Christian/LDS and Mormon. They're having an on-line writers' conference this weekend, where several members of the group share hints and wisdom they have picked up along the way. The presenters are published authors.

Even though I'm on the other side of the world, I'll be attending part of it before I go to bed and catching up with the rest later via youtube the next Monday. I look forward to learning things to help my writing.

LDS Beta Readers: LDS Beta Reader Online Conference 2018: Welcome to the Third Annual LDS Beta Reader Online Conference! Saturday, April 7 th join us online to grow your craft, meet an excellent...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Book Review (w/ mine): Something Lost, LDS Beta Readers Flash Fiction Collection Part One


It seems like I'm doing a lot of book reviews lately. I guess that's because I've joined some writing circles.


Something Lost CoverThis one is a little different from the previous books. It's a small anthology of short-short pieces in a format called "Flash Fiction", where we write a complete story in 1000 words or less. It has an introduction, some sort of plot element, and a resolution. 

This anthology includes women's fiction, a lot of family fiction, several small pieces of love stories, social commentary, dystopian vision, fairies, a princess, two pieces on interrupted interstellar exploration, a bit of looking beyond the grave, abusive relationships, and even a street racer with too much lust for speed.

The common theme is loss, and there are people suffering serious loss in these stories. But many of them contain a bit of finding, as well, so it's not going to be a total downer to read. I'd even venture to say there's an overall positive feeling to it, a sense of finding in the midst of loss.

But the real difference is that I have a piece in here. It's called "First Cut". I was thinking of a song by Cat Stevens, covered by Rod Stewart and (I didn't know this 'til just now.) Sheryl Crow. I sort of ask the question, is the first cut really the deepest?

The writing is good overall, the themes meaningful, and the stories short, so these would also be good practice reading for students of English as a second language.

It goes live on Amazon tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2018

NHK Is at It Again -- また NHK が狡い話もって回ってくる

I posted on this a couple of years ago. But I never finished translating that post to Japanese.
二年前の投稿この話を取り上げたけど日本語になおすのは怠ってしまいました。未だ終わっていない。

The information in that post is stale.
その投稿の情報がもう古いです。

NHK is not bad public television for content, I think. I don't know. I haven't really watched them in more than twenty years. (We have sometimes watched at my in-law's house.)
公共テレビ放送としては、 NHK の内容は悪くないのです。悪くないでしょう。もう、二十年以上あまり見てへんから、現在の様子がわかりません。(妻の実家で偶に見たりしてたのです。)

But the way they fund their operations is screwed up.
だけど、その経営費を募る方法はめちゃくちゃなの。

In the US, we pay part of the public broadcast operating costs from taxes. The rest of the funds are raised through donations -- real donations. More-or-less freely given donations. Nobody forces anyone to pay.
米国では、公共テレビ放送の経費の一部が税金から賄われる。そのあまりが募金ですが、これは本物の寄付金です。だいたい自由のこころから発生する寄付金です。強制的に払わせられることはありません。

And there's no need to explain why to anyone, especially if you aren't making enough to pay taxes.
払わない訳を誰にも申し立てる必要もありません。特に、税金を払うほどの収入が無い場合では誰にも自分の状況について説得する必要ありません。

Yeah, there is a little emotional arm-twisting. If (and only if) you are watching a public channel during the fund-raising drives, they go after your sympathies, your sense of civic duty, and your interest in maintaining programming. It's sort of like commercial breaks, advertizing for donations.
まあ、精神的な圧力をかけることが募金期間中にあれば、それはね、公共放送を視ていない人には効かへん。つまり、営利的広告らしいコマーシャルブレークを利用して、ヒトの同情を募らせる。市民責任感に訴える。そして、良い番組を見続けたい欲張りに語りかけて、その維持費を要求する。

We need your help! Look at all the good we do with your money. Look at the great programs that we produce and broadcast! Look at what the children and adults who can't afford or don't want high-price cutting-edge Hollywood pseudo-entertainment would miss out on! And look at the great programs we know you've been watching, that we'll have to cut if you don't donate!
助けて下さい!皆様の賜り物のお陰で、こんな素晴らしい番組を提供させていただいています。我々の予算がなければ、ハリウッドから出る偽物の娯楽が要らなく、その高額さに金銭的余地がない大人も子供もこの素晴らしい番組などすら楽しめなくなってしまうのです。あなたがたもこの素晴らしいプログラミングを楽しんできていますが、賜っていただけなくなったら削っていくしかございません。ご協力おねがいします!
I have no problems with this kind of arm-twisting. It's based in realistic expectations and it allows people who don't want it or count afford it to pass.
こういう精神的圧力なら全く文句言うことありません。その根拠が現実そのものです。そして、その放送局が提供してくれる番組などが要らない人は、また収入に困って払う余地のない方々は寄付する機会を逃しても、負担が生じないのです。

In fact, if you don't watch TV at all, you miss out completely on the chance to support them. Maybe that's a shame from some points of view, but it's part of the cost of freedom.
実状、テレビを全く見ない皆さまは寄付する機会に気がつかないかも知れません。残念な結果と思っても、自由を認めた瞬間に、こんな結果も出ること承知していらっしゃるのです。ある程度の最適ではない結果を許せない限り、自由を維持することができなくなってしまうからです。自由の代価負担の一つです。

Not every person can support every worthy endeavour -- it's just not possible. We have to choose which worthwhile projects and institutions we support with our limited resources.
全ての相応しい努力に全ての人が関わるというようなことがありません。不可能です。各々の人が、本人の限られた資産から取り出して、本人の価値観に従って、相応しい企画や団体などの中から選んで、できるところだけを支えるのです。

If not, we'll all go broke.
さもなければ、皆様一斉にパンクして破産してしまう。

For people who don't know what I'm ranting about, NHK is the Japanese public broadcast organization (see wikipedia -- Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai). If you live here long-term, the NHK collectors come around once a year, unless you arrange for direct deposit from your bank.
この内容がわからない方のためですが、 NHK というモノが日本に於ける公共放送の団体ウィキペディアの日本放送協会を参照)です。長く日本に滞在する方は、毎年集金に回ってく来て頂くことがあります。直接振込の申請しなければ。

The line they give you is something like this:
話の流れはこんな感じです。


This is your civic and mora duty because you live here.
日本に住んでいることによって道徳上の市民的義務です。
Oh? What if I don't watch TV?
そうか。テレビを見ない人は?
You can't be serious. This is an obligation, a responsibility. NHK has the duty to provide unbiased news and emergency information in natural disasters. Everybody watches TV.
真面目な話ししてくれ。義務です。責任です。 NHK には偏見なしの情報と、災害のときに緊急連絡を提供する責任を授かっています。皆様はテレビを視ています。
(What -- watching TV is a moral and civic duty?)
(へっ?テレビを視るのが市民に課せられた道徳的義務となったのですか?)

We don't own a TV.
テレビ持っていません。
What? That's ridiculous. And it doesn't make any difference. Do you have a cell phone with 1-Seg?
なに?まさか。イヤイヤ関係ありません。ワンセグ付きの携帯電話を持っていません?
(1-Seg is low-resolution TV function especially for portable devices.)
(ワンセグとは特に携帯器具のための解像度の低いテレビ機能です。)

You can't get a cheap cell phone without 1-Seg. But I never use it.
ワンセグ無しの安い携帯は手に入れません。それでも、使っていません。


So you have a TV.
だから、テレビを持っていらっしゃるのですね。
I didn't ask for it.
入れて欲しいと言わなかったけど。
But you have a TV.
しかし、テレビを持っていらっしゃる。
In 2016, there was a court case in Saitama that determined that 1-Seg did not incur any obligation.
平成28年の埼玉県の裁判の結果、ワンセグは義務を発生しないことになったのです。
In 2017, there was a court case in Mito that it does.
水戸では、平成29年の裁判で義務が認められています。
(How much pressure did NHK have to bring to bear for that?)
(NHK はどれほどの圧力を掛けることによってだったかな?)

I don't make a lot of money.
ボクには収入はさほどあまりありません。
Well, you can file a report on how much you earn and your disabilities and such with the NHK offices and maybe you can get an exception.
そういう場合なら、NHK の事務所に来て頂いて、収入と障害などのことを報告して例外を申請することが可能かも知れません。
So this is a tax that I have to pay?
なるほど。税金の一つですね。
No, it's not a tax.
否、税金ではありません。
How is it different from a tax if I am required to pay?
払うのが課せられたいるのに税金とどう違いますか?
It's not a tax.
税金ではありません。
But I'm required to pay?
支払いは課せられているのですね。
Of course.
無論。
So it's levied against me, against my will.
なるほど。私の意志の有無に関わらず取り立てられた徴収ですね。
You pay for your water and electricity, right?
水と電気の請求を払っていますね。
Isn't that non sequitur?
不合理な推論ではありませんか?
(Blank looks.)
(無理解の表情。)
(They might not mention phone bill, because there were several decades where there were way more households with TVs than with phones.)
(電話の言及がないかも知れない。数十年の間、テレビ在る自宅は圧倒的に電話在る自宅よりも多かったのです。)


Why isn't it collected with the rest of my taxes?
どうして他の税金と一緒に徴税されていないのですか?
It's not a tax.
税金ではありません。
What happens if I don't pay?
払わなかったらどうなりますか?
But you aren't allowed to not pay. It's an obligation. It's your duty as a resident.
払わないのはできませんよ。義務です。日本に住む人の責任です。


(Yes, beg that fundamental misunderstanding about responsibility. Responsibility cannot be externally imposed.)
(もちろん、責任の基本的な勘違いに頼みましょう、ネ。責任何か外から課せられるようなものではないけど。)

In English, it just sounds obstinate -- hardsell. In Japanese, it's a veiled threat.
英語にしてはただの頑固な押し売りみたいです。日本語にしては裏の脅迫のようなものです。

And, apparently, especially if they can get you to write answers on a survey or sign some form which they will insist you must sign if you are not going to pay, there are some teeth to the threat.
読んだ話によると、払わないと言うと調査に記述して欲しいといわれて、何らかの書類に署名らしい署名をつけて下さいと、更に言われるようです。それに応じると契約ができてしまうようです。契約ができてしまうと法律上の義務もでき、脅迫には歯が現れる。

I've heard of people being charged thousands of dollars in back-fees.
遡って百万円分の受信料を請求される話も聞いたことがあります。

And, apparently, once you donate just once, once you put your pen to anything they give you, you are contractually obligated to continue donating until you die or are declared unable to work any more.
これも話しによるのですが、一度寄付したら、一度署名したら、契約ができて一緒支払う義務もできてしまうそうです。死ぬまでか、もう、仕事が不可能の障害を被るまでその契約が解除されないそうです。

And, if you don't like the programming one year, you can't just refuse to pay as a form of complaint. それに、例えばある年は、その一年の番組などのプログラミングが気に入れなかったとすると、文句を聞いてもらうために支払いを取りやめることができません。

On the other hand, I have read that there is talk of forcing NHK to putting your contract on hold if you tell them your TV is on the blink.
その反面に、テレビが故障しているという連絡だけでその義務を停止するような制度を NHK に押し付ける話も聞いたことがあります。

It would be far simpler just to make the donations voluntary, like it is in the US.
アメリカのように、受信料を寄付金化にするほうがずっと簡単に済むのではありません?

There's definitely a problem here.
問題です。

Just for the record, even though I don't watch TV, if I had the money, and if I knew I could do it voluntarily, I would donate, just as a matter of principle.
言っとくけど、テレビを見ない主義にしても、お金の余裕の状況が在って、自分の自由意思のもとで寄付することが可能だという状況だったら、道徳の原則として寄付することは寄付するつもりです。

I supported public television in the States when I had the money.
アメリカで、お金の余裕があって生活していた時、公共テレビに寄付金を送りました。

I think it's important. I just don't agree with the way they raise money here in Japan.
大事だと思います。ただ単に日本で行なっている募金の方法に賛成できません。

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Writers: About Those Rules (Grammar, Word Choice, Style)

(This is about writing, not religion -- unless your religion is your writing.)

In the New Testament, we often see Jesus calling the Scribes and Pharisees, and hypocrits in general, to repentance. Among their sins, He names the tendency to focus too much on the letter of the law and not enough on the spirit thereof.

In particular, He chastises them for making it harder for others to get into the kingdom of heaven. (See Luke 11, starting around verse 39, but especially 52; also Matthew 23, especially verses 13 and 15.)

But I don't recall much recorded in which He chastised people for bad grammar or bad word choice or unfashionable language style.

In LDS scripture, we see a note that Adam had a perfect language.

No, wait. It says, "pure and undefiled".

Now, that fact was important for us, but the language itself seems not to have been as important. We don't have his language, so we can only speculate as to its nature, particularly, in what way it was pure and undefiled.

Does that mean he used perfect grammar? Or does it mean something else?

Where did the grammar rules for any language currently in use come from? Who wrote our dictionaries and our manuals of style?

We might suspect it, but linguists will tell us it is true. The grammar, dictionaries, Thesaurses, style manuals, all of the tools we have for analyzing what we have written come from our own hands. The language itself predates them.

And?

I am not arguing that skill with language is bad. It helps to be able to be precise when we speak or write. Precision is not evil, unless it is used for evil.

And I admit it, by the way. I am not nearly as precise in my Japanese as I am in my English. Up until just a few days ago, I have been unwilling to attempt to write fiction in Japanese.

I will try to help fellow writers with grammar, word choice, style, structure, and other tools of technique. But I often feel at conflict with myself in the attempt.

Here's why.

Even though linguists call the rules things like "rules of production", those rules are not used in producing speech or rhetoric. They are used in producing analyzable strings of the sorts of symbols that linguists use to analyze.

The best use of grammars and dictionaries is as aids in understanding what we've written.

And manuals of style are artifacts of fashion. They are in constant flux.

If you need a technical report, sure. Use that manual of style. Lots of other reports-kinds of writing work best when they follow some manual of style.

When writing fiction for a closed genre, there are manuals of style. (But they still exist in a state of flux.)

But.

Closed means closed. Here's another hint from linguists. Meaning is not found in reproducing what has been done before as much as it is found when creating something new.

That means that your style as a writer exists in the tension between your efforts to follow the rules and your occasions to break them.

I have tried to help several authors whose grammar and word choice are less than standard. I think of four specific cases where my help seems not to have helped.

I myself was waylaid by a structure Pharisee in a writers group where I participated briefly last year --

My first novel did not need a hook in the first chapter. It was not intended to be a bestseller. An ordinary sort of hook will get in the way of that story. Yet, I let that (well-intentioned, I think) more experienced writer induce me to get a lot of practice writing myself in circles, trying to get that hook into place.

Practice is practice, and is not completely useless, but I needed to be working on other things by now, and that novel is not yet finished. The delay is in no small part caused by my spending too much time focusing on the wrong things. I was trying to put a hook in when I needed to be fixing the metastructure.

And this is where several of my friends are now stuck. They are focused on hooks, grammar, word choice, style, flow, and other such things when they need to be focusing on other things. Or, perhaps, taking a break and reading, or writing something else, or getting out into the real world, so they can come back and look with fresh eyes.

Some of them need to do what I ultimately did -- throw several months of edits in the junk pile and go back to a previous version from before they started listening to the wrong advice. One, in particular, may need to throw multiple months of edits in that junk pile and just publish the novel.

With its warts.

And I'm not actually convinced that my efforts on my first novel to avoid misleading people by my references to the Church I belong to are completely necessary. I may still be doing too much re-write instead of just clearing a bunch of unnecessary linkage from my first novel, where it sits in one of my blogs.

With its warts and non-standard features and love handles and such.

I was raised on books that didn't make the best-seller list. I don't remember some of their names. The grammar was wrong in many, although it tended to be consistent.

I say, wrong. I should say, non-standard, because there is no wrong grammar without context, and a novel is its own context.

So, what am I saying?

Writers, do not fear Microsoft's grammar checker.

Turn off the spelling checker, too. Only run the spelling checker once a day or so, and don't believe everything it tells you.

Keep the mechanical grammar checker turned off.

Emphasize that. You do not want your grammar sounding like it was written by a cookie-cutter.

Are you in a panic? Settle down. Microsoft is a company that claims to sell 80-20 solutions. Even if those claims were accurate, that's twenty percent wrong. But it's more like 20-80 and a lot of bluster. These guys are salescrew. What they sell is confidence.

You know, the Music Man, but with no heart.

What you need is confidence, not grammar checkers. Sure, your first novel may not be the best. You can polish it a bit, but there comes a point where you improve more by leaving it behind and writing the next one.

Why? Because the next one allows you to build new skills, and some of those are the skills you need to get that first one polished right.

(Don't be afraid to come back in six months or six decades and see what you can do with the ones you left behind. Arthur C. Clarke did that with Against the Fall of Night and produced The City and the Stars. I personally prefer the former, but both are good SF novels, and he thought the latter told the story better according to his older self's point of view.)

So you don't have the confidence? What instead?

If you can find a group of readers (beta readers is a well-used term right now, critique group is another) who can help you in useful ways without encouraging you to chase your tail, such a group can be useful. If they don't help you with the confidence after a little while, thank them and find new people to help.

Prayer helps, if you know God. If you don't know God or don't believe, meditation and listening to your heart is another way to describe it.

It's not wrong to learn the rules, but you must write new stuff to learn the rules better than you know them now. (This rant is too long, or I'd explain that. But it's another mathematical principle.)

The reason you write is to communicate something meaningful to people. Rules can only help about twenty percent of the way. The rest is the work you put into getting the message into the media.