For all of my nonfiction writers and readers, today’s interview is for you! Lori Hatcher writes Christian devotions, and today she’s talking about her experiences writing and editing those books (including her lastest — see more at the end!).
Thank you so much for being here! Why did you decide to write devotions?
I didn’t pick my genre. My genre picked me! Devotions are my sweet spot. I’ve always loved writing devotions, but for a long time had the (wrong) impression that devotions were the “kindergarten” of Christian writing. You know, something I needed to grow out of as I gained writing skill. The more devotions I wrote, however, the more I discovered it takes great skill to communicate spiritual truth in a small number of words. Now I consider devotion writing the post-graduate of Christian writing (smile).
What’s the most difficult part of writing your genre? How do you work through those challenges?
The wordcount! Some projects I write for allow as little as 150-200 words to craft a cohesive and meaningful piece. It’s easy to write long-form content, but extremely challenging to compose a devotion with a hook, a body, and a conclusion in only a few hundred words.
How long does it take you to: write the book? Edit it? Finalize it?
A normal contract for me has been 5-6 months. I spend five months writing, then I let the manuscript cool for a few weeks, then edit it one more time before I submit.
Which was harder to write: the first book or the following books?
Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible was much easier to write than Refresh Your Prayers because it had a natural order. The devotion on Leviticus followed the devotion on Exodus, which followed the devotion on Genesis. In Refresh Your Prayers, my editor and I spent a lot of time dividing the book into sections and finding a logical sequence for the devotions within the sections. We began with What Is Prayer, then moved to The God To Whom We Pray to, then Why Pray?, and What Should I Pray? And within those divisions, we also had to order the content.
How do you prepare to write your books: pantser, plotter, both, something completely different? Describe your strategy.
Both! I plan a general framework first. I write five-minute devotions for busy people, so I knew each devotion had to be no more than 800-900 words. In Refresh Your Prayers, this included an Uncommon Power statement, a Praise Prompt, and a Live It Out challenge. As I crafted each devotion, I prayed for inspiration, studied a ton of Bible verses about prayer, and then selected a real-life story to go with every prayer principle. I call this I guess you could call this plotted pantsing 😊.
What advice do you have for new authors?
Dedicate your writing to God and pray about every aspect of it. Ask Him to guide and inspire your writing. Invite Him to direct your paths and open the doors He wants you to walk through. Trust Him to move you along at the pace He knows is right. Surrender your efforts to Him. Thank Him for allowing you to write for Him. When praise comes your way, give Him the glory.
How did you find your freelance editor? How would you describe the experience?
I’ve had the privilege of working with Rachel Kirsch, an amazing freelance editor, on Refresh Your Faith and Refresh Your Prayers. She was assigned by my publisher, Our Daily Bread. The experience was a wonderful learning opportunity. Rachel provided me with a style sheet that guided me through the preferences of the publishing house (ex. Capitalized deity pronouns, books of the Bible spelled out). She helped me organize the devotions into a logical sequence, suggested additional topics she felt were important, and challenged me not to avoid hard topics. My books are so much better because of her guidance and partnership.
How do you self-edit your manuscript?
I always read it aloud or have my computer read it to me. It’s amazing the errors I catch this way. Sometimes I’ll run it through ProWritingAid, a super helpful (free) online editing software. When I’ve polished it as much as I can, I send it to my critique partner. She’s my second pair of eyes. When the manuscript is complete, I let it rest for several weeks to give my brain and eyes a break. Then I print it (yes, all 55,000 words) and read it aloud again, making notes on the hard copy. When I’ve made those edits, I know I’m ready to submit.
Lori Hatcher has been on a lifelong quest to know and love God more. Her deepest desire is for others to join her on the journey. As an author, blogger, editor, women’s ministry speaker, and career dental hygienist, she writes for Our Daily Bread, Guideposts, Revive Our Hearts, and Crosswalk.com. She’s written three devotional books, including Refresh Your Faith, Uncommon Devotions from Every Book of the Bible, and Hungry for God…Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. Her latest book, Refresh Your Prayers, Uncommon Devotions to Restore Power and Praise releases March 1, 2022. Connect with her at www.LoriHatcher.com or on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).