Monday, March 12, 2012

Touching Your Readers Through Devotionals

Jo Huddleston

Successful writers strive to touch their readers and prompt them to action or reaction. An effective way to do this is through writing devotionals. When a particular subject has influenced you, you have a passion you can share through a devotional.

 However, the devotional is not your avenue to preach to your reader or to be judgmental. If this is your agenda when you write a devotional, you will likely lose the reader’s attention soon after she begins reading your article.

Writing devotionals will give you opportunities to offer your reader hope, not a sermon. Avoid using words like must, should, and ought. Also avoid lofty and theological vocabulary. The devotional is not a formal paper. Write clear and precise prose from an ordinary person’s viewpoint.
Devotionals, sometimes called meditations, fall into the category of a quick read. Don’t be misled, however, into thinking that short on length endorses the absence of quality writing. Devotionals should meet the same requirements of good writing as any other manuscript worthy of publication.

The format of your devotional may vary from magazine to magazine. Word length may also vary but not to a great extent. Meditations known as daily devotionals usually contain about 250 words and have similar format. Meditations other than daily devotionals can range upwards to 600 words.
 Most devotionals begin with a Bible verse, followed by the story narration and application and usually end with a one- or two-line prayer that summarizes the entire devotional. Before you start writing your devotional know your target publication’s specific format and word length requirements as stated in their guidelines.

 Passion and Emotion
Devotionals that impact your reader are ones you write from your heart, not your head. Yes, your ideas begin in your head but if you don’t have passion for that idea in your heart, you won’t touch your reader as well as you can when the passion is present. Devotional writing must be sincere and honest; don’t try to fake the passion. You can’t. Readers can spot a phony.

When you begin your devotional, you will have your idea first but you already will have experienced a compelling emotion about this idea. And the idea, combined with your compelling emotion about it, forms a powerful devotional.

In your devotional, write about common things that are known to most people. Don’t use an example unfamiliar to a general audience.

Through a devotional, you can give your reader meaningful insight into commonplace situations. Be attentive to what’s happening around you and discover how stories in the Bible pertain to your activities.

The focus of a devotional is narrow. With its length restrictions, the devotional can’t take your reader through the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. You don’t have time to tell what Adam, Moses, David, and the twelve disciples thought about your topic. To focus in your devotional is like looking through a telescope. You can’t see an entire galaxy, but look at one star at a time. Each devotional should focus on only one point.

The Take-away
A well-written devotional can offer your reader encouragement in his circumstances. Give him a “take-away,” something beneficial in your story that he can use in his everyday living. Through your devotionals, you can touch your reader on an emotional level, an experience he won’t soon forget.
Everyday incidents can remind us of how God works in lives. Perhaps you have discovered a special meaning from a Bible verse you’ve studied. Maybe God has become real to you while working through a difficult situation.
Your readers so they may apply what you’ve experienced to their lives. An impressive devotional has a take-away value for your readers that is meaningful not only immediately, but for days and weeks to come.

The audience for devotionals is widespread when published in some daily devotionals. A popular daily devotional guide, The Upper Room, is read or listened to by eight to ten million people in forty different languages.

Marketing Your Devotional
When you look in market guides you will find an extensive listing of religious magazines. Some of them state a need for “inspirational” articles, which sometimes can be interpreted to mean devotional-type articles. Read the information given for each magazine and request writers’ guidelines from those periodicals that interest you. Be sure to enclose your SASE for a reply if you request by mail.

Many selections for daily devotionals are written on assignment only. When you choose a daily devotional you want to write for, send a brief letter stating your interest in writing for them. Ask how you can gain an assignment. Some use only writers from their denomination, and aren’t easily deceived if you try to write like you are one of them when you aren’t.
 Many daily devotionals use first-time writers. They publish 365 meditations each year, making this market more open to writers than some.

Rights Offered
Appearing in several publications lessens the impact of the short but widely distributed daily devotional. For that reason, when you write on assignment for daily devotional publications, expect them to ask for all rights to your manuscript. When deciding whether you want to relinquish your rights, weigh the value to you of the vast audience you will touch and the reach of your story to affect people’s lives.

Getting Paid
Although great monetary wealth is unusual when selling your devotionals, the opportunities for Christian ministry are great. Because of circulation into the hundreds of thousands, a writer of devotionals can reach far more readers and touch many more lives than a first printing of a book that is usually 5,000-20,000 copies. Your story in the Billy Graham Association’s Decision magazine will reach almost 2 million people and The Lookout magazine’s circulation exceeds 100,000.
Why write devotionals? Through a good devotional, you can give your readers hope and encouragement to help them in their daily lives. After reading your devotional, readers can identify with your main idea and perhaps say, “I never knew anyone else felt like this.”
Write your devotional well, and it will touch your reader and help him to deal with life’s situations.

  Jo Huddleston is an author and inspirational writer. Visit her at