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.

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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