Is something wrong with this sentence?

Christopher enjoys cycling, skiing, and to jog.

Yes, as you may have guessed, there is clearly a problem with this sentence. But do you know what it is? The sentence above has a faulty parallel construction. What does this mean? How do you correct it? Let's take look.

What Is a Parallel Construction?
In writing, a parallel construction is used to show a similarity or connection between two or more elements of a sentence. It can be present at the word, phrase, or clause level, and the elements are generally combined with coordinating conjunctions such as and or or. When used correctly, it can be an effective way to smooth what would otherwise be choppy, repetitive sentences. Consider the following sentences:

Kelli followed Mike into the restaurant.

Kelli watched him embrace Amy.

Kelli stormed out in a jealous rage.

While there is clearly tension in the content of these sentences, the choppiness and repetition make them tedious to read. Isn't this much better?

Kelli followed Mike into the restaurant, watched him embrace Amy, and stormed out in a jealous rage.

Faulty Parallel Construction
So if the sentence in the previous section is proper parallelism, then what is a faulty construction? Faulty parallelism is an attempt at a parallel series, but some aspect of the syntax is off. For a true series, all elements must be the same part of speech. For instance, in the previous section, the series combines three predicates. All three parts begin with a past tense verb.

Kelli followed Mike into the restaurant, watched him embrace Amy, and stormed out in a jealous rage.

This is true whether you are combining verb phrases, prepositional phrases, or nouns. The elements must be the same grammatical form.

So what about the sentence at the beginning of the post? In that case, it was an attempt to combine three elements: two gerunds and an infinite. And the result is faulty parallelism. This, you'll agree, reads more smoothly:

Christopher enjoys cycling, skiing, and to jog.

Last Friday in April—how has this month treating you? For me, it's been busy, both personally as well as having a lot of work to do. So I'm hoping all is going well for all of you and that you have been productive in all of your tasks, including writing. This week had a wealth of information in the blogosphere. The following are just a few that you should find useful.

10 Simple Changes Writers Writers Can Make That Help Protect The Environment: Linking to this one may seem a bit late with Earth Day being last weekend. And it may seem a bit odd after some of the posts I made about using paper for writing, but when you're sure your done with the notebook, you can always recycle it. I've grown surprisingly fond of ebooks since I bought my Android tablet, so I would definitely encourage people to at least try to embrace electronic books. So read this article to see what you can do to protect the environment.

Fiction Writing
Five Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Sessions: Have you ever started a story but never finished it? Try these simple tips to get the most out of your writing sessions. 

The Language of Fantasy: Parts 1 and 2: These two articles discuss some things to consider if you are intending to create your own language or modify English in your fantasy novel. This includes the use of swear words, dialect, accents, capitalization, among other points. Remember not to let language creation overshadow your story though.  

Unique Promotional Ideas to Boost Your Reach & Sales by Laura Kaye: New marketing ideas are always helpful, and Laura Kaye offers some that you can use both online and in person. Try a few of them and see how they work.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Of all the grammar errors I see, confusing who and whom is one of the most common. I suspect that, once again, it comes from teachers correcting students in school. Now, I'm not saying teachers shouldn't correct student errors, but often the corrections, at least in my case, were in favor of whom with no explanation why the who was wrong. Who is more intuitive, but when many writers are unsure which one to use, they default to one or the other depending on the errors made early on. And they may be correct at times. However, isn't it better to know how to handle these small grammatical details so you can focus on more important issues in your writing?

Luckily, figuring out whether to use who or whom is relatively simple.

Who or Whom?
When considering whether to use who or whom, you need to know if you need a subject or object pronoun. I know this can be tricky. After all, the terms in we're discussing appear in questions or inverted sentences and dependent clauses. So telling you to use who when referring to the subject of a sentence and whom for the object may help, but it still may be confusing. That's fine, because there's a quick way to figure it out.

Using Who
The easiest way to decide whether you need who or whom is to substitute who/whom for another pronoun, like he/him (or she/her). So let's try this with the following sentences:

[Who/Whom] walked through the door?

He tried to find the woman [who/whom] owned the house.

Now, you wouldn't reconstruct the first sentence as “Him walked through the door,” would you? With the second sentence, you'll want to isolate the dependent clause. That will clarify: : “[she/her] owned the house.” So the sentences should read:

Who walked through the door?

He tried to find the woman who owned the house.

Using Whom
The examples above illustrated when to use who. But what about whom? Let's look at another example:

[Who/whom] did you have lunch with?

This one's a bit trickier, but taking a moment to rewrite it as a declarative sentence will help:

You had lunch with [he/him].

Does that help? So the original question should read:

Whom did you have lunch with?

Remember the M
I initially recommended to replace who/whom with he/him for a few reasons. First, it makes deciding whether you need a subject or an object easier. Also, simplistic as this sounds, the m in him should be an easy reminder to use whom. If you don't have an m, use who.

Do you keep a writer's notebook? I'm not necessarily talking about a writer's journal, although it can be a journal if you prefer that. It's the notebook you where you put those flashes of inspiration that come at inopportune times (when you're nowhere near a computer). While some ideas can be stored on a smart phone or an electronic tablet, it would probably be best to use the pen and paper I discussed earlier (I've had too many negative experiences with electronics to trust them with my writing ideas).

What to Use as a Writer's Notebook
So you don't keep a writer's notebook but would like to try it. What should you use? That's up to you. Go with something portable, but not one of those notepads you could fill in an hour. As an example, a local store here sells 7.75 inch X 5 inch notebooks I use because they are portable. If you're notebooks tend to get beat up, you may want to spend a few extra dollars on a small journal. Do you prefer certain colors? Are you more comfortable writing in notebooks without lines? Whatever makes the writing experience more pleasurable is best for you.

What to Put in Your Writer's Notebook
Asking what you shouldn't write in it may be better. You''ll want to date your entries the way you would a journal and start a new page for separate ideas, but other than that, it's entirely open. Here are some things I put in mine:

Article ideas and titles: Sometimes that clever title only pops into your head once, and you don't want to forget it.

Story idea synopses: This can be short, just enough to keep from forgetting it.

Character sketches and biographies: These are indispensable, whether you keep them in your writer's notebook or elsewhere.

Notes or outlines for an article or story: Once again, this is just a case of not trusting the human memory.

Poems: Do you write poetry? While I don't write a lot of it, it helps to have a notebook when I want to, so keep pen and paper handy.

Don't feel constrained by any suggestions here. These are just examples, what I have put in mine. But by all means fill it.

Review the Notes
This may seem obvious. But life has the habit of getting in the way, and notebooks, once filled, tend to get set aside and eventually forgotten. I have one that's been sitting on my desk for months, nestled between a binder and a few file folders. Unless your life becomes overwhelmingly hectic, try not to do the same thing (yes, do as I say, not as I do—on the bright side, I won't run out of writing ideas anytime soon). And don't throw them away once you have used the ideas that seemed good at the time. Others may seem unusable, but hold on to them anyway. The ones that initially appear useless can evolve later when you come back to review them.

Could it be another TGIF? Absolutely. Hopefully, everyone's had a good productive week despite the distraction of, well, Tuesday. Need I say more? If you live in the United States, you know what I mean. Since I have a lot of work on my plate today, I'm going to keep this brief, but I have another good batch of articles for you. So I'll leave you to these other fine writers.

The Most Important Skill for Long-Term Blogging Success: This guest post at ProBlogger reminds us of the skill required above all others for blogging—the same one necessary for all other writing disciplines—creativity. And it goes on to illustrate how it can be applied in different niches. Anyone looking to maintain a blog in the long term should read this post.

Fiction Writing
Show Don't Tell by Michelle Miles: If you write fiction or creative nonfiction, you've heard it before: show, don't tell.” In this post at Savvy Authors, Michelle Miles not only tells us this, but she shows it with examples from her own work. 

North Carolina Novelist Andy Holloman Talks about Twitter: Are you on Twitter? According to author Andy Holloman, you should be. This article at Writers of the Triangle discusses how writers can use Twitter for marketing and networking with other writers.

Open Mike Night: Ten Tips For Reading Your Writing In Public: Do you get stage fright? Does the thought of reading your work in public terrify you? You're not alone. I love attending readings but find the thought of being on stage somewhat intimidating. So here are some tips for when you finally step out to read your writing to an audience.

That will be all for today. Have a great Friday and, of course, a wonderful weekend!

Does anyone use pen and paper anymore? In this digital age, it seems like an odd question. I remember one editor telling me that she is no longer able to spell words unless she types them out. And we've all discussed how sloppy our penmanship has become since we don't put pen to paper as often. With people doing everything digitally, is writing by hand outmoded in the creative writing world?

I think not, at least, not for me. While all of my blog posts are composed in word-processing software, at times I feel more creative when I'm writing things out in a notebook. When I started writing creatively, I did it by hand, so it's my standby when all else fails. And I often use pen and paper for the following:
  • brainstorming
  • private journal entries
  • poems
  • outlines
  • flash fiction
  • note taking/research (I seem to recall things better when I write things out by hand)
When I feel intimidated by the blank word-processing document, I write out a paragraph or two by hand. No, it's not “green,” but it works for me. Now, before you dismiss the old “pen and paper” method, consider trying it for the following reasons:

1. Mind mapping. While there are programs that make mind mapping easier on the computer, it still seems to work best with pen and paper. This allows you to truly customize your lines and boxes in a way that best suits your ideas.

2. Shift in style. The intimacy of pen and paper may be just what you need to kick your creative edge into high gear. Or you may find your writing seems more forced. This is a chance to experiment.

3. More rewriting. Some may not consider this a good thing, but as you type up something you've written by hand, you may already begin to edit and revise. So your first typed draft is a second draft with some improvements already made. Working directly from the computer tends to make people somewhat lazy about this.

4. Portability. Pen and paper are still more portable than laptops and lighter and less obtrusive than electronic tablets. So with a notebook and pen, you can write anywhere.

5. Fewer distractions. Take your notebook away from your computer. That means no e-mail, no Facebook, no Twitter, etc. It's just you, the pen, and the page.

Change can enhance creativity, especially when you find yourself blocked. If you just type your work, pick out a notebook that suits your project (for me, that's fun as well) and try writing your work out by hand. Or if you write by hand first, try composing str.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, sometimes writing comes easily, and at other times, it doesn't. Maybe you have the ideas and know how you want to express them, but you just don't feel like writing. But occasionally it's writer's block—when you don't know what to say or are unhappy with how the words are flowing. Yes, writer's block does happen. For a freelancer who depends on the flow of words as a livelihood, it can be devastating. And knowing more experienced scribes also go through such times can be cold comfort. While the reasons may vary, the main thing we all want to know is how to conquer it.

While only you can solve the personal problems causing the block, the following may help you get your creative juices flowing.

1. Reviewing previous work
Blog posts, longer articles, short stories, poems, chapters in a novel—you probably have at least one project you haven't looked at in a while. Even if you've already published it, it can still help generate ideas and new angles you can try, or at least take you back to a time when the words were flowing more freely. If you haven't published it yet, edit the older piece. Perhaps you can expand on an old blog post and turn it into a longer article, or maybe you can take a minor character from your novel and write a short story about him.

2. Write badly and don't worry about it
Bad writing can be rewritten and edited. And if you keep the words flowing, you'll eventually return to a place where you're writing well again. Avoid letting not writing at all become a habit. It's a difficult one to break.

3. Write short phrases and sentences
Take some time to play a bit with the language: witty headlines, short story or novel titles you'd like to use, short silly poems, or anything else that will expand your imagination and get you writing again. You may even decide to use one or more of the titles or headlines in the near future.

4. Write about how you conquered writer's block in the past
If you've had it before and eventually started writing again, then you can do it again. It won't last forever if you don't let it. Describe a previous situation when you had writer's block in as much detail as possible. Discuss what you believed to be the cause, what you did to move on and start writing again, where you went with the first project you worked on afterward (posted it on your blog, submitted it to an online or print publication, etc.). Remembering a past victory can be inspiring.

Writer's block doesn't last unless you allow it. These are just a few suggestions that may help get your writing habit started again. This doesn't mean you leave the problems that caused your block in the first place unattended, but at least being able to write will be one less cause of stress.

So what do you do to beat writer's block?

Does anyone else find it ironic that a Friday the 13th just happened to come in the middle of April? No further comment. You're free to draw your own conclusions. Anyway, I hope everyone managed to bounce back from the holiday. If you had children home for spring break as my sister did, that may have affected writing productivity. But anyway, whether your week was quiet or hectic, this week's link love articles should get you back into the writing spirit.

The Systematic Blogger's Manifesto: Have you ever wondered why people call monetizing one's blog “passive income”? Residual perhaps, but an active blog requires frequent attention, which isn't necessarily passive. This guest post at ProBlogger points out the necessity for aiming for systematic income rather than passive income.

Fiction Writing
How to Use Mental Illness in Your Writing: Like religion, here is another sensitive topic addressed at Fantasy Faction. While attitudes toward mental illness are more open in some circles, it is a topic that can be effective or disastrous to a story depending on how you handle it. Do your research. This article covers some other helpful suggestions to keep in mind.

The Importance of Setting by F.M. Meredith: I've realized my own weakness in this area and am working on it. But I didn't grasp its importance until I edited a client novel that seemed to take place in a vacuum. Setting can indeed add a richness to a story, whether it's real or fictional, but lack of one can make what happened where and when a bit confusing. This article at Savvy Authors elaborates on this.

Domain Names: Author or Book-Based?: Jennifer Mattern: I don't think anyone would consider trying to market a book without an author website, or at the very least, a blog. However, this article raises some compelling reasons for not running not only an author website, but one for a book or series as well.

Have a great weekend!

Are you a numbers person? If given a choice, would you spell out numbers in your writing or use numerals? I prefer spelling them out, when doing so would not be cumbersome. I just prefer not to have numbers calling attention to themselves in my writing unless I'm deliberately emphasizing them (like in the title of a blog post). However, with the exception of a personal blog or journal, you're not always given a choice. Different industries have their own style preferences, and if you want to write professionally, you have to honor their guidelines. The following are a few tips to keep in mind for using numbers in non-technical writing.

General Guidelines for Use of Numbers
Different factors will help determine whether you need to spell out numbers or use numerals. The quantity itself and its context are key. The type of writing you are doing will also help you decide. Since The Chicago Manual of Style and The Associated Press Stylebook are the most commonly used style guides in professional writing, I'll be referring to them here.

If you use AP style (for periodicals, copywriting, and a lot of web writing), you'll need to spell out single-digit numbers (one through nine) and use figures for 10 and above. However, The Chicago Manual of Style (for book-length manuscripts, short fiction, etc.) recommends spelling out whole numbers one through one hundred.

AP: The building was 50 years old.

CMS: The building was fifty years old.

Larger Numbers in Writing
According to CMS, round numbers (hundreds, thousands, millions, etc.) should be spelled out, but large numbers (millions or more) can be expressed with a mixture of numerals and spelled-out numbers.

Two hundred people attended the wedding.

The city's population is estimated at about 19.3 million.

Numbers at the Beginning of a Sentence
Occasionally, you may need to begin a sentence with a number. In this case, it should be spelled out regardless of the quantity. If spelling out the number seems too long or awkward, rewrite the sentence with the number appearing elsewhere in the text. Do not begin a sentence with a numeral.

Consider the following:

One hundred and forty-five of the applications were reviewed.

If you don't want to write out the number, consider rewriting it like this.

In all, 145 applications were reviewed.

Final Suggestions
Whether you choose one method over another, make sure you are consistent. In some cases, consistency may be preferable to quantity guidelines. When in doubt, remember that communication and readability are your ultimate goals.

You'll find as many approaches to writing and editing as there are writers. And while some live by the mantra “writer first, edit later,” others prefer editing as they go. Is either right or wrong? Having tried both, I know that each project is different. You may handle one story by completing a full rough draft before doing any editing or revising but edit the next one as you write. Regardless of what you choose, you'll want to keep a few things in mind.

1. You'll never be able to write a perfect first draft, even if you edit as you go. Nobody does. Your favorite authors whose stories seem so well plotted, perfectly paced, and told in perfect prose not only did their own revising but also had editors review and correct them as well.

2. You will need to make corrections later. The work will need to be done. The only question is whether you prefer to do some of it in advance or more later.

3. You will need an objective third party to review your work later, after you've done your own editing and revising. Whether you work with an editor, a critique group, or a brutally honest friend, you need someone else to go over your writing. There are things that you as the author will miss because you're too close to the work.

So which one should you choose?

Write First, Edit Later
You were taught throughout school to “write correctly,” and that's good. That facilitates communication and makes you look better as a writer. However, it's better to say something badly than to say nothing at all. The first draft of any writing is never great. Never. But at least you have something to start with. Some writers gets hung up on details when they edit along the way and never finish first drafts. I know because I'm among that group. If you are too, complete the rough draft first. You can always make changes later.

Editing as You Go
Some writers actually swear against editing during the initial writing process. They feel it stifles creativity, and for them, maybe it does. But others may have trouble getting a writing session started. If you have that problem, you may want to review and possibly do some light editing on the work done the previous day to get your mind into your project.

If you're not sure what fits you best, experiment. Edit as you go along with one project but not with another. In the end, whatever works best for you and your project is the right approach. But regardless of which one you choose, set the project aside for a while once the first draft is complete. That way you can review it with fresh eyes.

So which do you prefer? Do you write first and edit later? Or do you edit during early stages of the writing process?