Martin Wiles on Writing Devotionals

If you enjoy devotionals, you’ll enjoy this interview with Martin Wiles devotional writer extraordinaire. I enjoyed picking his creative brain about devotionals and his creative process.

Martin, welcome. I enjoy devotionals and there are some classics that have been around for decades. Tell me why another devotional?

Although authors have been writing devotions and devotional books for many years, I think a need always exists for new devotional books by authors of each new generation. Each writer is a unique individual created in God’s image and also has distinctive experiences, which often means giving a different twist than another writer who might have written on the same subject or verse. While there is nothing new under the sun, writers choose to pen their thoughts in different ways with unique insights.

 

Explain to my readers how you come up with each idea and how you construct it.

My ideas normally come from life experiences—both past and present. I carry a pad of some sort with me at all times. When an idea comes, I write it down. I even have one by my bed and one by my recliner. I find that if I do not write an idea down as soon as it hits me, I will normally forget it. If by chance I don’t have a pad, I use the Note app on my iPhone. I have even used a napkin at a restaurant. Anything to get the idea on paper.

Knowing the Scripture well helps with constructing the idea. For me, the experience usually leads me to Scripture. I use the same format we use for the website for which I am Managing Editor: Hook, Book, Look, and Took. I use an illustration—personal or otherwise—at the beginning to draw the reader in. Then I explain the Scripture. Following that, I give practical application, and then conclude by giving the reader a challenge…a task to complete or at least think about.

 

Tell my readers why devotionals are something they should read.

I dearly love the new forms of technology—especially since I grew up in an era before it appeared—but one consequence of instant information is that it has shortened our attention span. Most of my devotions are 400 words or less, which is rather lengthy in the world of devotional writing. I think people are looking for spiritual truth in short bites. Well-written devotions provide this. Although devotions won’t give a reader all the information about a particular topic or subject or answer all the questions they might have, the devotion should provide enough to goad the reader to explore the topic further. And devotions may well provide enough substance that will lead to life transformation if a person needs that.

 

Why should Christian writers consider writing devotionals or devotional books?

Writing individual devotions or publishing devotional books won’t make you rich, but for the average person who writes other genres, getting wealthy from their sales won’t happen either. While devotional writers are numerous, a person will have more opportunities to get a single devotion published than they probably will to have a book on any other genre published. Devotion writing also teaches a writer to write tight. Most of the places which publish devotions from freelance writers require devotions that are less than 250 words. This challenges the writer to say what they have to say in the fewest words possible, which hones skills and makes better writing. Additionally, many publishers—even Christian publishers—want writers to eliminate overt references to Christianity and rather get messages across in a more subtle way. With devotional venues, this is not normally a requirement.

Thanks so much for sharing your expertise and encouragement with my readers.

Here is the back cover copy of Martin’s current release.

A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World takes the reader out of the noise that often accompanies living in this world and into the quiet escapades of wooded areas where the voice of God is more clearly heard. A Whisper in the Woods was birthed from the author’s numerous treks with his two children and his middle brother in mountainous areas on the eastern coast of the United States. Through these hiking and camping experiences, God taught the author valuable lessons that have seen him through many difficult life experiences. As you walk with him through the mountain valleys and over the high summits, you too will hear God whisper words of comfort to you.

Buy Link: https://www.amazon.com/Whisper-Woods-Quiet-Escapes-Noisy/dp/1620208652

 

About Martin:

Martin Wiles lives in Greenwood, South Carolina and is the founder of Love Lines from God. He is a freelance editor, English teacher, minister, and author who serves as Managing Editor for Christian Devotions and as a proof-editor for Courier Publishing. He is the author of six books and has been published in numerous publications. His most recent book, A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Busy World, released in December 2019.

Connect with Martin:

Website: www.lovelinesfromgod.com

Social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/martinwilesgreenwoodsc

Twitter: https://twitter.com/linesfromgod

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lovelinesfromgod

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/martin-wiles-5a55b14a

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/martinwiles

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27658029-martin-wiles

 

What are some of your favorite devotionals or inspirational readings?

 

Behind the Scenes of Marriage: Make it or Break it

I’m so happy to have my favorite editor, Andrea Merrell, with me. I’ve invited her back to share about her new book, Marriage: Make It or Break It. Andrea, this is your first venture into a book about marriage.Andrea Merrell 2

Tell us about your passion for writing this marriage book.

After the release of Praying for the Prodigal, my daughter asked if I’d ever considered writing a book about marriage. The thought had never crossed my mind. She said because her dad and I have such a great relationship and over forty years of experience—with the good, the bad, and even the ugly—she felt I had a lot of wisdom to share with other couples. After promising to think about the idea (and especially pray about it), it became the only thing I could think about. There was almost a compulsion, an urgency to put my thoughts on paper.

What is the take-away you hope to impart to your readers?

I want my readers to realize that marriage is a God-ordained institution and one of God’s greatest gifts. A good marriage is a process, not an event. It takes commitment and a lot of work, but it’s so worth the effort. We have to put away our selfish desires and love each other the way God intended. My husband and I have learned many lessons the hard way, and we want to help couples avoid some of those rocky places. Two of the biggest keys to a solid, successful marriage are respect and open, honest communication. And there is no greater blessing than having your spouse as your best friend.

How much research did you do and what resource was the most helpful?

There were several resources that were helpful. One was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Every couple should invest in this book. I’ve done quite a bit of research (and even teaching) on the five basic temperaments. Two of my favorite books on the subject are Personality Plus by Florence Littauer and Personality Perspectives by Linda Gilden and Tama Westman. I also gained valuable insight from Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences by Bill and Pam Farrel. This book explains the differences between men and woman better than any I’ve read. I also interviewed several mothers who are part of a blended family and researched other facts on the Internet.

Can this book be used in a group study?

Absolutely. The book is written in a casual, conversational tone with lots of practical information such as the different types of love, the five love languages, the four basic temperaments, choosing your battles, blended families, and avoiding what I call marital mischief. There are prayers and Scriptures to pray and questions in the back of the book that can be used in a group or for personal study.

Your title is intriguing. How did you decide on it?

I actually had a hard time with the title. All I could think of was Marriage, but I knew it needed a tagline or subtitle. About halfway through the process, I realized there are so many things that can make or break a relationship, so that’s how the title was born—Marriage: Make It or Break It. It’s really up to us.

Share with my readers a writing tip that has been your guide throughout your writing journey.

I’ve learned that the more transparent we are, the more impact our words can have. Pulling from painful experiences and being willing to expose both our strengths and weaknesses will resonate with our readers because they can relate. Everyone is looking for hope and a better way to do life. God doesn’t waste a single moment. If we’ve been through tough times and survived, we can share what we learned along the way to help someone else.

Author Bio

Andrea Merrell is an associate editor with Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also a professional freelance editor and was a finalist for the 2016 Editor of the Year Award at BRMCWC. She teaches workshops at writers’ conferences and has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. Andrea is a graduate of Christian Communicators and a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. She is the author of Murder of a Manuscript, Praying for the Prodigal, and Marriage: Make It or Break It. For more information visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.

links to Andrea’s books

Amazon link for Marriage: Make It or Break Ithttp://amzn.to/2qxucJ7

Amazon link for Murder of a Manuscripthttp://amzn.to/1HlRLmy

Amazon link for Praying for the Prodigalhttp://amzn.to/1BFOhK9

Connect with Andrea

Twitter – https://www.Twitter.com/AndreaMerrell

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/andrea.s.merrell

Linkedin – http://linkd.in/1vSByxW

Goodreads – http://bit.ly/142LXjp

Google + — http://bit.ly/1Miy3dO

 Marriage cover

Here is the back cover blurb

Some say marriage is a dying institution. Others say, “Stop the bus and let me get off.” But Andrea Merrell—after forty-plus years of marriage—believes this God-ordained institution is one of His greatest gifts to men and women. Marriage: Make It or Break It is a result of a lifetime of trial and error, keen observation, and years of studying God’s Word. With her signature dash of humor, she takes a candid look at attitudes and behavior that can make or break a relationship, the difference in how men and women think and approach life, and the importance of honest communication. You’ll find danger signs, roadblocks to bypass, and Scriptures to personalize and pray on a daily basis.

This journey won’t be perfect, and the road is guaranteed to be full of potholes. But if you’re ready to learn a few truths that will make marriage strong—and a lot of things that will destroy it—buckle your seat belt and let’s get this bus moving.

Thank you for taking the time, Andrea. Definitely, a book worth checking out. It released June 25th. Click here to order.

 

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Mercy’s Rain: An Insightful Interview with Cindy Sproles

Cindy Sproles

Today I want welcome Cindy Sproles to my blog. Cindy is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is a conference teacher and speaker, working conferences all across the country. Her devotions are found in newspapers all over the eastern seaboard. Cindy is the executive Editor of ChristianDevotions.us and InspireAFire.com. She is the author of four devotionals and compilations and her first fiction novel, Mercy’s Rain is now available.

I am so excited to have Cindy here to talk to her about her debut novel Mercy’s Rain. When I read it I remember thinking this is so well-crafted it reminds me of someone’s tenth rather than their first. I loved this sad hopeful story. So we are all on the same page (no pun intended) here is the book blurb.

Mercy Roller was raised by a twisted father who wore the collar of a Pastor, and chose to be Jesus, judge, and jury, by his own appointment. Abused, broken and bitter, Mercy lifts the hand that takes the Pastor’s life. In one swift action, she becomes what she despises most about the Pastor. Now she seeks redemption. Can the unconditional love of a mountain preacher and his friends, guide Mercy to find peace?

Mercy Rains

Cindy, thanks for being with us today. I am so looking forward to learning more about the process you went through writing Mercy’s Rain.

Why did you chose this subject? In your acknowledgement you say this is not your life experience. How did you ever capture the essence of Mercy’s broken heart and life without ever experiencing it? I went to bed one night and couldn’t sleep. At 3 in the morning, I flipped the television and found a documentary on child abuse under the age of seven. It broke my heart. So when I began to write this story, I tried to take my head into the place of these children. I wanted to find their hurt, brokenness, and anger. I wasn’t a hard story to write, but definitely a story that wore at my heart. I wondered, if this were me, how would I feel? If this were me, what would I do? Given my own personality, how would I handle this?

I am a mountain girl and we are taught to toss things over our shoulders and move ahead. As we know, that doesn’t always work. It eventually comes back to bite us. So in my head, I became Mercy. I applied my own self-reliance, honesty, and personal determination to Mercy. If that were me?

My ministry partner once said, “To write real emotion, you have to find your own scab, then scratch it. Scratch it until it bleeds. And when that happens, you can write the emotion as it bleeds onto the page.” All of us have hurt in our lives. I simply found the one that broke me, and I scratched the scab.

Being in only Mercy’s head gave me interesting insights into her past and her reactions to her present. How difficult is it to write from only her POV? It wasn’t hard to write in Mercy’s POV. First person seems to come natural to me. It’s human nature to talk about ourselves, to share our own personal experiences…it was no different for Mercy. She could easily talk about her past and she could tell you about her anger and frustration.

For me, I’m a storyteller. I can easily speak a story. Writing it was no different. I find great fun in embellishing the facts of a story so first person was not hard for me. In fact, being in Mercy’s head was much easier than telling her story from 3rd person. By telling it from her POV, we could see her reactions to the things that boiled in her past.

Mercy is a complicated character. When did she introduce herself to you and share her secret? How did you decide which secrets to tell your readers? Mercy started out as MaryBeth. By the time I finished the first chapter, MaryBeth wasn’t a strong enough character. This character needed to have a name that would haunt her. One that would drive her. I knew I wanted the story to be about redemption and mercy. What a better name? She introduced her real self to me at the end of chapter one. I went back and renamed MaryBeth to Mercy.

To me, and I know this sounds crazy, but there are letters of the alphabet that have a heavy sound. A strong sound. Names that begin with the letter M generally have a heavy sound, a hard beat. I liked MaryBeth, and even though the M is a heavy beat, having Beth added to the name softened the strength of the name. Mary is to cliché and overused. Since we are constantly saying “Lordy mercy,” in the mountains, the M on Mercy struck a chord. It fit perfectly.

What kind of research was needed to bring this story to life? I always research my cultural facts. It didn’t take much. I was raised here. My grandmother lived the hard life in the mountains and she trained my mother, and my mother trained me, in the skills of survival. I have a strong work ethic, something that is tried and true to the real mountain folks. I knew how to can, raise tobacco, garden, cook, sew. And I knew from the stories my grandmother told me of her life in the mountains, how the culture progressed. I did research the dialect, even though what you hear in Mercy’s Rain is how we talk, I know there are more modern versions of our slang. I made sure the dialect rang true. I made sure the life style in the 1800s rang true. In fact, even into the mid-1900s, life had really not modernized. Truth be known, when you get into the true mountain folks today, many still do things the old way. They may own a truck or car, but they still set tobacco with a horse and tobacco setter. They still warm their homes with hickory wood, and cook on the iron stove . . . even if they have an electric stove. Mountain life is simple. People don’t covet the modern desires of life. They love the smell of hickory smoke, the taste of home canned green beans, and sweet butter.

Was there such a man as The Pastor in the 1890s Tennessee? Or is he a figment of your imagination? This character is a figment of my imagination. But the weight of his authority is not. Circuit riding preachers were fairly knowledgeable men. They were also strong salesmen. They had to be in order to teach the love of Christ to a rather closed community of people. Most could read very well and had some portion of education as opposed to the mountain folks who could barely read and write. You’ve heard of people putting their X on the line? This is because they couldn’t write, much less read. An X was easy to make. The mountain folks, once they accepted the facts of Christ, were very faithful people. Since many had no reading skills, they relied on the Pastor to read and teach. Like any profession, there were evil men who hid behind the cloak of the ministry. They could live for free on the generosity of the mountain people and if they wanted to twist the truth to benefit their own agendas, they could. The people trusted. They were, by all intense purposes, ignorant. Ignorance is not an insult – it’s uneducated. And because of the lack of education, ignorance was a fact of life in the mountains. For every ten wonderful, good-hearted, and genuine Pastors that traveled the circuit, there was one just like Pastor Roller. But this is not only in the ministry, it’s in any profession. It could have just as easily been a medicine man, a farmer, or a sheriff. Evil does not exempt itself from a profession. It finds the weak and preys on them.

I loved how each of Mercy’s new friends represented some aspect of Christ. Were any of the characters patterned after people you know? No, not really. These folks were just good people. I wrote Mercy’s Rain to the general market. I didn’t set out to sell this to the Christian market. I wanted it to be prevalent in the secular world and therefore, I wanted people to see that in a world of horrible things, there are still good people. There are people who have scruples, faith, and true love. They have honesty and they have a love for Christ even in a world who says religion is unimportant. I know there are tons of wonderful people like my characters, the Johnsons. I’ve met them through the years. I didn’t base these characters on anyone person, rather I chose the nature of goodness and the face of Christ to develop them.

Cindy, are we going to see more of Mercy Roller in future books? I’m not sure. Mercy’s story is pretty much complete. But I’m still pondering bringing her and Samuel into a second story as secondary characters. I think their lives together could be great examples. So we’ll see. If the story lends itself toward them, I’ll add them.

What are your plans for future novels? There are three more books in this series. All Momma’s Children, Coal Black Lies, and Cobb Hill. All are part of the Appalachian cultural historical fiction stories. Each a standalone. And like I said, some of the characters from Mercy’s Rain may find their way into these stories. It is regional so we’ll see.

I always like to end my interviews with the author giving my readers a piece of writing advice. So, if you would give us one thing you’ve learned on your writing journey.

My best advice is not to marry your words. There are always better words. It goes back to my momma teaching me humility. “Cindy, if you are first place in a race, remember – there is always someone else out there better. Strive to reach better.”

I would apply this to your writing. There are always better words. Strive for better.

Thank you Cindy, for me our time together as been more than so inspiring.

We are giving away a copy of Mercy’s Rain to a lucky winner. Cindy has  also brought along a copy of her devotional New Sheets- Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be. Just leave a comment with your email if you’d like your name place in the drawing.

new sheetMercy Rains

Links to:

Mercy’s Rain

Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel (Kregel Publishing)

New Sheets

New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You to the Woman You can Be

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