Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

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.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 28, 2014 10:16 am

Inspirational writing takes a narrative—either a 1st person narrative or an incident from the life of someone else—and draws from it a positive lesson or a spiritual message. It should not be heavy-handed or preachy or somber. If you’ve ever read Guideposts magazine, you’ve read inspirational writing. If you haven’t, just click the link, and find the column labeled “Inspirational” for some examples of this kind of writing.

Although inspirational writing has a lot in common with devotionals and Bible studies, there are some significant differences. Inspirational writing is not as academic as Bible studies are; although you may put a Bible verse in an inspirational piece, it’s not necessary, and you definitely don’t want more than one—maybe two. But the focus is not on analyzing the meanings of scripture verses. Rather, the focus is on the encouraging or motivating or inspiring lesson that can be gained from the narrative.

Similarly, while a devotional (or a Bible study) may make a theological point, an inspirational article is more down-to-earth, and more accessible by people at any point in their life of faith—certainly not just those who have been Christians for many years.

In fact, inspirational writing isn't necessarily Christian at all. The Chicken Soup books are in the inspirational genre, and the stories there are not overtly Christian, but they are inspirational in that they leave the reader uplifted. In fact, although it’s taken me five paragraphs to get to it, that might be a good working definition for inspirational writing: it’s nonfiction writing that leaves the reader feeling better for having read it.

With that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and pull some of the best tips from the “devotionals” lesson because those apply here, too.

1. Avoid “Christianese”—those words and phrases that come so easily to the minds of those of us who’ve been in churches for decades. If you’ve heard it or read it before, write it differently.
2. Start with a great hook.
3. Feel free to include characters and dialogue.
4. Nonfiction does not have to be dry. Use interesting word choices, lively pacing, and all of the other features that make fiction interesting, and apply those to your nonfiction.
5. Give it a great ending. Remember that you’re intending to leave your readers feeling inspired, so don’t let the ending thud.
6. Don’t be abstract, academic, or overly theological. A really good approach (but not the only acceptable approach) would be to take an incident either from your life or from someone else’s life that inspired you, and to relate that incident, along with how or why it’s inspiring. But don’t make it sound like a report (“I find the life of Gertrude Schuckelgruber to be inspiring because…”) Keep in mind that we’re looking for excellence in writing skill above all else.

If you’d like to read some more online examples of inspirational writing, there’s a blog called Jewels of Encouragement that was started by some FaithWriters and still has a few FaithWriters as regular contributors. Every post is to be encouraging in nature, and I highly recommend that you read a few posts to get an idea of this genre, if you’re still unclear.

And that’s about it—this is a far shorter lesson than usual because this genre is really self-explanatory. Will your writing inspire your readers? Then it’s inspirational writing.

HOMEWORK:

As usual, feel free to ask a question or to leave a comment about anything in this lesson. OR

If you’ve written an inspirational entry, link to it. If you do this, will you also tell us something about the writing of that particular piece, please?
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Anja
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Posts: 172
Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2005 4:20 am
Location: Canada

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Anja » Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:51 am

I am going to take a leap here. I researched "inspirational article" yesterday when the topic was posted. (Mostly because I feared this topic, and wanted to make sure it wouldn't be taken for what it isn't.)

The purpose of an inspirational article is to create an urge or desire or ability to do something. Maybe be a better mom. Run a marathon. Home school. Or look up and see God in a situation where you hadn't before.

The root for "inspire" is "to breathe." Breathe in hope, encouragement, patience, motivation.
Ann Grover Stocking

"What remains of a story after it is finished? Another story..." Eli Wiesel

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:54 am

Anja wrote:I am going to take a leap here. I researched "inspirational article" yesterday when the topic was posted. (Mostly because I feared this topic, and wanted to make sure it wouldn't be taken for what it isn't.)

The purpose of an inspirational article is to create an urge or desire or ability to do something. Maybe be a better mom. Run a marathon. Home school. Or look up and see God in a situation where you hadn't before.

The root for "inspire" is "to breathe." Breathe in hope, encouragement, patience, motivation.
Perfect, Ann! You've added what my article was missing. I really hope that we won't see lots and lots of devotionals and Bible studies, and more of what you've described here.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Posts: 156
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Fri Nov 28, 2014 12:15 pm

I know this should be a non-fiction entry. Is it all right to change names of people and specific places?

Cinnamon Bear

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 28, 2014 12:31 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:I know this should be a non-fiction entry. Is it all right to change names of people and specific places?

Cinnamon Bear
Absolutely.

In fact, that's often a good idea. This may not apply to the inspirational entry that you have in mind, but using real names and places can be problematical. I know of a few times when Challenge enterers have used real names and have gotten in trouble for it--not from FaithWriters, but from people who didn't want their names used.

Additionally, if you use real names and places, your entry may not be truly anonymous, if the judges for that week happen to know you and recognize the names or places you mention.

If you change names or places, you may wish to put an author's note to that effect at the end of your entry--but that's not necessary. Totally your call.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Posts: 156
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Fri Nov 28, 2014 12:34 pm

Thanks, Jan! :)

User avatar
itsjoanne
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 1620
Joined: Fri Jul 14, 2006 9:52 am
Location: West Michigan
Contact:

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by itsjoanne » Fri Nov 28, 2014 6:04 pm

Just wanted to thank you, Jan, for pointing folks toward Jewels of Encouragement :)
Joanne Sher
FaithWriters Writing Challenge Coordinator
FaithWriters Blogger
FaithWriters Blog
My Profile
My Site
Me on Facebook

User avatar
Deb Porter
FaithWriters and Site Admin
FaithWriters and Site Admin
Posts: 1677
Joined: Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:02 am
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Deb Porter » Fri Nov 28, 2014 7:37 pm

Just want to back up what Jan said about changing names. If you do write something involving other people (even your kids), it doesn't hurt to ask if they mind you writing about that experience.

Love, Deb
Deb
FaithWriters' Writing Challenge Co-ordinator
Breath of Fresh Air Press

Breath of Fresh Air Press - a little publisher with a lot of heart

Image

User avatar
CatLin
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Posts: 327
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 2:46 pm
Location: Georgia
Contact:

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by CatLin » Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:01 pm

Jo, I was going to thank Jan for the link to Jewels of Encouragement too. :D

Thanks for the clarification that "Inspirational" isn't meant to be a devotion or a Bible study, and should be non-fiction. I had contemplated writing fiction for this one.

And I always ask permission to use someone else's story if I plan to use their name or their story would be easily recognized. Here is a an article I wrote a couple of years ago for Jewels of Encouragement about my friend Judy (with her permission.)

Bucket List

Judy is with Jesus now. ALS took her body, but never her spirit. <3
Last edited by CatLin on Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Catrina Bradley
FaithWriters Profile
Scattered Seeds
Jewels of Encouragement

"God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." Psalm 18:24 (The Message)

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by glorybee » Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:08 pm

CatLin wrote:Jo, I was going to thank Jan for the link to Jewels of Encouragement too. :D

Thanks for the clarification that "Inspirational" isn't meant to be a devotion or a Bible study, and should be non-fiction. I had contemplated writing fiction for this one.
Feel free to make it read like fiction, though, with characters and dialogue. Putting it as first person would work, too. Anything under the banner of "creative nonfiction" would apply here.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
KatKane
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 27
Joined: Wed Sep 10, 2014 10:41 am
Location: East of England

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by KatKane » Sat Nov 29, 2014 5:33 am

Thanks so much for the clarification on this topic. The links were really helpful and I will certainly be looking at Jewels of Encouragement again. Thanks so much for the explanations of the different genres. Some of them I had never even heard of before!
http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=65595

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." Martin Luther

User avatar
Milly Born
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:03 am
Location: Umbria, Italy
Contact:

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Milly Born » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:38 pm

First a big thank you, Jan! This quarter I've learned so many new things, both in knowledge and in application.

Talking about this week's challenge, I never pondered the difference between a devotional and an inspirational. But considering the (relative!) ease with which I wrote my entry, I cannot but conclude that inspirational, creative non-fiction is definitely my genre :D

Yet, I have a last minute question. Do we need to conclude with an explicit lesson, or may we give our readers the credit to grasp our inspirational message? Personally, I prefer the last option, but maybe it doesn't fit this genre's definition.

Thanks again for your help.
Milly Born
Witnessing, worshipping...writing.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
--Psalm 105:1

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by glorybee » Wed Dec 03, 2014 12:42 pm

Milly Born wrote:
Yet, I have a last minute question. Do we need to conclude with an explicit lesson, or may we give our readers the credit to grasp our inspirational message? Personally, I prefer the last option, but maybe it doesn't fit this genre's definition.

Thanks again for your help.
I prefer the last option, too. It's best to trust your writing (and your readers), rather than smack 'em over the head with a heavy-handed lesson. Stating the lesson is acceptable, but if you can write it so that in inspiration flows from it more organically, that's better still.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Milly Born
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 23
Joined: Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:03 am
Location: Umbria, Italy
Contact:

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Milly Born » Wed Dec 03, 2014 1:17 pm

That's what I was hoping for. Thanks for the immediate reply, Jan!
Milly Born
Witnessing, worshipping...writing.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
--Psalm 105:1

User avatar
Shann
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3686
Joined: Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:35 pm
Location: Western NY super rural

Re: Be a Better Writer -- INSPIRATIONAL WRITING

Post by Shann » Thu Dec 04, 2014 7:57 pm

I know I'm late, but it's been a crazy week. You mentioned not to be somber. Is it okay to start with maybe a depression or slightly dark emotion but end with an aha moment? Or should it be inspirational all the way through? (Did that make sense? My brain is boggled.) Again, thanks for doing this. I always learn things when I pop in.
Shann

Shann's Profile

Sometimes God calms the storm; Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child

Post Reply

Return to “Jan's Writing Basics”