Writing Lessons Learned from Love It or List It

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Are you familiar with Love It or List it? The home makeover show where the designer is pitted against the realtor? In the end, the homeowner must decide whether he or she will love it (and stay in their newly remodeled home) or list it (and move into the great new home the realtor has found).

I don’t go in for most home makeover shows; they’re awfully repetitive in either style or design. Plus, I can’t really get invested in people looking for homes with a $965,000 budget. But Love It or List It is different and I’m ridiculously hooked. And in the midst of watching the latest episode, I thought, “Oh. My. Word. There’s a writing lesson here!”

The Assessment

The program begins with the designer and the realtor doing a walk-through of the home. Invariably, one of the homeowners absolutely wants to move and the other wants to stay and it’s up to the designer and realtor to take a look around and see what the homeowners need. (It’s almost always the same: a dedicated office, a playroom, a laundry room. Basically, it’s more space, and it doesn’t take a designer or realtor to figure out that obvious point.)

And now for the lesson, writers. Let’s say you have a manuscript that’s not selling or that you can’t quite finish, or in some other way is a mess. Step back and take an objective walk-through of your manuscript. DO NOT GO BIT BY BIT. If you want to get an idea of the problem, a read through AT ONE TIME is critical. And yes, it might take five hours, but believe me, if it’s a basic problem (sagging middle, boring or predictable, major plot holes), you’ll finish that read through and you’ll know. So it’s on to Step Two.

The Plan (And Implementing It)

Next, the designer and realtor find out what the homeowners want. The realtor takes this list and starts hunting for houses that fit the bill. The designer looks at the mess of a house and somehow—and here’s what’s particularly riveting for me—comes up with a vision of how she can fix this house so the homeowner will love it. There’s a give and take and lots of conflict for the design team and the realtor as there are plenty of constraints involved. Hopefully, you won’t have too many constraints. You just have to figure out a plan.

So for the next lesson, assuming you have figured out the problem(s) in your manuscript, it’s time to come up with a plan to fix ‘em. First, you’ll need to see the vision of what your manuscript can be; take your time here, giving it plenty of thought. Next, make a chart of everything you’ve decided must change. Be as detailed as possible! This will come in handy when you sit down and actually start the work. And depending on what kind of mess you’re dealing with, this phase could take a while so quit fooling around and get started!

Are You Going To Love It? (Or List It?)

That’s what our hard-working realtor and designer always ask the homeowners after the eye-opening walk-through of the newly improved home. The homeowners may not have everything on their wish list but it’s always amazing what the designer has managed. What must be decided is whether there is enough in the remodeled home for them to stay or if it’s time to move on. Oh, the suspense of it all!

For your final lesson, maybe you, too, have been at that manuscript for months. You’ve checked your chart and were able to fix the plot holes—and that’s huge!—but you might not have fixed that predictable ending. The point is, you’ve put in a lot of work and now it’s time once again for you to do a read-through. Are you going to love it (and keep working to fix any additional problems) or are you going to leave it (because there’s just too much that still is not working and frankly, you suspect it will never work) and move on to a new project?

Love it or leave it? Only you can determine what’s next for your writing, but isn’t this a lot more exciting than talking about revision? And seriously, I can’t wait to hear what you decide! (Or for that matter, to watch the next episode of Love It or List It!)

~Cathy C. Hall

Cathy C. Hall has plenty of manuscripts that she loves (and more than a few that she's left behind). If she can pull herself away from Love It or List It, she'll finish a few of those picture book manuscripts she adores. And possibly even the kitchen renovations she started back in October. (And by kitchen reno, she means the wallpaper fiasco.)


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--First off, is that a recent pic, or one from the past? If it's a recent one, I dislike you intensely, because you're getting younger looking. It's a great photo.

Secondly, this comes at the perfect time. A few publishers have my full manuscript (they had a small taste and then asked for the whole enchilada), and I figure if all three say, "List it," there must be something seriously wrong with it.

I just have to be patient. While I'm waiting, I guess I can check out that TV show...

Cathy C. Hall said...

Well, Sioux, that pic's about a year old but it was from Daughter's wedding and nothing makes a mom smile more than seeing her kids' happiness. That or relief, I'll let you decide. :-)

If it's been more than four months, it's okay to give those folks a nudge. I imagine lots of writers are nudging in January with the new year and all that so maybe I'd wait a wee bit longer, but still. It's okay to check and go from there.

Meanwhile, YES! Let me know what you think of Hilary--but I have to warn you, she looks pretty darn fabulous for a woman of a certain age. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

What good advice! Without a big picture plan, we tend to move a comma, change a word or two and just tinker. We need that plan to dive into the big changes.

Renee Roberson said...

Ha ha! That is a great show. I haven't watched it in awhile, but it definitely has its own framework. I'm not good at outlines and plans to fix things, but I recently had an epiphany about one of my manuscripts I let go stagnant. It's a YA suspense loosely based on my daughter, where a teenage girl gets stalked and kind of becomes a damsel in distress. It wasn't working. At the same time, I had loaned my copy of "Save the Cat Writes a Novel" to my daughter, who enjoys writing short stories. I went into her bedroom the other day and she had a wall covered in sticky notes, all where she has been brainstorming one of her novellas. It put me to shame. I'm not a sticky note person. I asked her if she wanted to help me "rewrite" the YA novel, but make the girl even more like her, a cybersecurity expert who can fight back with technology. She jumped for joy. So . . . I think we're going to love the manuscript together before listing it again!

anita said...

Cathy, I love this! I think you should send it to Writers' Digest. It is informative, inspiring and fun. I dare you :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Anita, when YOU send something, I will. :-)
(And thanks!)

Renee, that's wonderful!I can't wait to see where that YA ms goes!

And thanks, Sue, we love to tinker, don't we? (I do that with my home decorating, too. As if moving the lamp will change the whole aesthetic of the room. P.S. It doesn't. Hahahaha!)

Linda O'Connell said...

I love that show, and I love how you tied it into writing. Will I love it or list it? I ask myself that often. And then I ask, can I REhome it for when the rejection come in. That's when the redesign begins.

Jackie Rod said...

Cathy, I loved your thoughts on Will I Love It or List it and how it fits into our writing plans. As writers we might call our plan, Will I Love It and Publish It? Thanks for encouraging writers to be the best that they can be.
The new profile pic is lovely!

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