September 29, 2011

Words Like Dew or Fire? - Ruth L. Snyder

I just completed three courses on editing fiction, offered through The Christian PEN. The courses were provided online, using a combination of private list serve and email. Every Monday, members of the class received a lesson by email. After we read through the material, we sent our homework back via the list serve. I found this format a great way to learn. Often other classmates raised concerns or asked for information which was helpful to me and vice versa. Throughout the course, our instructor, Jeanne Marie Leach, modeled and reminded us often that editors of fiction need to use kind, gentle words. This is true, even when major revisions are needed before a book is published.

Last year at the Inscribe Fall Conference, author Sigmund Brouwer shared his story. When he was in grade 3, a teacher ridiculed a story he wrote. He decided he was never going to write again. School became a struggle, and his attitude became an issue. Finally, a university instructor provided a safe place for Brouwer to experiment and write. He is now a successful author with over 30 books to his credit.

"It only takes a spark, remember to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony into chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue - it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can't go on." (James 3:6-10 The Message)

As writers, words are our tools. I'm looking forward to sharpening my word skills at the 2011 Inscribe Fall Conference this coming weekend. Our words may bring healing, encouragement, and life or they can destroy, tear down, and kill. Every time we put our pen to paper or our fingers on the keyboard we need to ask God for wisdom. I want my words to be like dew, not fire. How about you?

Ruth L. Snyder
Check out Ruth's blog on education matters at
Follow Ruth on Twitter @wwjdr


  1. Hi Ruth:
    Like Grace Fox at this year's conference, I find editing fascinating: Finding better or fewer words, showing rather than telling, and weeding out irrelevant passages or extraneous words.
    It's a bit like life, although disposing of junk and cutting lost time is usually not so much fun!
    It seems learning to edit, in writing and life is a lifetime project!

  2. Thanks for sharing what you enjoy about writing and editing, Bryan. It was good to see you at conference.


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