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Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby tomoral » Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:40 pm

That is a lovely way to express it.

I'll give you another that I wrote for the Daily Multitude. As you can see, my writing style is pretty plain and straight forward. I know I need to become more expressive.



“I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

What welcoming words to one that has walked in darkness for most of her life. I came to love the dark, and I purposely shut out the light because I could not bear to see myself. The dark gave me comfort, so I could remain blind to my sins and hang on to my resentments of others without having to look at the real culprit, myself.

I didn’t know Jesus then. I certainly didn’t know myself. I followed no one. I walked around in the dark, so I couldn’t see anyone else, anyway. I prayed, but so much sin was in my heart there no room left for God.

Then disaster struck. A terminal illness, the doctors said. The dark turned pitch black. No where to run or hide. Stuck in the big black hole and with no way out, it seemed.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night, came this feeling, this enveloping warmth and a voice telling me to let go completely. There was no other option for me. I was facing death, and when that happens you have no choice but to give it all to God and pray. I mean pray with every fiber of your being. It’s just you and God and nothing or no one else. You pray or you just give up and die. I didn't die.

Through this kind of adversity I had the opportunity to find my way to salvation. Jesus told me to live, and I lived. The dark hole turned to light, and Jesus brought me up and out and set my feet on a firm foundation. I began to see the light, and it was beautiful.
God Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storms.
Children are our tomorrow
Keep them daily from the sorrow
Of the beasts in life

http://www.faithwriters.com/websites/my ... p?id=57394

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:08 pm

tomoral wrote:“I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

What welcoming words to one that has walked in darkness for most of her life. I came to love the dark, and I purposely shut out the light because I could not bear to see myself. The dark gave me comfort, so I could remain blind to my sins and hang on to my resentments of others without having to look at the real culprit, myself.

I didn’t know Jesus then. I certainly didn’t know myself. I followed no one. I walked around in the dark, so I couldn’t see anyone else, anyway. I prayed, but so much sin was in my heart there no room left for God.

Then disaster struck. A terminal illness, the doctors said. The dark turned pitch black. No where to run or hide. Stuck in the big black hole and with no way out, it seemed.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night, came this feeling, this enveloping warmth and a voice telling me to let go completely. There was no other option for me. I was facing death, and when that happens you have no choice but to give it all to God and pray. I mean pray with every fiber of your being. It’s just you and God and nothing or no one else. You pray or you just give up and die. I didn't die.

Through this kind of adversity I had the opportunity to find my way to salvation. Jesus told me to live, and I lived. The dark hole turned to light, and Jesus brought me up and out and set my feet on a firm foundation. I began to see the light, and it was beautiful.


I like this one, too! Your intentional sentence fragments add to the mood of this piece, and give it a distinct voice.

Since you told me that you submitted this to Great Multitudes, I wonder how strict they are with their formatting "rules." The rules that Rachel linked to specified a maximum of three paragraphs, but yours has six--well, five and the opening scripture. And you didn't provide a reference for the scripture. So...perhaps the person who determines whether a submission will be accepted for publication is less strict about the requirements than we'd think.

As I said, I really appreciated the authenticity of this piece--it's very real, and very moving.

Could you think of fresh ways to say the following? (no need to respond--just to think about it)

--every fiber of your being
--give it all to God and pray
--set my feet on a firm foundation
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby tomoral » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:37 pm

Now that I think about it, I had to cut some out of the words I wrote for this one. Mike sent it back to be shortened. I think the word limit is around 250-275, if I am not mistaken.

I will think of a way to express those lines better, and get it back to you soon.

Thanks for you input, insight, and help!

Blessings, Lynn
God Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storms.
Children are our tomorrow
Keep them daily from the sorrow
Of the beasts in life

http://www.faithwriters.com/websites/my ... p?id=57394

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Mon Jan 06, 2014 9:23 pm

Lillian and Lynn,

Since you've both written devotionals that have been accepted by the Great Multitude program, would either of you feel comfortable directing its administrator to this thread for input? I'd be very curious what he or she would have to say. Who knows? I may change my mind on one or two of my points.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby lish1936 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:18 pm

I so appreciate this lesson because the desire to be a better writer is one that I will always aspire to. And yet, as I read the comments about devotionals - what to write and how best to write them - within my spirit I'm made aware that there's a uniqueness about devotionals that sets them apart from other forms of non-fiction.

It is important for me that I hone my skills, but it's also so important for me to have a real, almost palpable sense that God is urging me to write a devotional. I've been moved to tears and humbled at the feedback I've received from readers who indicated they needed that word at that time. I can only attribute this to the Holy Spirit writing through me.

I don't have a similar feeling/desire when writing fiction or other types of non-fiction articles. So Jan, asking God for the right words, especially when writing a devotional, is a "pointer" that I would add to list.


Blessings,

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby lish1936 » Mon Jan 06, 2014 11:24 pm

Jan wrote:Since you've both written devotionals that have been accepted by the Great Multitude program, would either of you feel comfortable directing its administrator to this thread for input? I'd be very curious what he or she would have to say. Who knows? I may change my mind on one or two of my points.


Sure, Jan, but I'm not sure who the administrator might be. I know that all submissions are received by Mike, but I'm not sure if he edits, etc. I think I recall that another Faithwriter does the editing. I could contact Mike or the other Faithwriter. Is that what you mean?

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Tue Jan 07, 2014 12:04 am

Sure, if you're willing. It's not a big deal--I'm just curious more than anything.

j
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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby lish1936 » Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:22 pm

Okay. I'll send a link to this thread.

Lillian
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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:15 am

lish1936 wrote:I so appreciate this lesson because the desire to be a better writer is one that I will always aspire to. And yet, as I read the comments about devotionals - what to write and how best to write them - within my spirit I'm made aware that there's a uniqueness about devotionals that sets them apart from other forms of non-fiction.

It is important for me that I hone my skills, but it's also so important for me to have a real, almost palpable sense that God is urging me to write a devotional. I've been moved to tears and humbled at the feedback I've received from readers who indicated they needed that word at that time. I can only attribute this to the Holy Spirit writing through me.

I don't have a similar feeling/desire when writing fiction or other types of non-fiction articles. So Jan, asking God for the right words, especially when writing a devotional, is a "pointer" that I would add to list.


Blessings,

Lillian


Thanks for adding this, Lillian!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby Fullheart » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:08 pm

Thank you for the helpful lesson. I am learning much from your instruction and hope to continue growing as an all-around writer. As a minister for many years, devotionals have remained a means of encouraging others to maintain the good habit of daily bible study. And I write my devotions with that hope. I pray that no offense will be taken at my comments, for they come from curiosity and confusion and that's on me. However, when I review certain devotional publications, which have ministered to and inspired millions of people for many years, I must conclude that they have a good grasp of devotional writing. For example, The "Our Daily Bread" from RBC Ministries. They begin each devotion with a scripture, though it may be boxed off. I've always read the scripture first.

Second, some devotions I think are not meant to entertain. And perhaps too much creativity can distract from the power of the word of God. The body of the devotion (to me) is to illustrate the truth of the chosen scripture, such as Jesus' parables did. And yes we don't want a dry telling of some bygone event. Maybe a balance needs to be found.

Your example devotion was a brilliant piece of work. And that's what my mind was on until the last 1/3 of the piece: it made me think of the writer. Your ending was more devotional for me than the first half.

To "inspire" (again, for me) does not necessarily involve flattery or making the reader feel good. Sometimes we must feel bad and be convicted before we can experience the ultimate good which is derived from knowledge of the Word.

The devotions which have really lifted me up, and inspired me, and helped me to draw closer to God, were the ones that made me want to reach for my bible to mine for more of the precious truths hidden there. They created a hunger for God, rather than satisfied a hunger to feel good or be entertained. Anyway, I'm still trying to figure these things out, and how to grow as a devotional writer. Of course my forte is teaching bible, so my approach may be different and sound like I'm coming from out in left field. But I'm only out here because I knew you were going to hit another home run! I'm trying to catch your hit, I hope it hasn't flown over my head. :D

Keep Being a Blessing,
Sheldon

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:37 pm

Sheldon, thanks for this reply, and please don't worry at all that I'll take offense. I love learning other points of view, and I certainly don't claim to be an expert--especially not on any kind of nonfiction writing, which is certainly not my strong point.That's why I hoped that someone more knowledgeable about devotionals would chime in, and I'm so glad that you did!

You look at devotionals from the point of view of a minister, and I look at them as a writer, and one who is easily distracted. I probably over-generalized when I wrote that people tend not to read the scriptures that are blocked off at the beginnings of many devotionals (although it looks as if at least one other person agrees with me). I think it's certainly the case that people who read devotionals regularly have come to expect that format, and to appreciate it. The publishers of Our Daily Bread and the Great Multitude Daily Devotionals have found that format to be effective, and their many, many readers would agree.

My approach to this lesson was that of 1) a judge for the weekly writing contest, where creativity and uniqueness are among the judging criteria, and 2) a person who is passionate for good writing. Please don't think that the spiritual lessons that can be gained from devotionals are unimportant for me--nothing could be further from the truth--but I do believe that the message is better received if the writing is compelling.

I guess it all depends on the writer, then. If he or she is writing for a specific publication, and knows that the audience will be readers who have certain expectations of their devotionals, then the writer should use the format which has passed the test of time.

If the writer is writing for his or her own publication (a blog, for example, or a personal compilation)--or as an entry in a writing contest--then he or she should probably consider rattling the edges of the cage a bit.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby WriterFearNot » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:37 pm

Jan,

After reading your devotional, I realize I'm a scripture skimmer. The fact that I know I need to get to the store before the kids get home might have something to do with it, but I skimmed the second scripture and ignored the third altogether! Loved the devotional, though, how all your thoughts are deep and penetrating, but without excruciating detail--simple phrases that said so much. I can't find anything in your piece that doesn't comply with your suggestion points.

The biggest takeaway for me in this lesson, is "being schooled" on Christianese. I've always had a general understanding of what Christianese is, but now I really get it (I think). It's like clichés for Christians. (Another great reason not to include them in devotionals even if your target audience is all Christian. The words and phrases will have little impact on the reader). I already know I use a lot of Christianese in my fiction writing (because you've told me, lol), but thanks to your lesson (and the super helpful resource links) I now know how to dig myself out of my Christianese hole, so thanks!

I don't usually consider my nonfiction writing to be devotionals or Bible studies. Usually, they are an outpouring of an aching heart. Basically, they are a representation of my brain trying to digest a particular experience. After Thursday, I'll come back and post a link to my recent Challenge entry. I'd love to hear your comments on it.

Theresa

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:31 pm

WriterFearNot wrote:
I don't usually consider my nonfiction writing to be devotionals or Bible studies. Usually, they are an outpouring of an aching heart. Basically, they are a representation of my brain trying to digest a particular experience. After Thursday, I'll come back and post a link to my recent Challenge entry. I'd love to hear your comments on it.

Theresa


I look forward to it!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby tomoral » Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:09 pm

I have to say this. Sheldon's devotionals are the ones that stay in my mind the most, as he writes without preaching and I can feel God working through his words.

Same goes for Lillian. Her words are like God's voice speaking to me.

Now back to me. I write what God puts on my mind, only I know I need help with actual writing still. I am from the south, and sometimes my lingo interferes with professionalism. I am working on a devotional now that I will soon share here.
God Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storms.
Children are our tomorrow
Keep them daily from the sorrow
Of the beasts in life

http://www.faithwriters.com/websites/my ... p?id=57394

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Re: Be a Better Writer--Devotionals

Postby glorybee » Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:15 pm

tomoral wrote:I have to say this. Sheldon's devotionals are the ones that stay in my mind the most, as he writes without preaching and I can feel God working through his words.

Same goes for Lillian. Her words are like God's voice speaking to me.

Now back to me. I write what God puts on my mind, only I know I need help with actual writing still. I am from the south, and sometimes my lingo interferes with professionalism. I am working on a devotional now that I will soon share here.


What kind and lovely words for Sheldon and Lillian!

As far as your "southern lingo," that's exactly the sort of authentic voice that makes a devotional (or any other sort of writing) pleasant to read. Unless the writing is academic or quite formal, touches of the writer's own personality are definitely appropriate. I hope nothing I've said has given the impression that writing must always be professional!

I look forward to reading your devotional!
Jan Ackerson

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