Do you need to hone your writing skills? Would you like to become more focused and concise? Write a devotion! Short, sweet, and powerful, these small pieces deliver a huge reward. Not only are they a valuable exercise, but if published, they build credentials, expand your platform, and prove you are a writer.
In this week’s blog, we will center on the essentials of crafting a devotion or inspirational message.
What are the basic components?
How do we edit our words to meet those stringent guidelines?
How can we present a well-developed article that is suitable for publication?
Next week, we will look at industry terminology, important guidelines, and some of the opportunities for seeing it in print.
First, let me say that I am partial to devotion writing. This was my introduction into the publishing world. In 1999,
I met Robert White in a TV studio while we were both waited to be interviewed. As a result of that chance encounter, he asked me If I would contribute to his devotional,The Spirit-Filled Life. I was thrilled! Within a year, my devotion appeared alongside Reinhardt Bonnke and other well-known Christian figures. A few years later, CBN online magazine featured another submission, “The Garden of His Delight.”
Devotions are short, generally 250-400 words in length. By design, they are read in one sitting. Devotions are sweet. Their message uplifts, encourages, and even injects a little humor. And devotions are powerful! A well-crafted piece will cause the reader to pause and think about its message. The basics include…
- The title.
- A scripture/quote/ or meaningful saying
- The message.
- Prayer/thought for the day/ challenge/ action step
The essentials can change when writing for a particular devotional like “The Upper Room” or a publishing house. They often require specific guidelines. If you decide to self-publish your own collection, create your format and consistently use it throughout the entire work.
One approach is to select a favorite scripture/quote and use it to become a springboard for the rest of the message. How is it meaningful to you? What truths do you find in the passage? Or, you may begin with a story or example that is eventually partnered with a verse. Above all, remember to concentrate on only one point and build the devotion around it.
Christian Devotions offers this formula for creating a well-rounded submission:
- Hook– Catch the reader’s interest with a brief story or shocking statement
- Book -Declare your key point or theme and your interpretation of the passage
- Look -Present the big picture and offer a practical application
- Took – Lead to a decision, offer an action statement. Challenge the reader to change.
The most challenging part of this type of writing is the message itself.
What does that mean? It means to select specific, descriptive words that develop your idea. Eliminate the urge to ramble, jump to other subjects, and become too wordy. When you write these short works, words are precious. Make them count. As you edit, ask “what descriptive noun or verb could I use that would communicate my idea more concisely?”
For example, the long version: My brother Jack and I decided we wanted to get a drink. He is two years older than I am, but I manage to keep up with him. He has black hair and mine is brown. The closest well was up a craggy, slippery slope. But, we grabbed a bucket (mom told us to bring some water back) and we started. Jack and I sang songs along the way. We skipped and hopped and I stopped to pick a few flowers. The sun was shining. It was a glorious day! We began to climb up, up, up the green grassy hillside.
The short version: Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.
Edit any extraneous thoughts.
Write your devotion. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. And rewrite again. Does it fit the target word count? Edit again.
When you are able to tell your story in a few short paragraphs, your overall writing skills will see a marked improvement. Devotions discipline us as writers and train us to become effective communicators.
I challenge you this week to craft your own inspirational message.
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