Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writing Daily Devotionals, Part One

Writing devotionals is a great way to hone your writing skills, encourage readers and make a little money along the way. 

My next two posts will be short tutorials on the basics of writing devotionals, which I have been writing and publishing for over thirteen years. I don’t claim this to be an all-inclusive guide, but I will share what I have learned from my experience and the blessings I have received along the way.

            Today is an introduction on the what, where and why of devotionals.

            Next week I will describe the process of writing a devotional and also where to get ideas.

OVERALL DEFINITION
            A devotional is a short piece (usually 200 to 500 words) that uses an anecdote or explanation of a gospel text which applies Scripture to daily life to inspire or encourage the reader. A devotional should be positive and uplifting. Even if you are writing on a difficult topic, your goal is to draw the reader closer to God.

DEVOTIONAL BOOKS
            Some devotionals appear in books that are usually titled to appeal to a specific audience, such as men, women, couples, singles, mothers, etc. These may be written by one author or compiled by someone who collects devotionals from other writers. Payment is usually higher for books, involves a contract and longer deadlines. But, in order to write a book of devotionals, you will need to have some samples of your devotional work, and those come from work done for smaller daily devotional booklets.



DAILY DEVOTIONAL BOOKLETS (For our discussion we will deal with this type of devotional)



            Definition: These devotionals are usually published by denominational or smaller publishers. They contain a devotional reading for each day and are often published bi-monthly or quarterly. To write for them you must follow the publication’s specific format and word count. These paperback booklets are usually small enough to slip into your Bible.


            Markets: You can find a list of these daily devotionals in the Christian Writers’ Market Guide. Also in the guide you will find what type of devotionals each publication is looking for, what they want to see in the form of samples (this sample could be one you write yourself, if you haven't published devotionals), and  where to obtain their guidelines. Some examples are:
The Secret Place, Light from the Word and Upper Room. There are some online devotionals (such as Christian Devotions) to write for and they are also mentioned in the market guide.


             Can Be Denominational: Another aspect of daily devotionals is that some are geared to a specific denomination, thus a certain set of beliefs. Some will only use writers from that denomination, and that will also be listed in the market guide.


            Assignment vs. Submission: Some devotionals give assignments and these on average are three to seven devotionals. You will be given about two to three months to complete the assignment. The editor should give you specific scriptures to use and usually a theme.
Some publications accept devotionals through submission only. For these publications you will write the complete devotional, choosing the scripture and then submitting it. If they accept it, they will respond to you within a certain amount of time, which they indicate in the guidelines. Most devotionals accept submissions via email.

            Payment: Most often, you will be paid per devotional, but not all are paying markets. Some pay in copies, but you will get a writing credit. The pay usually ranges from $15 to $35 per devotional and it is usually work-for-hire.


Have devotionals impacted your spiritual growth?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Growth

Last week I attended the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church (August 10 blog). It has always been two days that inspire and cause me to reexamine my life, my goals and how I can better serve and influence others for Christ. This year was no exception.

             The things that I learned at the Summit:
1.  My call to write reaffirmed. When I go to a writers’ conference or any other type of a gathering that explores how I can improve in some area, I ask this question: Does God still want me to write or is there another avenue through which I can serve? I left feeling that, “yes” words are a part of my means to influence others.

2.  Help the Poor. This is a passion of mine that is growing stronger. Every time I go to a venue that challenges me, I get a clearer picture of how I can do this.

3.  Replenish. I need to take time to slow down, relax and participate in activities from which I gain energy. If I don't, I begin to feel depleted and lose my passion for life. I also want to read and have a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

4.  Get Organized. I feel overwhelmed and I think my disorganization is part of the reason.

Sometimes I think I could be a conference junkie. I don’t want to leave once I am there. But, if I don’t leave, I will never grow, nor try to accomplish what I have been inspired to do.

Have you been inspired at a conference recently?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Stretching Time

            
            Thursday and Friday of this week my husband and I will attend the Global Leadership Summit at Willow Creek Community Church, (home base for us) in South Barrington, Illinois.
 The Summit is two days we look forward to every year. It is a gathering of about 8,000 people on the church campus with 185 satellite locations across the country. It is called global because later this year the video of the event will be translated and shown in countries around the world. Those attending are church and corporate leaders and people like me, who may not lead a company or a church, but who want to make a positive difference in others.
            Speakers this year include: Seth Godin, author and renowned marketing blogger; Mama Maggie Gobran, Founder and CEO of Stephens Children Ministry and a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee; Henry Cloud, Clinical Psychologist and author, among others.
As a writer I ask God to show me how He can use my words to influence others. It is also a time for me to stretch my mind and be challenged to think about new ways in which God can use my abilities in the world where I live, and in places I haven’t even considered.
            I’M PUMPED.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Put the Laptop Away . . . For a Time

            This month I have two writing assignments due so I write and edit, and write and edit. Although my writing is important and I want to fulfill my commitments, I also have two precious kids (a niece and nephew) who will never be the same age again that they are this summer. So, I have put aside my deadline for a while to draw and play Lego toys and laugh at things seven-year-olds find funny.
I haven’t been very successful at connecting in the past. I have another nephew who is a mature adult and a gentleman. I turned around a few years ago and he was eighteen and I had hardly introduced myself.
            Writer friends, don’t forget to breathe and spend time with those who are precious to you. Sometimes we get so focused and panicked about our work that we forget the things in our lives that really matter. Oh, the writing is important and I need to spend more time being serious about it. But, for a few days this summer, I will play and laugh and be awed at things the kids think are cool, even though I probably won’t understand what they are talking about!
            Don’t forget to redeem the time.