The fire is crackling, the Christmas tree is lit, and snowflakes are gently falling on the window pane. We’re in the midst of one of the most beautiful and heartwarming seasons of the year, but there are people in the world who are struggling, heartbroken, and searching.
We have the gift of writing, which allows us to share our reflections and encourage others who may really need it this holiday season. Good, salable devotional writing takes a combination of originality, relatability, and genuineness. If you’ve toyed with the idea of creaking open your corporate closet to explore another genre, devotional writing for religious blogs or publishers is highly fulfilling. Let’s look at how to write holiday devotions with an editor’s eye.
Devotionals Should Be Original.
No one wants to read the same, old clichés. Most devotional magazines I’ve written for, including The Secret Place, have requested more obscure Bible verses and passages from their writers. Why? Because using uncommonly known Bible passages gives readers the chance to learn something new. When you consider a lesser known scripture verse, editors will be more likely to purchase your submission. The same applies to the examples you use in your devotion. According to The Upper Room‘s writers’ guidelines, “Very familiar illustrations have little impact and should not be used.”
Devotions Relate to People.
Start with a verse and then link it with an example that will help people relate to it, or vice versa. The example you use could be something from your own life or something you know. Either way, be sure to use descriptive language to draw the reader into your story.
“Use language and examples that appeal to the five senses. Tell what you heard, saw, touched, smelled, tasted. When appropriate, use dialogue to tell your story,” states The Upper Room’s writers’ guidelines.
The Secret Place also recommends that you use inclusive language so that your devotions can reach people from a variety of backgrounds, including men and women, young and old, different races, rural and urban. You should consider using inclusive language in any devotions you write, unless the devotional magazine you’re writing for has a specific audience. In that case, you should focus your writing with that audience in mind. Also be aware of the devotional magazine’s denominational affiliation.
Write Honest Devotionals.
Good, inspirational holiday devotions come from a place of honesty and genuineness. You can’t touch someone’s life through your writing unless you’re willing to reflect on the scripture and write from your heart.
According to The Upper Room, “Good devotional writing is first of all authentic. It connects real events of daily life with the ongoing activity of God. It comes across as the direct, honest statement of personal faith in Christ and how that faith grows. It is one believer sharing with another an insight or struggle about what it means to live faithfully.”
With that in mind, you don’t want to come across as being preachy. Examples of preachy language, as stated in The Upper Room’s guidelines include, “You should…,” “You need to…,” and “We must….” Good devotional writers don’t tell people what to do or what not to do; they relate to people where they are.
When writing holiday devotions, keep in mind that most devotional magazines have early deadlines. If you want to publish Christmas devotions, for example, a devotional magazine may want them in the summer. You can check the magazine’s writers’ guidelines or the Christian Writers’ Market Guide for deadline information. If you have an idea for a holiday devotion but are having trouble getting the right words down on paper, you can always hire a content writer to help you.