So You Want to Write a Devotional Book?

by Shirley Crowder

The Devotional Writer

Before we can look at writing a devotional book, we must first think about the writer. There is one imperative foundational spiritual aspect to writing a devotional book—a consistently growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The depth of that relationship depends upon your communication with God.

Your walk with Christ and your understanding of His Word is strengthened through a powerful prayer life. Your prayer time is rich as you communicate with your Savior. It’s a two-way communication—you talk with God and He talks with you, primarily through His Word. So, a Christ-follower must regularly engage in reading, studying, memorizing, meditating, and contemplating upon God’s Word—being a student of the Word. This means you are digging deep into passages by studying other places in the Bible that speak of the same topic, reading and listening to sermons, teaching, blogs, articles, commentaries, etc.

As the Holy Spirit is teaching you the Word you are also learning to apply that Word in your life. It is upon this foundation of truth that you begin to recognize biblical truth and insights in and through everything you observe.

Gather Ideas

My co-writing friend, Harriet E. Michael, and I talk about “thinking devotionally” which means that as we go about our lives, we see biblical truths in the things we observe and hear. These spark ideas for devotionals, so we get these ideas jotted down quickly.

Look-up stickyThese can be handwritten or typed notes or even voice memos to yourself. I also keep a prayer journal and sermon/Bible study notes from which many of my devotionals come.

These don’t have to be written in complete grammatically-correct sentences. Bullet points or phrases that record enough of what you saw and thought of will jog your memory later on.

My Approach

Pray! Choose a topic. It can be narrow, such as: Advent Meditations; or it can be broader, “New Beginnings.” Some devotionals take one specific passage, Psalm 23, for instance.

Pray! Decide how many devotions will be in your book. Some are 30 days, 365 days, and everything in between.

Pray! Determine the length. Most suggestions I’ve seen tell you to keep it between 250-500 words per piece. The devotionals in the books I have written are between 600-900 words per devotional.

Pray! Choose the audience to whom you want to write. Devotionals written specifically for single women are different from those written specifically for married women.

Pray! Sometimes a Scripture passage comes to mind before the specific devotional thought. Sometimes the biblical truth comes to mind with the devotional thought and I discover the right passage in my study. I do a biblical study of the topic, making notes of passages and their meanings and applications. It is imperative that you do a thorough study of all Scripture passages you use so that you are not taking things out of context or misquoting the passage. Make sure you note the version of Scripture you are quoting.

Pray! Remember to give credit to the appropriate resource for quoted material.

Pray! Start writing. Don’t edit and rewrite, just get your thoughts down first. Then go back for edits and rewrites. When all the devotionals for one book are completed, I like to lay the manuscript aside for several weeks. Then, I read it again with fresher eyes.

Structure

I suggest you go to a bookstore or library and look at devotional books to get an idea of a format/structure you like. Keep in mind that traditional publishing houses often have a format/structure they want you to follow.

Most devotionals follow a basic structure:

Scripture Passage/Verse
Be sure the wording matches the version you want to quote and make certain you follow the grammar, punctuation, and capitalization for that version.

Devotional Thought
This is something that helps the reader connect and apply the Scripture Passage/Verse. Don’t try to copy someone else’s writing style—let your personality come through, as frightening a thought as that may be😊. I often teach/talk aloud through the devotional thought which helps me choose the words I use in writing it.

Prayer
Include in the prayer aspects of thanksgiving and petition that related to the devotional.

Thought for the Day/Action Point
What do you want them to think about during the day? What do you want them to do as a result of the Holy Spirit’s work in their heart through the Scripture and your words?

All the devotionals are written, now what?

Lay the manuscript aside for several weeks. Then get out your purple (OK, most folks would say red, but not me!) pen and start editing and rewriting. I also suggest you have at least one other person read the manuscript and give you an honest evaluation. I find it helpful to find someone with similar biblical/theological views and understanding.

purple penEven if you are good at grammar, spelling, and punctuation, you need to have an editor work on your manuscript. By the time I’m at this stage of the process I’m so familiar with the devotionals and know what I MEANT TO SAY that I often do not see that I didn’t SAY WHAT I THOUGHT I DID!

Look back at some of the past InspiredPrompt.com blogs on publishing: traditional, assisted/partnership, or Indie for information about getting your book published.

 

Click to Tweet: Don’t try to copy someone else’s writing style—let your personality show through your writing.

Writing Prompt: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 NIV. Take this thought and using my structure mentioned above, write a devotional thought. Share it below if you’d like…


Glimpses of the Savior

Final_Front_cover50 Meditations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year
In early November, we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings behind these celebrations. We can guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek Him as we focus on God’s Word, and by remembering that Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. Then, as we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do where He has called us to do them, we catch Glimpses of the Savior and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe. These devotionals are based on memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations in Africa and America. May the Holy Spirit work through these meditations to help readers recognize Glimpses of the Savior in the things they observe, and become skilled at finding Jesus among the celebrations and decorations.

Order from Amazon

 

Freelance Writing for Newspapers

by Shirley Crowder

newspaperRecently I was asked, “How did you get your articles published in a newspaper?” I laughed and said, “I read my Facebook (FB) comments.” I knew from the confused look on this man’s face that I should fill in more details. I continued, “I called an FB friend whose comment on one of my Christmas posts was, ‘Call me’ followed by his telephone number … I called!”

This friend, Harry Butler, coordinates writers for “Paper Pulpit” in the Faith section of  The Gadsden (Alabama) Times. He told me to expand one of my posts and email it to him. Why limit carols to Christmas? was published in the online and print editions in February 2014. My articles continue being published—when I have sense enough to write and send them!

Let’s look at some things I have learned about writing for newspapers. I hope some of these will spur you on to identify, investigate, and submit articles for publication in newspapers.

Aren’t Newspapers Obsolete?

Not at all! Newspapers today are not the same as they were when I grew up. In those days you had four main sources of news: television, radio, print newspapers, and news magazines. You couldn’t find the news any time of the night or day, you had to wait until the newscast came on, the newspaper was delivered, and for the magazine to hit the stands or your mailbox. Not so, now. You can go online and find news about events, places, and people all over the world, at any time of the night and day.

Don’t limit your scope.

When you think of newspapers, be sure to include the online news sources, not just the daily newspapers. Think print AND online.

  • Many denominations have weekly or monthly conference or associational newspapers.
  • Communities often have their own small newspapers and are looking for articles on a wide range of topics.
  • News websites often need writers.
  • Clubs, Organizations, and Associations are looking for articles about the passion or focus of their club, organization, or association.

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

As with any writing project you need to do research. Here are some suggestions on how to get started:

INvestigateInvestigate

The most important step in writing for newspapers, as it is with any writing, is to investigate newspapers/news sources.

  • What newspaper is for and about your city, county, state, etc.?
  • Buy or download a copy each day for a week or so and read them cover-to-cover, making note of the type articles in each section on each day of the week that are things you could write about.
  • As you’re investigating and getting to know the newspaper, look on their website and get the submission guidelines and procedures. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines and procedures. (NOTE: Many newspapers now have online portals through which articles can be submitted.)
  • Does the paper accept articles from freelance writers? If not, don’t discount this newspaper. See the section below, “Other ways to be published in a newspaper.”
  • What types of articles will they accept: fiction, non-fiction, real-life accounts, humorous stories, historical accounts, etc.?
  • What is the newspaper’s preferred style of writing? Do they prefer articles that are more folksy than formal?
  • How many words do they want for articles?
  • What topics have they covered recently? What ideas did those give you for articles at different times of the year: summer, start of school, Christmas, etc.?
  • What types of people, places, events, and things do they tell about in their newspaper?
  • Does the newspaper have a foundational political point of view? If so, does it match yours?

Think about …

You may get an inroad at a newspaper by writing an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a book review.

writeWrite

Now you can begin writing your article, keeping in mind all the things you learned about what types of articles the paper publishes.  

  • Make certain to follow their submission guidelines. How many words? Is there a specified font size and line spacing?
  • I always find it helpful to put whatever I am writing aside for a day or so and go back for a careful edit and proof. Then, proof it again! It is also a good idea to have at least one other person proof your writing before you submit it.

sendPitch / Submit

From the submission guidelines, you will know whether you need to send a pitch/inquiry or just submit your article.

If you are to submit a pitch/inquiry, be as concise as possible. Many editors say you should be able to state in one sentence what the article will be about. Remember Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet saying, “Just the facts.” The pitch or inquiry should include:

  • The headline or article title.
  • Some articles have a line that appears just below the heading that describes what the article will be about. You will know from your investigative work if articles similar to yours need to have one.
  • Write a paragraph that briefly describes the article.
  • Give them a bullet-point listing of your published articles, including the date of publication and the publication name. Do not embellish here.
  • Do not send attachments unless specified in the submission guidelines. Only send pictures if they request them.
  • Be patient as you wait for a response. Usually, the submission guidelines tell you in what time-frame they will respond to you and how they will respond, via email, snail mail, etc.
  • Keep writing and submitting articles while you wait!
  • Some newspapers pay for articles and some do not. The submission guidelines will specify this. If you are trying to break into freelance newspaper writing, you may want to write some free articles or articles that don’t pay much to get some articles in your writing portfolio.
  • If they accept your pitch/submission, be certain to meet their deadline, and if possible, get it in a little early. Editors will love you!
  • If your pitch/submission is rejected, carefully evaluate your article and submit it to another newspaper. Write another article and submit it to the same newspaper.

What idea do you have that would make a good newspaper article?

Click to Tweet: Do you have a great idea for a newspaper article? #amwriting #newspapers #inspiredprompt

Let’s Chat with Two Christian Publishers

by Shirley Crowder

I am proud to introduce two “small”—perhaps in name recognition in some circles, but not in production of Christ-edifying books—Christian publishing houses you may not be familiar with but need to know about. I have close connections with both, and yes, I’m proudly partial to both of them!

I’m excited for you to “listen” as I chat with Jan Haley of Focus Publishing and Jim Holmes of Shepherd Press.

At the end of the interview you’ll find more info about Jan Haley /  Focus Publishing and Jim / Shepherd Press.

Let’s get started!


What advantages are there in publishing through a smaller Christian publisher?

Jan: If you find a publisher that has an established market in your writing target, you will be more likely to reach a successful audience. A successful, smaller Christian publisher has refined their niche market and there you will find your customers.

Jim: Working with a smaller Christian publisher does facilitate a higher level of intimacy with the staff there and yet also brings the benefits of professional editing, production, and things like marketing and distribution portals.

Trends in Christian publishing are ever changing. Are there any of which our readers need to know?

Jim: I guess there is the good and the not-so-good! On the positive side, book production is getting better and better. We have access to great software that enables better graphic production, nicer book layout and design, and some efficiencies that facilitate much better outcomes. Not so positively, some publishers are less discerning on what they will bring into print, and there is always the temptation to print and promote a book because of commercial rather than ministry priorities. I always like to encourage authors, whether established or would-be ones, that the publisher that will do best for them is the one that is informed by biblical standards and is committed to a God-glorifying approach in the whole process.

Jan: I like to keep a pulse on current social problems and publish biblical resources to help hurting and confused people and to offer hope. For us, that means providing biblical answers not found in psychology.  It is a priority that our books be 100% biblical. Christian publishers also need to help keep the church of Jesus Christ accountable for their response to the “trends” in our culture today.

If someone has a “really great” idea for a book, is there a process you recommend for developing that idea?

Jan: You must develop and write that “great” book before you send it to a publisher.  I would suggest starting with an outline, research what you want to say, and then begin to “flesh it out.”  After you have written a chapter, set it aside for a week or more and then re-visit it, editing and making changes as they become obvious.  For me, Scripture quotations must be absolutely accurate, for example.  If you quote something, footnote the source.  Pay attention to detail.

Jim: Test it out with a small focus group and measure the response!

What are some common mistakes authors make when working with a publisher and submitting a manuscript? AND/OR What would you have them do differently?

Jim: For anyone proposing a manuscript, the key thing to keep in mind is to state VERY succinctly what the book is all about.

Jan: An author really needs to seek the help of an editor who can help them determine whether they are staying on message or drifting off on “rabbit trails.”  Do that before you send the manuscript to a publisher.

What does your publishing house look for in a manuscript?

Jan: Because we are a small publishing house, we look to fill a counseling void, or at least a void in our catalog.  We have found that shorter “booklets” are very popular.  This is not surprising in our “McDonalds” culture.  We want our food fast and our answers fast.  We believe our large collection of booklets supply that desire.

Jim: We’re interested in writing projects that will glorify God in meeting needs and three criteria, as Tedd Tripp so well states, the text should be (a) gospel-driventhe grace of the gospel is not just for sinners; it is for saints, too. (b) The work should be heart focused. Lasting growth takes place as the heart is changed by grace. And, (c), the submission should be writing that will have a life-changing effect on readers.

What do you like best about your interactions with your authors?

Jim: It’s important, in my mind, to help authors express themselves in their own words, and yet in a medium that requires editorial development and very specific care. And I love teasing out how visual metaphors (as in cover designs and book typography) can help express these in practical ways, that are meaningful to the end users of the book once it is in print.

Jan: I know the depth of Bible study these men and women have completed to be in (mostly) counseling and pastoral situations, pointing people to God’s Word for hope and help with their struggles in life. I am more than honored and humbled to be part of their ministries, as they are part of ours.

How can our readers pray for you personally and your publishing house?

Jan: Pray that we can stay so close to the Lord that we may feel the “pulse” of what Christians need to help them grow spiritually.  Pray that God will continue to bless our efforts here so that more people in this generation will realize there is only one true source of hope and help in this world today.

Jim: Please pray for us in the ministry of Shepherd Press that we would be guided by the Lord in all matters and that we would stay faithful to Him in each detail of His calling to us. These are challenging days, and it is vital that we be sensitive to the needs and challenges of ministry the times in which He has called us to serve.

Click to Tweet: I loved learning how to work with “smaller” Christian Publishers, @focusresources1 and @shepherdpress, from @ShirleyJCrowder #publishing #amwriting http://bit.ly/2NtjlLt

After you read about these publishers and their publishing houses, you will want to go to my blog: ThroughtheLensofScripture.com to find (As Paul Harvey would say) “The rest of the story.”


Jan & StanJan Haley

Jan says, “It has been amazing for me to look back and see how God has sent resources that would grow what I consider to be His Company and our ministry.  One book has led to another, and that to another and so on.”

Jan is the founder and owner.  She pretty much makes all the major decisions about the company and which resources to publish, editing as she reads. 

Jan says, “I am both humbled and excited about the quality of books we publish, knowing that as we depend on God through His Holy Spirit, He has brought the authors and resources to our door.  What a joy it is to be useful to the Kingdom.”

Visit: Focus Publishing

Follow Focus Publishing:
Twitter: @focusresources1
Facebook:  Focus Publishing   

JiJimHolmesm Holmes

Jim says, “I love to say that Shepherd Press is a small publisher with a big heart. The key point to make is that Shepherd Press is committed to producing books that are life changing, but with changes being driven from the heart, that is, a heartfelt response to the truths that are written in each book.”

 Jim’s role is a fairly broad-spectrum one. He has some oversight when it comes to submissions, and is also involved in several of the editing and production aspects, as well as new-idea development and strategic thinking.

Jim says, “It is stimulating work being involved with talented authors, and I love the interface with our cover designers and typesetters.”

Visit: Shepherd Press and Shepherd Press blog

Follow Shepherd Press:
Twitter: @shepherdpress
Facebook: Shepherd Press

“Glimpses of the Savior” – Now Available

Final_Front_coverGlimpses of the Savior:
50 Meditations on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year expanded 2nd edition with 50 devotionals is available today!

In early November we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings of these celebrations.

Let’s guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek God as we focus on His Word. Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is a celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. As we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do during this busy time, while remaining focused on Him, we catch “glimpses of the Savior” and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe.

These devotionals are based on memories of holiday celebrations in Africa and America.

Today (Tuesday 9/4) only, get the Kindle version for just 99¢

The authors, Shirley Crowder and Harriet E. Michael, are lifelong friends whose parents served as missionaries in Nigeria, West Africa. Their friendship has spanned across two continents, myriad states, and many, many years.

Finding Jesus Among the Celebrations and Decorations

Available on Amazon in Print and Kindle versions.

Follow Shirley at: Through the Lens of Scripture, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter
Follow Harriet at: Harriet E. Michael blog, Amazon, and Facebook

InspPrmpt-give-away

Indie Authoring – With Help

byquill Shirley Crowder

Indie Authors Gail Johnson and Carlton Hughes are our special guests today.

From whom did your love of books (reading and writing) and storytelling come?
GAIL: My love for reading came from my mom. Writing and storytelling is, I believe, a gift from God. In the past when I couldn’t speak about my emotions, I could always write about them.
CARLTON: My parents and grandparents encouraged me to read and to tell my stories. My big extended family loves to tell stories, so it was natural. I had an English and Journalism teacher who stayed with me from 8th grade through freshman college composition, and I credit him with my love of writing and my knowledge of the mechanics.

What advice do you have for people who “think” they want to become a writer?
GAIL: Writing is labor-intensive and time-consuming. To become a better writer, one must study the craft. To do that takes discipline and commitment. But the rewards are well worth the sacrifice when you know you’re fulfilling your purpose.
CARLTON: Learn the “mechanics” before you do anything. Know grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. Get some instruction on your particular area (fiction, nonfiction, devotionals, etc.). Conferences are great and have helped me immensely, but there are great resources online. Polish, polish, polish that piece before you send it out.

During the process of being published, what did you learn that changed (will change) the way you work on and write future books?
GAIL: I learned to enjoy the journey and to view my mistakes as stepping stones. I’m learning, and I hope I never get too old not to take a chance. How boring life would be!
CARLTON: I didn’t understand how to work with an editor, and I learned how to self-edit, how to keep the main point of the piece while cutting unnecessary words.

What are some advantages of being an Indie Author?
GAIL: Time … gives me the needed breaks for rest and recuperation on the bad days.
CARLTON: A bit more freedom in what you write and your writing/publishing schedule.
Implied by both is that Indie Authors have more control over what they write, when they write, and all other aspects of the writing/publishing process.

Does being a Christ-follower limit or increase your writing opportunities?
GAIL: Being a Christ-follower limits my writing opportunities because there are some subjects or scenes I refuse to write. On the other hand, my writing opportunities are also increased for the same reason. Who better to share the Gospel than one who has experienced it first-hand?
CARLTON: I have always said if God gives me opportunity I will take it and do the writing, so I think it increases my opportunities. Without Christ I would not have the publications I have had.

Name some author friends and how they have encouraged you to become a better writer.
GAIL:

  • Sandra Byrd—I spent two years under her expert tutelage in the Christian Writer’s Guild. She was a substantive editor for my memoir.
  • Dawn Kinzer—Because of her encouragement as a copy editor for my memoir, I don’t see the editing process as something to be dreaded.
  • Betty Thomason Owens—My critique leader. I love her teaching style that has a way of getting the very best from you as a writer.

CARLTON:

  • Sandra Aldrich—The first person who believed in me and encouraged me to submit my writing.
  • Jan Watson—Encouraged me to pursue my dreams and to share about life in Eastern Kentucky. She proved to me that you can be a “bi-vocational” writer.
  • Cyle Young—My agent was the first person in the industry who “got me” and my style of writing. He pushes me to be my best and to learn the industry.

If you were to write under a pseudonym, what would your pseudonym be?
GAIL: Ooh, I had to think about this one. I’m not sure about the last name, but the first name would be Hope. Everything I write has a thread of hope woven into it.

CARLTON: C. Wayne. Wayne is my middle name, and some of my family members still call me that.

Click to Tweet: Indie Authors have more control over what they write, when they write, and all other aspects of the writing/publishing process. #IndieAuthors #AmWriting


Gail Johnson head shot 10Gail Johnson
Born and raised in Georgia, Gail is the daughter of the South. For me, it gets no better than southern living. It’s a laid-back easy-going kinda life. I’m married to the man of my dreams, and we have two beautiful kids. Most days you can find me writing or sitting in my backyard thinking about writing.

Website: https://gailjohnsonauthor.com
Twitter: @GailJohnson87
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gailjohnsonauthor

Get Gail’s book, Treasures of Hope at: https://amzn.to/2OKHF87


CarltonCarlton Hughes
I am a professor of communication at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College and Children’s Pastor at Lynch Church of God. I’m also a freelance writer who has been published in numerous publications, including several devotional books. (He’s a comedian too, !)

Twitter: @carltonwhughes
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carlton.hughes.73?ref=br_rs
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlton-hughes-03442564/