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.