writing a devotional, writing a Christian book, self=publishing

How to Write a Devotional: 5 Basic Tips to Get You Started

One of the most popular types of manuscripts we publish at Xulon Press is a devotional. While a writing a devotional may sound like a simple task, there are many that lack the basic “bones” every devotional needs to be successful (and most of all, helpful to the reader). So, here’s a list of what every devotional should contain:

  • Bible Verses. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many devotionals we receive that do not contain Bible verses. Perhaps they contain quotes, or thoughts, or “nuggets” as many pastors like to call them. It’s important for a Christian devotional to contain Bible verses, as the Bible is the crutch of the Christian faith.
  • Short Story or Commentary. Just as every entry needs a verse, every entry needs teaching to spotlight the exact principle you want readers to find. Share stories from your life where you’ve applied the chosen verse. Explain the verse in your own words. Give an uplifting message to encourage the reader. Whatever you decide, stick with the same format for every entry.
  • Sync With A Calendar. Before any author starts writing a devotional, they should decide on a length. You’d be surprised how many manuscripts we receive with random numbers of entries. We have to go back to the author and say, “Can you add seven more to make this a once-a-week devotional?” or, “Can you add three more to make this a daily devotional?” Decide how often you want readers to consult your devotional and use that to determine how many entries you include. Popular choices are weekly devotionals, daily devotionals, 30-day devotionals, etc.
  • Consistent Theme. In order to better hone in on your target audience (and also give readers consistency) it’s vital for you to decide on a theme. This can be an overall theme, or even broken into smaller, connected themes within the devotional. Is this for women? Men? Is it a devotional for overcoming grief? For finding strength? For a new mother? Honing in on an audience makes your book more marketable, and that strategy should be applied even in the writing process.
  • Interaction or Application Area. This encourages readers to practice living out what they’ve read in the devotional. Some authors ask a question. Some authors provide a short prompt and room for readers to write their own stories. Others might include an application prayer.  Choose one format, and then give readers a chance to apply what they’ve read to their lives.
  • Target Audience. While there are more generalized devotionals, writing your devotional for a niche audience is best. Decide if you’ll write a devotional for kids, teens, young adults, women, or men. This will help you narrow your focus for your theme, the Scripture you intend to use, and the stories or commentary you’ll share for each entry.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter what you decide on theme, entry length, overall book length, or the use of verses, the most important thing is to keep it consistent while writing a devotional. Keep it consistent and it will be better overall, and your readers will thank you for it.

Originally published: February 19, 2016.



Taylor Graham comes to Xulon’s editorial team with over five years of experience writing, editing, and proofreading. Prior to joining Xulon, she worked as a freelance writer and editor, a copywriter for NBC Universal, and an advertising rater for Google. She is most passionate about the written word, the great state of California, and the Be the Match National Marrow Donor Program.

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