About Mario

My photo
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mario Piumetti is a freelance writer of science fiction, horror, screenplays, and nonfiction. He has a bachelor's degree in English from California Lutheran University and an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University. An avid music lover, his work is heavily influenced by rock, punk, and metal. You can contact him at mario.piumetti.writer@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Productive Hatred

I talked to a writer friend of mine tonight, asking how's she's been and how her work's going.  When I told her what I've been up to, she said, "I hate your productivity."  Now, in fairness, I have been having an enviable amount of output lately.  I must have put out at least 10,000 words on my novel in the last week, and I've experienced a strange burst of motivation, but I digress.  My friend has said this four-word phrase to me for some time now, or at least a variation of it.

Bitterness?  I'd like to think she's not the bitter type, but perhaps in need of some motivation.  And, in fairness, she's got a 9-to-5 job, while I'm working part-time at the moment; I've got more time in my day to get the words out.

Writing is a very lonely profession.  You sit alone at a keyboard (or typewriter, or quill and ink, or hammer and chisel) and you produce words that form a narrative.  That simply won't change.  Get used to it.  But writers do need each other to keep their spirits up.  To my friend - to any writer who feels they're not putting out like a good literary whore ought to - productive hatred may be just the thing for you.

It's not kill-or-be-killed kind of fury, but a game of Can You Top This?  I think George Lucas mentioned this once in an interview when he talked about the relationship he had with people like Steven Spielberg; "If you're so smart, why don't you do this project or that project?"  Your friends can't do the work for you, but, whether they're newcomers to the craft or veterans, by seeing them produce actual work, it might drive you back to your own, and come Hell or high water, you're going to get determined to punch out those four of five pages a day.

There's also another kind of productive hatred I'd like to mention: revenge.  When I was in grad school, you wouldn't believe how pissed off I was to hear that Lauren Conrad got a three-book deal from HarperCollins.  I mean, seriously?  You HC butt-fuckers gave her three books?!  And on top of that, last year, they agreed to let her produce another unholy trinity.

I still remember fuming in 2009 when I heard about her first trio of books, and I asked a professor of mine, "Is it okay to write out of revenge?  If you see someone you know can't write a grocery list get such a sweet deal, is it okay to write with the intention of giving her her comeuppance?"  My professor said, "Um, yes, Mario.  It's totally okay."

So when folks ask me how I stay motivated, I always tell them it's because I see other people getting shit done and don't want to look lazy with my work...and because I want Lauren Conrad to cry, to cry her Laguna Beach heart out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Little Blue Book

Writing isn't like masturbation.  There's no instant gratification.  The problem is that you can have a difficult time finding the off switch to your creativity, an inability to tell your brain to stop coming up with new ideas until you've finished the book you've already started.  And the sick irony is that you need your brain to think creatively in order to write in the first place.

What you need is an idea notebook, a convenient repository to jot down your ideas as they come to you.  Sounds like a no-brainer, but it does wonders.  I keep a journal as a hobby, and I often write down my notes and thoughts on the writing process in it, but that's not enough.  Matters of everyday life get written down as well; there's at least a complaint a day about how little sleep I'm getting.

With that in mind, I recently bought a small, plain blue notebook.  Dedicate each page to one story idea.  Write the rough idea, key sources of inspiration if you have them, and maybe a couple of possible titles to toss around.  Now, if you're working on a story and it doesn't work out the way you'd hoped, you don't have to freak out about where your next idea is going to come from.  Just tick a mark on that abandoned project, turn the page, and move on to the next one.

Pressure: Temporal and Mental

Writing is a balancing act between the need to produce material and the crunch of a 24-hour day.  There's nothing anyone can do about the length of the day.  I just want to get that out right now.

The second thing I want to get out, in case I haven't been clear enough already, is how my alien invasion novel works: it's a series of vignettes focusing on eight main characters.

And now to reconcile Point A and Point B.  I'd prefer to get a vignette written each day on the novel.  It's a nice and convenient way to keep track of my progress.  There are a hundred and one vignettes, so at this pace, it should take me a little over three months to finish the first draft.  The sad reality is that every now and then some vignettes come around that are longer than others, or there are days when things pile up on the side and I can't get to the end of a scene.

When I start a vignette, I like to have a to-do list with me, a sequence of events that tell me what these five or six pages are about.  I usually have five or six events per vignette, but today I started one that had ten, nearly double the amount I usually go for, and I only got through about a third of them.  However, I still reached my day's quota of a thousand words.

Was this a good day or a bad day?  It was both - good because I reached the quota, and bad because the vignette wasn't finished - but to me I think I came out on top because a thousand words is a lot to get down on paper.  Part of me is a little bummed that I didn't get as much as I wanted to today, but I can at least sleep easy that I got a minimal standard.  If I had kept going until I got to the end of the vignette, I'd probably be awake until six in the morning, and then I wouldn't wake up early enough to get the next day's work done.

So yes, there is a time crunch on a writer, but there's a mental one as well.  Overworking the brain can cause it to shutdown when we really need it.  That's why it's never good to constantly pull all-nighters when you're in college.  In my opinion, setting a daily goal like a word quota is a great way to make sure you're getting things done without overextending yourself.

And on that note, I'm going to sleep.