I-N-S-P-I-R-E: Seven Secrets for Success in Selling Devotionals

inspireMost writers have discovered there isn’t a lack of talent in our field today, but sometimes there seems to be a lack of inspiration. Throughout the stresses of life, who among us can’t use more nourishing soul food? This is a great day to be a writer and good news for those of us who love to write inspirational pieces. According to my research, there are hundreds of opportunities for devotional writers. A single piece doesn’t pay much, but the savvy writer realizes the financial potential of inspirational writing tucked in with regular writing assignments.

Here is a simple acrostic to help you increase your sales as a devotional writer.

I-N-S-P-I-R-E

 I—Investigate writers guidelines before submitting to these markets. You will have a better chance to sell your pieces if you follow their instructions.

N—Never give up. Keep writing from the Father’s heart. When you do, people will stop and take notice. Of course, you must sit often on the Father’s lap to write from His heart. Don’t neglect time with Him.

S—Submit often. You can’t be published if you aren’t submitting material on a regular basis. Set realistic goals and submit something every month.

P—Pray about your writing and proofread your material carefully. Send your best material. Remember you are representing the King. Ask Him to help you write in a way that leaves eternal footprints in the souls of your readers.

I—Identify your audience. If you are writing a devotional about raising children as a single mom, don’t submit it to a senior citizens magazine. Know who you are writing for.

R—Rally the troops. Attend writing workshops. Take creative writing classes. Hone your skills and get to know other writers. Keep those creative juices flowing. Many times God places writers together to write for Him. Don’t be too proud to let other writers speak into your life. Leave your ego at the door. The best stories aren’t written. They are rewritten.

E—Expect your devotionals to find a home. Don’t be discouraged by rejection slips. If your material is well written and you’ve done your homework, publishers will take notice. Be patient. It may take time, but eventually all your pieces will find a home if you are diligent and follow these helpful hints.

Above all, stay inspired. To be an inspirational writer, you must be oozing with creativity. The best devotional authors discover God in everyday life.


 

Team.Dixie-120-140

 

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 
 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Wondering What to Write?

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
– Isaiah 61:10 NIV

dress-upHow many times have we debated what to wear for an important occasion?

Sometimes I face the same dilemma with writing. Instead of my usual, “What shall I wear today?”  I find myself staring blankly at my computer screen. “What shall I write?”

Some days I find myself running laps around the dreaded “writer’s block.” And there is this question: “Should I waste valuable time on writing about that?”

Just like we are careful what we wear, we also want to be careful in what we write.  God’s Word instructs us to dress with care inwardly.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
– Colossians 3:12-14 MSG

As we clothe ourselves with biblical character traits, we will write with

  • Compassion
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience

Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we have a purpose and passion for what and why we write. Our writing will bless those around us.

You’ll have to excuse me. I have to decide what I’m going to wear for our grandson’s second birthday party.


Team.Dixie-120-140

 

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Keep Writing for the King

Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance. Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”

And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:16-20 NKJV

Have you ever felt like the unwanted on or the unattractive one? Leah did. By birth, she was Rachel’s older sister, and by her father’s trickery and deceit, she was Jacob’s first wife. Can you imagine what she must have felt like when Jacob looked at her and realized she wasn’t Rachel, the one he was deeply in love with and had worked seven years for? I’m sure the rejection she felt stung to the bone.

God loved Leah and had a plan and destiny for her life. She bore Jacob six sons and one daughter. Levi was one of the boys born to Leah and Jacob. The priestly tribe came from this lineage. Judah was another son born to Leah and Jacob. King David came from the lineage of Judah—and so did Jesus Christ.

cropped-write5.jpgYour Father has a plan for you, too. You might feel others can write better and are having more success in their writing endeavors than you. Stay faithful. Keep writing. Don’t compare yourself with someone else. Be authentic. Be transparent. Be the one God created you to be. God has a destiny for you and your writing. You never know where He will send your stories. Keep writing for the King.


Team.Dixie-120-140

by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 

Fear of the Blank Page

Notebook and penThere you sit, pen in hand, a brand new notebook on the desk in front of you.

The page is so clean, so smooth, so pristine.

You take a deep breath and lift your hand.

But no . . .

What if you make a mistake? What if the ideas won’t come? What if they come but then branch off in a hundred different directions?

What if the spark inside you fizzles and dies as soon as you put pen to paper?

But . . .

What if it doesn’t?

What if that spark fuels a raging fire and the first blazing word is just the beginning of a sentence filled with warmth and light . . . a paragraph . . . an entire book?

You’ll never know until you face your fear.

Here are a half dozen ways to overcome:

  1. Copy your favorite writing-related quote on the first page of your notebook. When you need inspiration, consider it your secret weapon.
  2. Hand off the task of filling that first page. Allow your child to draw a picture or write a poem. Ask each member of your writers’ group to list their #1 writing goal. Find a picture in a magazine that stirs your imagination and stick it on the page. (Okay, so in this case you’ve actually done the work, but you didn’t have to think of anything profound to say. [grin])
  3. Open the closest book at random. Copy the first two-syllable word you see onto the top of the page. Use it as the spring board for a five-minute freewriting session. And now the page is full—and perhaps you’ve gained inspiration for Page 2 and beyond.
  4. Close your eyes and imagine yourself protecting a frightened child. Look all around. Take note of every sight, every sound, every smell. Now, open your eyes and write about it in great detail.
  5. Put on some music that gets your blood pumping and write—just write.

And if that first page is bad—really bad?

  1. Well, there’s always Page 2.

Have you ever experienced fear of the blank page? What did you do to overcome it?


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by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist 

 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com 


 

Eight Ways to Improve Your Craft

mm_words_smAre you a newbie or an experienced writer? Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Full-length manuscripts or short stories? Poetry or prose? Articles or blog posts?

No matter what you write or how experienced you are, there is always more to learn. Here are eight ways to improve your craft.

Follow Writers and Authors on Facebook and Twitter

I offer this advice with a grain of salt. It is easy to spend so much time on the social networks that you neglect your own writing. However, it is a great way to learn what other writers are up to, what books and blog posts they have published recently, and how you might want to engage your own readers when the time comes.

Read Blogs

Of course it makes sense to read blogs on the craft of writing, but it is also a great idea to read blogs posted by writers whose style you enjoy and/or who write about things that interest you. Reading posts that are well written can help as you seek to develop your own skills.

Reference Books and Market Guides

There are countless skills development books available.

I also advise buying one or more style guides, such as The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, and/or The Associated Press Stylebook.

Market guides are invaluable. Writer’s Digest publishes a wide variety every year.

“It is easy to go overboard when stocking your bookshelves,” says she who has done so both with physical books and ebooks.

My number one suggestion would be ask fellow writers for suggestions, read reviews, and purchase one book on each topic that interests you. After reading a book, you may want to repeat the process to buy another on the same topic.

Attend Conferences

Attending a writers’ conference can be intimidating, but it can be an amazing experience for many reasons. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • Learn from keynote, seminar, and continuing class speakers
  • Rub shoulders with published authors
  • Meet editors, publishers, and agents (and possibly interest them in your project)
  • Make new friends
  • Go home supercharged to write

Submit According to Guidelines

Take the time to read the submission guidelines carefully—and follow them. A sure sign that you’re an amateur is to disregard these guidelines. Remember to behave professionally. It will go a long way.

Enter Writing Contests

If you don’t know where to start, simply type “Writing Contests” into your search engine. Some are free to enter. Others have an entry fee. The prizes offered are usually comparable to the fee. While it costs $30.00 to enter the Writer’s Digest contests, the prizes are well worth it.

On the other hand, contests with substantial prizes also attract many gifted writers. Your work really has to shine.

That said, there are many benefits to entering writing contests: working to specifications, meeting a deadline, following submission guidelines, to name a few. And who knows, you might win a prize and that will fuel your enthusiasm to continue writing and entering contests and/or submitting your work to paying markets.

Write, Just Write

Never, ever, ever think you have to know it all (or even know more than you do now) before you write regularly. Writing is a classic case of learning by doing. Schedule time to write and keep your appointment. Ideally, do so every day.

team.stephanie_120x140_2015Stephanie Nickel, CES Editor/Writer/Coach

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Give Poetry a Chance

poetry-in-garden-web11Each year I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month). Participants write 31 poems in 31 days.

The wonderful thing about poetry is that in a few words, one can paint a picture and share his or her heart.

This post is by no means a scholarly look at poetry, but below I have listed four different types of poems and given an example of each.

Even if just for yourself, why not jump off the precipice and give poetry writing a shot. Who knows? You may just find yourself soaring.

Story Poem

Choose a subject or an event that is especially important to you. Capture the highlights and write them as a poem. Create line breaks for emphasis. Don’t worry about punctuation; sometimes it’s best to leave it out altogether. See which you think works best.

Help Them Soar

When they’re wandering in the valley,

Walk with them.

When they’re struggling up the mountain path,

Let your presence strengthen them.

When they stumble,

Offer them your hand.

When their eyes fill with tears,

Let yours be the shoulder they cry on.

When they need a listening ear,

Remember you have two.

When they need a word of encouragement,

Make it sincere and succinct.

When they’re victorious,

Cheer the loudest.

If they’re standing on the precipice ready to soar,

Offer to tandem jump with them.

If they’re looking for God – and even if they’re not,

Point them heavenward.

Haiku

A haiku has three brief lines, the first and third have five syllables, the second has seven.

New Day

New day lies ahead

Opportunities abound

Time to jump right in

Cinquain

Poetry is about self-expression. (My favorite season is autumn, as you’ll realize from the poem below.) Many times, a few carefully chosen words can hold a great deal of meaning. There are five lines in a cinquain. The first and fifth lines have two syllables, the second four, the third six, and the fourth eight.

Autumn Leaves

Leaves fall

Are blown around

Begging to be played in

Fill the air with wond’rous fragrance

Autumn

Rhyming Poem

When writing this kind of poem, there is more to be considered than what pairs of rhyming words you will use. It’s also important to include a steady metre, something that is easy to read and flows well. The best way to determine if you’ve done so is to read the poem aloud. If you falter over a line or a certain section, you may want to spend more time on it.

A rhyming poem with a sing-song lilt has a more playful feel. It is a fun choice if you’re writing about lighthearted subject matter. You can write a serious rhyming poem, but take care that it does not come off as frivolous.

Flitting Thoughts

My mind does flit

From thing to thing

Tugged about

As on a string.

I must do this

I must do that

And then I stop

To chit and chat.

Oh, read this blog

No, over here

Laugh for joy

Shed a tear.

I should read

And I should write

Or clean the house

It’s such a sight!

Make a call

Or maybe two

It’s some of what

I have to do.

But what works best

I’ve always found

Is take a breath

And calm the sound.

The voices calling

In my head

Must keep silent

As I’ve said.

I will focus

On one task

And get it done

How? you ask.

I’ll make my list

From a to z (zed)

In this way

I’ll clear my head.

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

Devotional Writing

Devotional LetterpressI’ve had many beginning writers ask me to give examples of some of the devotions I’ve written. So today’s blog will be dedicated to the subject of devotional writing.

When submitting a devotional piece, be sure to always follow submission guidelines! Most times the guidelines require a Scripture at the beginning of the devotional and a prayer at the end.

The Holy Spirit is always busy teaching us, so a lesson you learned in an everyday situation can soon become your next devotional. Here is one of my pieces. I hope it ministers to someone today.

 Sins of the Spirit

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
Luke 15:28 NLT

 Lord, today I was hurt and angry. When the one who hurt me extended friendship, I responded coolly. I felt justified. After what she blurted out, I had a right to treat her that way. After all Your Word does teach the principle of “sowing and reaping.” She will reap what she’s sown with her unkind words! Right?

And You know, Lord, Your Word warns us about pride. She just oozes with her uppity ways. I haven’t done anything to deserve her cruel comments. In the long run, distancing myself will teach her a valuable lesson! Her behavior is unacceptable. I refuse to reward such dysfunction. After all, her attitude doesn’t bring honor to You. I certainly don’t want to enable her. I’ve settled it once and for all. I am right. No doubt about it. There is no need in discussing it further. I am positively . . . positively . . . positively miserable! Why am I in such unrest, Lord? How is it possible that I can I be right and yet be so wrong?

In the depths of my soul, I discern “I” am part of the problem. I open my Bible and read:

The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in.
Luke 15:28 NLT

 The Holy Spirit gives me a much needed diagnosis: “You are suffering from sins of the spirit.”

This is a spiritual malady that can render me powerless to love my friend. Many times manifestations can be masked and difficult to detect, but only for a short time. Eventually, everyone will notice my loveless heart. If I’m not given a biblical antidote of love and humility, the disease can spread to vital organs of my soul.

Have you ever been plagued with sins of the spirit?

Symptoms include

• Polite coolness when friendship is available

• Consumed with proving your point

• Touchiness, sensitivity

• Needing to persuade others to embrace your point of view

• Loving your opinions more than you love people

Forgive me, Lord. I’ll right my wrong. Life is too short for me to nurse this grudge. Help me not to be like the older brother and refuse a relationship. Help me respond in a way that brings glory and honor to You.


by Dixie Phillips, CES Editor, Writing Coach, Award-Winning Children’s Author and Songwriter 

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing ServicesCreating Christian Books for KidsPray for Ministries around the World, and Find Christian Links 

Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

 

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Serene. Peaceful. Relaxed.

Who wouldn’t want a life marked by these adjectives?

And yet . . .

When we’re writing fiction, these same adjectives just may put our readers to sleep.

This week let’s apply a few tips for keeping readers engaged and flipping those pages.

  1. First, write a short short (a complete story) or a fictional scene of 500-1000 words. Fill it with kind and loving characters relating to one another with empathy and compassion. And, of course, drop them in the middle of an idyllic setting.
  2. Rewrite the same story and introduce a crotchety—or even dangerous—antagonist. Caucasian Man Scowling Portrtait(Feel free to convert one of the characters you already included.) Watch how the interactions, even between the other characters, take on a new dimension.
  3. Rewrite Version #2. This time either transport your characters to a far less idyllic setting or introduce a natural or manmade disaster that will threaten the setting and the characters (i.e. the protagonist’s dream home burns down or a severe thunderstorm leaves the characters—or some of the characters—stranded).
  4. Focus on one of the characters—perhaps the protagonist—and “roughen up the edges.” Give the character an annoying habit or a trigger that sets him or her off . . . or some other facet that makes him or her more believable, more human.
  5. Now revisit your antagonist’s personality. Is there something you can introduce to make him or her a more sympathetic character? Don’t tone down the threat; just allow readers to understand the character a little more.
  6. Even in a very short story, there should be some form of character arc, a hero’s journey as it were. Does the protagonist change in any way? Does he or she have to make a significant decision that will change the path he or she is following? If you are writing a scene rather than a complete story, are you setting up an arc for your character? Rewrite your piece again with this in mind.

If you’ve gone through these steps, your story will be much different than it was at first. You will begin to understand what it’s like for fiction writers to write, rewrite, and rewrite again. The first draft of any novel is usually far different from the book that hits the shelves. It requires patience, willingness to learn, and more hours than many of us realize. But in the end it makes our stories more engaging, more exciting, more gripping. Now, what writer wouldn’t want that?


by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links 
Questions? Email karen@ChristianEditingServices.com

One Day at a Time

by Stephanie Nickel , CES Editor, Writer, Coach, and Critique Specialist

When I look around—and within—I realize it is a very human thing to look to the future.

When I sell my first article . . .

When I find a publisher for my book . . .

When I sign on with an agent . . .

When the workday is over . . .

When the weekend gets here . . .

When I finally get away on vacation . . .

Making plans isn’t wrong. Thinking ahead isn’t wrong. Looking to the future isn’t wrong.

But . . .

TodayWe are only assured of today.

Yesterday is gone. Hopefully we can learn from it and move forward, but it’s gone.

Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. If there’s one thing the uncertainty of personal struggles and global turmoil have shown us, it’s the truth of this statement.

I realize, so far, this post has been “a downer,” but that’s not my intention. When I was writing in my journal today, I posed a series of questions like this one: How can I keep my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith TODAY?

Let’s focus on today and go from there.

What writing project do you want to work on today?

Set a time to do so and keep the appointment.

What market for your work do you want to research today?

Even if you don’t have a market guide, there are countless resources online. Explore at least one of them today.

What small change will inspire you to write more today?

Make the change and move forward.

What “urgent” thing on your To Do list can you put off until tomorrow so you can be more productive as a writer today?

Scratch the item off your list and rewrite it on tomorrow’s.

What one thing you especially enjoy can you do today?

Don’t make excuses; just do it.

What one thing can you do to make the day special for someone else?

Include this on your schedule and do it. (Remember even the smallest kindness can make someone’s day.)

We mustn’t ignore the heartache and atrocities going on all around us, but sometimes we must take a step back. What can you do to distance yourself from the pain today—and thereby, be better able to take action in the future? (As a writer, don’t underestimate the power of writing to a government official, the editor at a major newspaper, or the readers of your blog. You never know who will read what you’ve written and change the world.)

Take a step back today. Take a deep breath. Determine what good you can do right this minute—and do it.


Please visit our websites: Christian Editing Services and Find Christian Links

Editing Is Psychological

 

by Tisha Martin, CES fiction editor, writer, writing coach, academic proofreader, and online marketing specialist (read more about Tisha)
[This blog post first appeared on Almost an Author, 4-22-18.]

Doubt and uncertainty

Editing is psychological.

Yes. That’s right. Psychological. I promise not to go too deep. Please keep reading. In editing our own manuscripts, we usually know what’s going on, who each character is, and how the story’s going to unfold. What we don’t expect is the sneaky errors that crop up. When we least expect it. When we’re about to hit send or publish, or worse yet, after we’ve sent our manuscript off to the publisher!

And what we don’t expect is that our eyes skip over what’s actually missing because our brains automatically interpret what’s there. Hence the psychological aspect of editing.

How do we fix this, or at least make it more manageable? Ah, well, let’s take a closer look at three common mistakes we all make in editing our writing.

Five Common Psychological Editing Mistakes

  1. Extra spaces between sentences.

Extra spaces are a pain, but professional editors loathe them. When editing your manuscript, double check that you don’t have two extra spaces between words or sentences. According to Chicago Manual of Style and nearly every publishing house, one space should appear between sentences. Not the long-standing two spaces. That’s old school. One space and done.

  1. Multiple characters on the first page.

Have you ever entered a room where everyone is talking at once? The noise just engulfs you, making it impossible to focus on any one conversation, much less hear yourself think. If you’re in that family of introverted writers, an experience like this is crippling sometimes.

Just like entering a room full of talking heads, if the first page of your manuscript has too many characters, your readers will want to throw the book at something, anything. Readers want to know who, what, and why when they read the first page.

Rule of thumb: To keep a reader, introduce at least two characters—the protagonist and an important secondary character—on the first page to get the story off on the right foot with your readers. You can add more characters as needed on the second and preceding pages, but please stick to simple on the first page. Your readers will thank you.

  1. Redundant phrases or repetitive words.

In the writing stage, you write whatever comes to your mind just to put words down on paper. And in the reading stage, you skip over these most common phrases you use in everyday speech. But in the editing stage, you don’t even notice these redundant phrases because you’re focused on characterization, plot, dialogue, or whatever you know you need to work on the most. With redundant phrases, you can usually delete one of the words and your sentence will breathe easier.

Hey, I’m preaching at myself here! The other day I was editing my own WIP and noticed with great horror that (take notice of the strikethrough, it isn’t necessary here!) I used “even” four times within four preceding paragraphs! I was so mortified that the words choked me, and I scrambled to revise my sentences.

Here are a few redundant phrases to watch out for:

  • Final outcome (outcome)
  • False pretense (pretense)
  • Absolutely certain (certain)
  • Completely finished (finished)
  • Sat down (sat)

Now, that wasn’t too hard, psychologically speaking, was it? It’s so easy to gloss over the obvious mistakes in our manuscripts. Therefore, taking that extra special effort (see what I did there?) to shore up the little issues that really make a difference in the long run—for you, your characters, your agent, your editor, your publisher, and for your readers. Not to mention your manuscript because it’s now a squeaky-clean product!

Join in the discussion!

Take a few minutes and ruminate. What are some editorial issues you fail to notice in your manuscript on first or second or final read-through?