Writing for Devotional Sites

by Diana C. Derringer

A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings, fishing adventures, middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online devotional submissions.

At first, I wrote devotions solely for print magazines, both freelance and assigned. I knew devotional websites existed and read a few. However, I never seriously considered submitting to them. As I learned more about online opportunities, that gradually changed.

Possibilities

Some magazines publish both online and hard copy. The Upper Room Magazine’s online version maintains a massive community of followers, who not only leave frequent comments for writers but also for one another.

In addition to the devotion, Upper Room invites writers to join a larger online conversation by writing a blog post and sharing a photo the same day their devotions appear. The post may or may not relate to the devotion. It allows readers to learn a bit more about writers’ personal or professional lives. Links to writer websites or blogs often lead to new followers and friends. Other devotional sites, such as Christian Devotions appear exclusively online. Many are non-paying markets. However, their devotions offer a word of encouragement or moment of ministry to a diverse audience. Regular appearances also add to a writer’s platform. I recall walking into The Kentucky Christian Writers Conference one year, and a woman greeted me with, “Oh, I hoped I would meet you here.” She had read my work and seen my picture on the Christian Devotions site. Well-known non-paying sites may lead to writing assignments within the paying market.

I typically offer first rights to paying markets and reprint rights to non-paying.

Preparation

In order to point people to Jesus, many devotional sites suggest writers:

  • Begin with prayer.
  • Study the Bible verse(s) to accompany the devotion.
  • Write on less well-known verses to offer readers a new perspective and increase the likelihood of an editor’s acceptance.
  • Never underestimate the power of personal stories.

What initially appears inconsequential may lead to the most significant devotions. Who would have thought tiny crocheted elephants could have much impact? Yet, they did when first crocheted and later through a devotion about them.

Neither should unpublished writers feel inconsequential. Many devotional sites welcome them along with established and multi-published writers and authors. The sites encourage new writers to follow God’s leadership and take advantage of opportunities to learn and strengthen their craft.

Guidelines

Although details such as word count or preferred Bible version vary, most print or online devotional sites have similar guidelines. Most want a:

  • Short catchy title
  • Bible verse (Some also desire a longer suggested Bible passage.)
  • Devotion related to the verse

Many conclude with a thought for the day and/or a prayer.

Regardless of the subject, editors want writers to stick to one main point. From the title to the closing prayer, everything must tie together. A devotion’s limited word count (often 100-400 words) allows no room for digression. Although it does not offer intense theological study, it does seek to increase the reader’s understanding of the Bible and relationship with God.

Other helpful reminders for online writers:

  • Write simple sentences and short paragraphs.
  • Cut the clutter and write tight.
  • Use active rather than passive verbs.
  • Lead readers to hear, feel, taste, see, or touch the devotional content.
  • Always adhere to the site’s guidelines.

Outlines

Editors expect writers to immediately capture the readers’ attention, tie their introduction to the Bible verse and devotional theme, and relate their summary and application to God’s truth for daily life.

Christian Devotions uses the following format:

  • HOOK: Catch the reader’s interest with a brief story or shocking statement.
  • BOOK: Declare your key point and your interpretation of the passage.
  • LOOK: Present the big picture and offer practical life application lessons and tips.
  • TOOK: Lead to a decision; close with an action statement and challenge the reader to change.

Submissions

Sites vary on the submission method. Some have an online submission page. Others request email submissions with the devotion included either as an attachment or in the body of the email. Those who use attachments typically favor:

  • Word documents
  • Single spacing with a double space between paragraphs and no indents
  • Times New Roman, 12-point font

Writing for devotional sights offer limited financial rewards. However, their eternal worth cannot be measured this side of heaven.

Writing Prompt: Think of a recent event in your life. Use the hook, book, look, and took method to write a brief devotion.

Click to Tweet: A roller-coaster ride, newlywed misunderstandings…middle-of-the-night foster care placements, family health #miracles, and talking fruit trees have all weaved their way into my online #devotional submissions. Story via @InspiredPrompt @DianaDerringer


Diana Derringer is an award-winning writer and author of Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary: 12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter, and More! Hundreds of her devotions, articles, dramas, planning guides, Bible studies, and poems appear in 40-plus publications, including The Upper Room, The Christian Communicator, Clubhouse, Kentucky Monthly, Seek, and Missions Mosaic, plus several anthologies. She also writes radio drama for Christ to the World Ministries. Her adventures as a social worker, adjunct professor, youth Sunday school teacher, and friendship family for international university students supply a constant flow of writing ideas. Visit her at dianaderringer.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Amazon page.


Beyond Bethlehem and Calvary

12 Dramas for Christmas, Easter and More!

Flexibility, ease of production, and themes that meet us where we live make this drama collection suitable for large or small groups, whether in a church setting or on the most rugged mission trip.

Resources for Anyone Who’d Like to Write Devotional Books

By Jennifer Hallmark

The month of November has been all things devotional at the Inspired Prompt and I’ve enjoyed reading each post. But I have a confession to make.

I can’t write devotionals.

Correction. I haven’t been able to write any that have sold. Why? One theory I have is that God has a plan and purpose for each of us and that’s not in my plan. I don’t have a lot of interest in writing them, though I LOVE reading them and always have one by my bedside. Maybe my purpose is to support devotional writers. Hmm. 😊

Anyway, there are wonderful resources out there to help you in your quest to be a devotional writer. I’ll share them with you and maybe one day you’ll publish your own book and I’ll have it on my nightstand.

Blog Posts to Read

How to Write a Devotional: The Definitive Guide (Jerry Jenkins)

Writing Corner: Tips and Tools for Aspiring Authors and Artists (Max Lucado)

Advice to a New Writer of Devotionals ( Amy Boucher Pye)

 

Places You Can Submit Your Devotionals (some pay, some don’t)

Writing for Lifeway

Christian Devotions

The Upper Room

The Life

Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Click to tweet: Resources for the aspiring devotional writer. #devotional #faith

In lieu of a Writing Prompt, share any resources (in the comments below) that you know of to help the aspiring devotional writer. Thanks!

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

 

Hopefully Devoted

by Carlton Hughes

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God has a sense of humor.

Proof of this truth came during the final evening of the 2016 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. A faculty member announced that an editor friend needed new writers for a devotional book. If interested, attendees could drop by the faculty member’s book table for submission information for The Wonders of Nature, about finding God in the great outdoors.

There are two things you should know about me:

  1. At the time, I had never written a devotion and did not consider myself a devotional writer.
  2. I really love . . . the INDOORS! Had it been The Wonders of a Recliner, The Wonders of Air Conditioning, or The Wonders of Salty Snacks, it would have been a natural fit.

Even with these strikes against me, I returned to my room, pulled out my laptop, and prayed my usual prayer, God, give me something! A story came to mind about butterflies. I wrote a rough draft and polished it once I got home the next day. I sent it off and forgot about it.

Several days later, I got an acceptance and ended up signing a contract for ten devotions—me, in a book about nature! After I signed the contract, I sat at the keyboard staring at an empty page. What now, God? My prayer life increased as I searched for things to write about. Slowly but surely, I found the secret to devotional writing—look for God in the everyday moments of life.

I found Him in the most unusual places—a snow-covered football field, a brightly-colored autumn leaf, a rainy morning drive. If we are intentional about seeking Him, we will find Him in the tiniest of details, in the heat of every moment.

What to do when you find Him? Write about it! What is He teaching you in those moments? What scriptures line up with this thing? What prayer do you have to offer based on this situation? Think about that word “devotion.” Are we devoted to God in our everyday lives? How can we show it and give others insight about Him?

[Click to Tweet] God is there—you just have to look. And then write about it.

PROMPT: Go outdoors (or look out the window) and really notice your surroundings. What is the evidence of God there? Write about it.

Freelance Writing: Find Your Strength and Focus

This month’s topic is Freelance Writing. It’s a great way to break into the world of publishing and make a little extra money to boot. Here’s a great thought by my friend, Kathy Cheek. Also check out the information about her new devotional release, First Breath of Morning, at the end of the post…

By Kathy Cheek

As I navigated my freelance writing journey I developed a practice that helped me make decisions and move forward in my goals. Today I will share that with you.

Find Your Strength and Focus, then do the thing you are good at with excellence.

The objective I applied in this practice was to look for areas of God’s blessing. What was I doing that I could see He was actively blessing? Where was He opening doors of opportunity? Where was He closing doors?

This will help examine where you should place your focus and will help you recognize your strengths and keep you from spreading yourself too thinly.

You don’t need to keep doing everything you started out doing. As you move forward after a time of trial and error—trying to see what works and what doesn’t, what you like and don’t like, you will most likely discover what is more beneficial to your goals.

Setting Goals for 2017 by Karen Jurgens

Yes, at first you should try everything and then with experience find the areas which you can narrow and focus.

In my experience it was realizing my strength would be devotional writing since I like to be able to pack a powerful message in few words, similar to a poet or songwriter. But there isn’t a market for poetry and I am not a songwriter.

I had tried feature writing, Bible study pieces, lifestyle blog posts, and inspirational pieces, but kept coming back to the devotional writing with my own style and flare. Then I targeted the devotional market and built a reputation and resume as a devotional writer in print and online.  I worked toward the goal of a devotional book, and my first book, First Breath of Morning, has been published and was just made available this week!  (See Below)

I was much happier and more satisfied when I found my strength and could focus my efforts on a writing style that worked well for me. If that changes, I will change my focus. I think it is also important to be open to our dreams changing and shifting over time. Which brings me to my last two thoughts: Be attentive and follow God’s lead. Be ready for Him to open brand new doors.

Kathy’s book, First Breath of Morning – Where God Waits For You Every Day – A 90 Day Devotional is newly released, click on title for ordering info.

Click to tweet: Want to become a freelance writer? Kathy Cheek says, “Find Your Strength and Focus, then do the thing you are good at with excellence.” #WritingAdvice #amwriting


First Breath of Morning – Where God Waits For You Every Day

First Breath of Morning is multi-themed with 90 devotions in six chapters that portray a beautiful picture of our walk with God through drawing near, growing our relationship, leaning into His love, strengthening our faith, trusting Him through every circumstance, and exalting Him in worship. The messages in First Breath of Morning will refresh your faith and renew your trust in God. First Breath of Morning is an Invitation to the relationship God wants to have with us every day and it starts in the first breath of each new morning where He is already waiting for you.

You can find out more about her book at this link on her Devotions from the Heart website: First Breath of Morning Book Info Page.

First Breath of Morning: Click Here To Purchase Paperback  
Click Here to Purchase eBook.


Kathy Cheek writes faith-filled devotions and is published in LifeWay’s Journey magazine and Mature Living, and also contributes to several devotional sites, including Thoughts About God, Christian Devotions, and CBN.com.

Her favorite subject to write about is the rich relationship God desires to have with us and the deep trust it takes to live it out. She and her husband of 33 years live in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and they have two daughters and one son-in-law who also reside in the Dallas area. You can read more of her devotions at www.kathycheek.com.

Kathy is thrilled to announce her book First Breath of Morning – A 90 Day Devotional was contracted to be published and is now available ! You will find info and a description of the book on her Book News page at Devotions from the Heart.