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Writing Devotionals for Publication

This post updated 4-21-16. New info is in bold font in Learning from the Masters section.

Do you regularly read a daily devotional magazine? Devotions are short, so they should be easy to write, wouldn’t you think? I used to think that, but, after writing some for publication, I discovered that it’s not easy at all. The fact that devotions are limited to 200-250 words means that you have to hook your reader in the first sentence and make your point in as few words as possible.

Writing Devotions for Publication

If you’re interested in writing devotions for publication, start by choosing a couple of your favorite Bible verses. Start writing down what that verse means to you, what it says to you, and how you’ve applied that verse in your life. When you’re finished, check the word count. If you wrote more than 250 words, try cutting the word count until you have 250. Perhaps what you originally wrote would make two devotionals.

Once you’ve got the required word count on the devotional itself, decide where you will submit it. You’ll need to find the writers’ guidelines for that publication and follow them to the letter. Many publications now have their guidelines online. For example, see The Upper Room’s guidelines page. Format the devotional and send it to the editor following directions in the guidelines. Then, you wait. For some publications, you’ll get an answer within a couple of months. Others will take longer, and, for some, you will never hear anything. Usually, the guidelines will tell you how long you have to wait for an answer.

Submitting devotions for publication can be very discouraging. Rejections will probably outnumber acceptances. However, when you do have a devotion in print, you’ll get feedback from readers that makes it all worthwhile. One of my early published devotions was in The Secret Place. I received a phone call from a local reader who told me that my devotion was just the message she needed for that day. Priceless.

Learning from the Masters

I’ve found online sources on devotional writing from some of the best.

  • First, learn from Cecil Murphey who has written, co-written, or ghostwritten more than 100 books, including the best sellers 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands. He has a blog series on devotional writing on his Writer to Writer blog.
  • In his blog, Jerry Jenkins has posted an article authored by Dr. Dennis Hensley, “How to Write a Devotional.” Excellent tutorial! There is also a free download, Surefire Ideas for Devotionals, at the same link. (This info added 9-29-15).
  • Lawrence Wilson, former editor at Wesleyan Publishing House, now a pastor, wrote this guide to devotional writing. It’s online as PDF here. (Note: If you use Google Chrome, the PDF may not open spontaneously when you click the link. Chrome displays downloaded file names on a ribbon across the bottom of the screen. Click on the file name to open the PDF. If you don’t find the file there, go to your Downloads folder to open it).
  • John Vonhof has four books and two booklets to his credits. His articles have appeared in numerous Christian and secular publications, and on many web sites. John is a speaker at writers conferences, having taught at the Mt. Hermon, Florida, and Castro Valley Christian Writers Conferences, the Bay Area Independent Publishers Conference, as well as several smaller conferences. His Writers Conference Guidelines site contains a wealth of information on how to get started writing for publication, including a couple of articles on writing devotionals.

Readers, have you found good tutorials on writing devotionals? Have you had success publishing devotionals? Please share your experience with us by commenting.

4 Responses to Writing Devotionals for Publication

  1. Paula April 22, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    My first publication with a devotional was with The Upper Room. As a matter of fact, I’ve found a great deal of success with this type of writing. I also rather enjoy it. As you say, it’s more challenging to write a meditation. We can all write “long.” Trimming and being able to make a point in a minimum of words puts my editing skills to work.

    I have also heard from friends who read my work (they saw my byline and wanted to let me know how the devotional blessed them). This is the best reason to keep writing: knowing that my words have done a little to help someone with encouragement, comfort or in their walk with God.

  2. Emily Akin April 23, 2015 at 7:12 am #

    Thanks for the comment. I agree that writing devotionals is a challenge—maximum impact with minimum number of words. I’ve had the same experience with people contacting me about a published devotion. It’s very rewarding.

  3. Denise Kohlmeyer April 13, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Hi Emily,
    I’m starting this journey into devotional writing. What a learning curve! Your blog was very helpful. Full of good info and insights. I’ve submitted to both The Secret Place and The Upper Rooom. But the wait!!! It can be up to two years. Torture..but there’s a good lesson I. Patience and trust there.
    But I do have an article being published in Today’s Christian Living in July. So excited!!!
    I do have s question though. Can I write devotions and submit to a variety of sites simultaneously, or is this frowned upon?

  4. Emily Akin April 13, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Glad my info is helpful to you, Denise. Yes, the wait time from submit to publication is long, much longer than it used to be. But, I give the publishers credit for accepting submissions from anyone and everyone. They could limit submissions, but they don’t. Congrats on Today’s Christian Living success That’s quite a feather in your hat. Answer to your question: most publications will state specifically in their guidelines whether they accept simultaneous submissions. They ask that you inform them that it is simultaneous. Plus, if they later want to publish it, you are expected to tell them if someone else has published it first. They’ll pay more for first rights than for reprint rights. Upper Room and Secret Place do not mention simultaneous submissions in their guidelines, because they want first rights. Prayers for your continued persistence and success.

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