|If I had this pantry, would l can veggies?|
House-hunting and writing have more in common than you'd think. The house hunter opens strangers' pantry doors to gauge how many boxes of cereal and cans of chicken broth the shelves will hold. The writer makes up a story about a mother and child who take refuge in a pantry during a home invasion. Both scenarios require imagination.
The house hunter must be able to picture his/her family living in a particular space. Will the bedrooms please the children? Will the morning sun wake them gently or rudely? The writer pictures the mother and child wedged behind sacks of pet food and set of tray tables. The mother unscrewed the light bulb in the fixture overhead, so she and her little boy have a shot at staying hidden. Unfortunately, the invaders are hungry, and pantries hold snacks.
House-hunting hammers home five basics of writing/querying:
1. Writers get one chance to make a good impression on agents and editors, so our queries should be polished to a high gloss. By the same token, house sellers get one chance to impress potential buyers. Power wash the front entry area, and don't forget the overhang. Is the door clean? Is the hardware in good condition?
2. At first, Hubs and I felt honor-bound to walk through every room of a for-sale house. Now, we check out the view. If it doesn't suit us, we're out of there. Editors and agents reject or ask for sample pages after reading a query's first couple of paragraphs. If the writing, plotting, and characters don't "speak" to them, why should they invest more time? Of course, a view that doesn't thrill me, may be someone else's idea of heaven, and a child-in-jeopardy plot that turns off one agent, may enthrall another.
3. The important-to-the-owners statements stenciled on walls and carved into wood may not speak to potential buyers. Not everyone wants to be reminded to "Live, Laugh, Love" during the house hunt. Similarly, the best fiction doesn't appear to have an agenda and doesn't shout its themes.
4. Homeowners tend to remodel room by room, but each project should suit the house as a whole. Ten different kinds of flooring and wildly different paint colors make the overall effect choppy. Writers proceed chapter by chapter but have to keep the overall storyline in mind or the work becomes episodic.
5. Smart sellers get advice from those who've been there and done that. Someone who's relocated five+ times has a good idea of what buyers want in a house, and real estate agents routinely advise home owners to declutter. When it comes to my writing, it's hard for me to see certain flaws, so I count on critique partners and beta readers to point out mistakes and missteps.
Do you see lessons for writers in the house hunt? Do the whiny house hunters on HGTV make you throw things?
About the house hunt: Where do you stand on carpet versus wood or tiled floors? When you walk into a showing and find scented candles burning, are you charmed or do you suspect a mold problem?