The more challenging news: perhaps even more so than in other types of writing, you have to ensure that you are carefully writing to the niche audience who reads a particular publication. What works for a magazine that adheres to traditional conservative beliefs won’t resonate with more liberal reformed publications – and what works for a Catholic magazine might not for a Protestant one, and vice versa.
The solution? Read writer’s guidelines carefully for each religious publication and also read sample articles or devotionals so that you can see if your beliefs and writing style are a good match (or not!). Religious magazines often provide themes to follow, so pay close attention to what they are – and make sure that your submission dovetails with the relevant theme. Also ensure that you are using the Bible translation specified by the guidelines.
Focus on Devotionals
Devotionals often follow a typical pattern: Scripture, anecdote, prayer. Often, a publication will specify what Scripture or theme is currently desired. If not, then choose Bible verses that are among your favorites or appropriate for a situation that you want to highlight. Be sure to consider your target audience when writing your devotional. Is it for teens? Busy mothers? People who are chronically ill? Inmates in a prison?
If you have a theme to follow (or one in mind), but you aren’t sure which verses to use as Scripture, use a Bible concordance tool. You can enter a theme or topic – shame, forgiveness, water and the like – to see what verses come up. Then you can choose the best ones for your devotional. You can find several Bible concordance tools here. Make sure that you read the verses before and after the section of the Bible that you choose to use, ensuring that you understand their context. It can be helpful to talk to a member of the clergy for further clarification.
Then, it’s time to write your unique testimony that is related to the chosen Scripture. What situation from your own life or from the lives of people you know – or from news or history – do these Bible verses speak to? What role did God play in that particular situation?
How can you distill this experience into, say, 100 to 300 words? A typical devotional can be as short as 500 words (sometimes, even shorter!) and some of that word count will focus on Scripture and prayer. So, you need to thoughtfully choose which details of your situational anecdote to include. It can be a temptation to include too much and it’s an art form to choose precisely the right details.
You’ll typically end your devotional with a tailor-made prayer. As with any piece of writing, put it away before proofreading – then proofread carefully.
To find appropriate markets for devotionals:
- Read relevant sections of the current year of Writer’s Market
- Read relevant sections of the current year of Christian Writer’s Market Guide
- Do a Google search
I’ve written a book, Everything to God in Prayer: A Writer’s Weekly Devotional, that is being published by Loconeal Publishing. I hope you find it helpful in your own faith-based journey.