Friday, September 10, 2010

Writing Devotionals (Part 7 of 7)

"How do you write them?" I get that question often. Or they say, "Only 200 words. I can do that."

I respond with, "That's right, but make them 200 important, necessary words."

Here are three simple things to bear in mind.

1. Look at the requirements of each devotional publisher. Do they take electronic submissions? only hard copy? Some publishers use the Lectionary (and if you don't know what that is, you need to find out). Or they select a biblical book for an entire issue. Some use only the NRSV translation. Follow their guidelines. (You can find guidelines online, by contacting the publisher, or in Sally Stuart's annual Christian Writers' Market Guide.)

2. Make certain your meditation carries a single focus—one idea. Here's the method I use when I'm not sure. I ask myself, "What one noun best describes the material?" Is it forgiveness? compassion? commitment? That word becomes my focus and before it goes to the proofreading stage, I ask, "Have I written anything that detracts from that single theme?" That's when I delete extraneous words.

3. Provide a takeaway value. Every devotional needs to share a lesson you've learned. Again, this sounds like the personal experience articles and it's similar—but briefer. You need to answer this question: "So what?"

As a final word on devotionals, this is an excellent place to make your first sales. It’s an opportunity to polish your writing skills, and this kind of writing also reinforces your commitment to send in material regularly. Small successes such as sales of meditations can encourage you to keep learning.

Follow guidelines.
Make certain you answer the so-what question.


  1. Thanks for this series Cec! Can't wait to see what your next topic will be.

    Jodie Wolfe

  2. I especially appreciate your second point: "What one noun best describes the material?" That makes sense to me - so simple, yet profound.

    Thanks Cec!

  3. Thanks, Cec, for these insights on writing devotionals.


  4. Mind if I put a link on my blog to this series? wb

  5. Warren, yes, you may link to Cec's blog. Thanks for asking.

  6. This has been a wonderful series, and I appreciate all that you've shared in each post, Cec!


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