Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fiddle Away

sound board

Recently, I “finished” a revision of my WIP (is one ever really finished with a revision?), and the following analogy popped into my head.


We’ll call it the “Sound Mixer And Revision/Transformation,” or S.M.A.R.T., analogy. (By the way, did you know they eliminated the analogy portion of the SAT? I say bring it back, society is too easy on kids today. How are they going to succeed in life if they don’t know how a thistle is related to a frying pan?)

This past summer, I took my son to a Peter Frampton/Yes concert (I fought off the urge to don flared jeans and volumize my hair). We sat a few rows behind the sound guy, who was working two enormous soundboards—each with dozens of sliders and dials and switches. He fiddled with them all, a virtuoso of the knobs, until the optimum sound reached the ears of everyone in the venue.

That’s how I envision the revision process.

Imagine a giant soundboard in front of you, the writer. Instead of it being labeled with different mics and speakers and pick-ups, it’s got the names of all your characters and scene settings (if it becomes obvious I don’t know what I’m talking about with regard to sound dynamics—or the writing process, for that matter—just work with me here, folks. It’s only an analogy!).

You’ve completed a draft of the manuscript, but it’s rough around the edges (and by “rough,” I mean putrid). You need to go in and adjust some of the “volume” levels. A little more Character A and her derring-do. A little less Character B and his annoying drawl. Less description in scene 9 (Exactly how many sentences does it take to say the meadow is lovely?) Ease up on the dialog in scene 32. More tension in scenes 4, 5, and 22. Crank those dials!

It’s your opus—do what you need to. Keep fiddling until you’ve created your masterpiece.

Then sit back and listen for the feedback. That’s what the sound engineers do.

How do you envision the revision process?




Anonymous said...

Alan - That's a terrific analogy!! I've worked one or two sound boards (not the modern ones, though), and you're right; it's a lot like revising. Each little piece of what you do on the soundboard affects the whole and can make it better.

JournoMich said...

Very true! I see the correlation to any editing system--like the one we use at work with video, sound, etc.

And my entire grad school exam was analogies--very important in life! 3/4 of my blog posts are based on analogies.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I simply call massaging a manuscript as "tweaking" but now I'll think about your sound board every time. Excellent analogy. How was the concert? Did you lift a lighter or match at the end?

Darrell James said...

Alan- I totally get your analogy having worked sound for theatre productions a few times.

I've always compared writing/revising to working a Rubik's Cube. I keep working the story until all the sides line up the same color.

Barb Goffman said...

I don't understand, Alan. Revision? You mean it doesn't come out perfectly the first time? Sheesh. And you call yourself a professional! ;-)

Barb Goffman

Alan Orloff said...

Margot - Or, if you're not careful, worse.

Michele - I love analogies. Why, they're like warm brownies out of the oven (hmm, maybe that's just a metaphor (or a simile?)--I wasn't too good in English class).

Sue Ann - Nobody raised anything. Too many arthritic shoulders at that concert.

Darrell - The only way I could solve the Rubik's Cube was to dissassemble it and put it back together with the colors matching. (See? Much better at engineering than English.)

Barb - I don't believe I ever used the "P" word.

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, so when is your first albm going to be available? Are you doing a tour?

G.M. Malliet said...

I kind of got stuck at "flared jeans," an image that made me smile. It set me to remembering the Mod Squad, and how I could never get my hair to look like Julie's. (This was in the days when we ironed our hair, all of us trying to look like her. This is why our generation is way tougher than these people with their slam-dunk SAT tests.)

Anyway, you can see why revisions are really hard for me. The focus just isn't there.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Great analogy! I sometimes think of a potter at a wheel, scooping up sloppy clay from the floor, trying to smooth it into something beautiful. Sometimes it collapses in on itself. Sometimes the potter shaves some clay away and regrets it, and must return it. Sometimes the potter decides the whole mess needs to go back on the floor. Finally the potter has something ready for the furnace.... I'll stop there.

Alan Orloff said...

Keith - I'll go on tour if you'll play the drums in my band.

Gin - I tried for Linc's fro. No luck.

Kathleen - There are times when I'd like to put my manuscript in the kiln. Many times.

Keith Raffel said...

Alan, Sorry. I had my heart set on bass.

Alan Orloff said...

Keith - Oh? You'd rather go fishing?

Vicki Doudera said...

I have never worked a sound board. I did run the timer for the hockey games in college, does that count?

Jessie Chandler said...

I love this analogy!!! I can picture the scenes on the sliders and going to town. If only it were that easy...