About Mario

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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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

No Tomorrow: Day 83

I got through quite a bit of plotting today for No Tomorrow, and got back to my old habit of using note cards as a guide.  Note cards are great simply because you can shuffle them around with ease.  A list of scenes works out too, but then you have to keep crossing things out and scribbling on the page when a particular arrangement doesn't work.  Cards are a way to sort of brainstorm the outline.  I guess I'm a perfectionist like that.

The problem came when I had to think up new stuff.  Yeah, my brain-meat loves to kick back with a cold beer and chillax.  Sucks for you, Brain!  Fortunately, I have an idea of what I want to happen at the end of the book, and I scenes salvaged from the beginning.  So when I get down to it, I had two ends of a bridge built up, and then I just had to cross the gap.  Again, shuffling cards around came in handy when I had to figure this middle part out.  I had a bunch of scenes to work with, but simply had to figure out the best order to put them in.

There's a little more I have yet to do on the plotting.  The first draft was one long chunk of text without any chapter breaks.  I'm still not entirely sure if I want chapters at all in this book, but I do know that I at least want to divide the plot into sections.  If there are chapters within those sections, so be it, but I'm not going to worry about it right now.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wannabe Writers

I was at Coffee Bean the other night doing some work when in walked this woman meeting up with a friend of hers at the table next to me.  Now, I don't know any Valspeak, but among the like's and um's and OMG's, I heard the newcomer tell her friend that she's thought about being a writer.  I was pleasantly surprised to hear this because, frankly, I thought Trixie's reading skills were restricted to tweeting.

But then she dropped the bomb.  "I want to be a writer, but I don't know how.  I have, like, soooo many ideas I don't know which on to pick."  Boom!  My high hopes for her vaporized like downtown Hiroshima on a bright August morning.  In fairness, I don't know this girl, and I probably never will, but let's suppose my ego had taken over.  What would I have said to her?  Or better yet, what would I have said to myself at that age?  Or, shit, let's go all out and apply this to anyone who wants to take up writing.

So, in no particular order, I would say...

"Do something else."

Seriously.  Study geology.  Be an accountant.  Wipe jizz off the windows at a strip club.  Consider doing anything other than writing.  If you're capable of doing anything else, I'd suggest you go do that.  Right now.

Still convinced that the written word is your passion, your drive, your reason for living?  Fine.  In that case...

"Sit your fucking ass down!"

I mean this both physically and mentally.  Yes, writing involves sitting down and getting the work done, but more importantly, it involves settling on a precious few ideas at a time.  You'll never get anything done if you're trying to write a hundred things at once.  If you did, you'd only get fifteen minutes a day for each one, and that's if you commit all twenty-four hours of the day to your work.  That sucks.  I understand.  I've been in that situation where I don't know if I want to write this story or that story.  But by stretching yourself out too thinly, you're only torturing yourself in the long run.  You don't get brownie points for how many projects you try juggling.  You get brownie points for actually finishing stuff.

Speaking of which...

"You're going to fuck up!"

You really are.  People are going to read your early work and tell you it's crap.  Ray Bradbury once said that he went over his early material that got rejected, and realized that all the magazines were right to pass on them.  But that's okay because it's really the only way you're going to learn the do's and don't's of writing.

And while I'm on the subject of learning, this is completely optional, but...

"Consider enrolling in an MFA program."

An master's degree in writing is not required, but I think it does help out a lot.  You get to study under established writers and learn from their years of experience.  Furthermore, you get to meet other writers from all kinds of walks; some of those students are published too, but there are a lot of writing students were are starting out just like you.  As with any other career, making those connections will help you out in the long run.  You can all share advice with each other, refer each other to openings for submissions.  All sorts of goodies.

And you don't even have to worry about whether or not you're school-savvy either.  One of my instructors at Antioch remarked that he went from high school to master's degree while jumping over college.  Yes, writing programs do want to see your transcripts, but more than that, they want to see a sample of your work to see how much promise you've got.

But what's that?  You don't really want to pursue a degree.  There's the alternative, which is...

"Join a writing group."

A writing group has all the real-world learn-as-you-go experience of a master's program but without the tuition.  Unfortunately, this also means that you're all students without a teacher to guide you.  An MFA program is like sitting in cold water with the heat slowly turning up.  You steadily feel when the pressure is getting to you and you can call out for someone to lower the burner.  Outside of an MFA program, learning on your own, you're getting dunked into a pot of boiling water straight away.  Mistakes will be even more frequent.  Frustrations will be higher.  A writing career is still possible, but it's going to involve a lot more sweat.

Well, not just sweat.  Regardless of the road you take, you'll need to...

"Be a patience little psycho-gnome!"

Even if you carpet bomb the magazines with submissions, it's going to take a while to hear back from them just for a rejection.  And there's going to be a whole lotta rejection!  But don't wait with a dry thumb up your ass.  Send your stuff out and immediately get to work on something else while you wait.  Or you could dance like Jesse Hughes.

Friday, September 27, 2013

No Tomorrow: Day 80

So my plans for the online alien series collapse, though I can't say I'm all that surprised.  Whatever excitement I felt for it earlier this month seemed to evaporate.  Still, all the plotting work I did last week got me revved up to tackle no Tomorrow, and I think I've given it plenty of distance.  It's time to forget about aliens and return my thoughts to zombies.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Gauntlet

In case you haven't noticed, I've been spazzing out like a fuckin' psycho over the last twenty-four hours on whether or not I ought to keep going with my novel.  I've decided to keep going with it.

I still got a very low opinion of it.  I look at the manuscript and think it's got no future, or perhaps a very slim chance at a future.  I read an excerpt of it tonight at the Roar Shack reading series in Echo Park, stumbling so many times over my ever-fattening tongue that I kept thinking, You got no business being at the microphone, asshole.  The reception I got was pretty good compared to my expectations.  David Rocklin, the director of the series, congratulated me on it afterwards.  I've met him enough times to know that he's nurturing like that.

But that's not why I decided to keep going with No Tomorrow.

I got to the reading early, like an hour early; like the back room where the readings take place wasn't open yet early.  I was there before David and his family showed up and we talked about what was worrying me with the project as I chipped in to help where I could to set up for the evening.

There are going to be...how can I put this politely?  Shitload better books than this one.  I'm speaking in the scope of my own writing career.  I can do better than a zombie book, but the only way to do that is to LEARN how to do better, and I can't do that without running through the gauntlet.  If I give up and pass on this novel, then I'm not trying to learn the biggest lesson: get...to...the end!

Furthermore, if I give up on this book, then I know I'll give up on the next one.  Quitting is contagious.  At some point, you have to draw the line, stand your ground, and, even if you don't believe in your chances, you have to stare your story down.

The 4th or 8th Idea

So almost immediately after last night's post about quitting No Tomorrow, I rescinded my decision.  Thankfully, I did it before deleting all my files on it and shredding the papers that I've got printed out; the first draft, the notes, everything.

I stand by what I said last night.  The book, in its current form, feels very derivative.  I don't know if it actually is derivative.  It just feels that way.  I read an article last night in the new Writer's Digest issue about ten things that might be wrong with your manuscript.  One of the things listed was that your novel might be too familiar.  So when I thought about my novel, I instantly began comparing it to The Walking Dead because it's one of my favorite zombie projects, and therefore I'm constantly comparing everything zombie-related to it.

But hear me out.

The article read: Relocating the story, renaming the characters, or changing the gender does not an original novel make.

Here was the solution: Follow your own ideas, not knockoffs, and don't create in a void - know what's already out there and make sure your own novel stands apart.  To avoid obvious plotting, ask yourself if you chose the first idea that came into your head.  If so, can you push yourself further and pick perhaps the fourth idea, or even the eighth?  Dig deep and you will probably find a new take on something that was just too obvious before.


No Tomorrow and writing a zombie story was the first thing that popped into my head after Undead and Inhuman...

...I guess I really am stopping it after all.

Silence Is Golden

Tonight, I'm feeling like such a fucking douchebag, like someone who shouldn't write a grocery list, let alone a full-length novel.

That's right, darlings, No Tomorrow has suffered the same fate as just about every other story I've tried writing in the past.  And I fucking hate myself for it.  I'm starting to even question whether or not the Powers That Be were wise in bestowing me with an MFA.

I should have seen this coming.  I really should have.  When I failed with Undead and Inhuman a few months ago, in desperation to make up for lost time, I jumped onto the zombie bandwagon largely because largely because I needed to do something, anything, to fill in the gap.  What I'm staring at now is three hundred pages of pseudo-Walking Dead complete with even a Governor-esque asshole.

Sure, I guess I could hid that fact and keep plugging away at it saying, "No!  That town is sooooo NOT Woodbury!"  Then, in the privacy of my on home, I can flog myself for it.  Because the truth is that I can't do it.  I can't go writing something that's clearly been done and hope to God that no one is going to notice.

Writers are always the first reader.  We talk about there being an ideal reader out there, someone specific in the audience that we aim to please, but still, we have to please our own tastes first, and this simply isn't doing it for me.

There IS a book for me to write.  I can be certain of this because I feel my bones creaking over it like the branches of a tree in the wind.  And until I find it, you'll hear...nothing.  I'm keeping my mouth shut about it, even when I do find it until I can be certain that it's going to stick with me for the long haul.  I'm doing this to spare myself the agony of another raised hope (as I'm sure there probably will be), because the next one, if it's good, I don't want to ruin it by giving it air and light when it needs to first ferment in solitude.

Maybe that's what's jinxed me with past projects, talking about it before it's ready.  Maybe there are some gung-ho, psychopathic commando robots out there that can jump me in case I get the urge to do that again.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Tomorrow: Day 58

After a long silence, I'm back with news on my novel No Tomorrow.  I've been quiet because I've taken time off from it, but now I'm taking a look at the first draft and getting things ready for the next draft.

I wrote the first draft by the seat of my pants.  I let the muse take me.  That's just a nice way of saying that Gillian had a knife to my scrotum every day.  But the threat of my imaginary agent set aside, I wrote as much as I could as fast I could, putting everything that came to mind down onto the page and hoping that it would all make sense at the end.

So now I've got all of September to figure out what the hell it is I'm writing.  The first step was taken a few days ago as I went through the manuscript for scenes that I'd want to keep in the next draft, because I'll be damned if I'm going to just pulp a month and a half of writing.  Only assholes do that.

I've boiled things down to three core characters, but right now, the tricky thing is figuring out what the sequence of events will be among them.  Even though I've marked down interesting scenes from the first draft, I have a strong feeling that not all of them are going to work.  Some, no matter how much I might enjoy, are going to have to be dropped because they might not mix well with the flavor of the next draft.  Style will play a large part in that, and I'm not sure what the style of this book is yet.

On the bright side, I've got an entire month to figure it all out.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Infamous Platform Post

So it's happened before where I announce the start of a website or a Twitter page, and you might now be asking yourself, "What's Platform?  Is that something new?  Is it like Facebook on speed?"

No.  Platform is a concept, not a service.

I was at a barbeque last week, and got to talking about writing with a friend of a friend.  I mentioned using Twitter for writing and that I had a website.  Not in a "oh, please check out my site" sort of way, but rather just a simple point of conversation.  She then asked me why I had a site to begin with.  This woman wasn't condescending about it.  Quite the opposite.  She wasn't a writer and was genuinely curious as to why I'd go through the trouble of putting a site together when my publications were so few.

A platform represents a writer's ability to promote his or her work, and yes, it is a real part of the job.  No writer can get by only producing the work, not anymore, and it's been like that for quite a while.  The logic behind it is pretty sound, too.  The writer knows more about the book than anyone else.  That's why bookstores have writer events rather than editor or cover artist events.  Unless, of course, editing or cover art is the focus of that event.

I've been building up my platform for...*thinks*...Christ, years, for at least as long as I've written this blog.  In that time, I've learned a few things about how to go about it.

You're Never Done Doing it

For starters, don't think you can knock off doing a platform in a weekend, because you can't.  It's like your résumé.  You're always updating it, polishing it, making sure that it reflects you right now and not five years ago.  I evaluate my platform every few months to see what's going strong, what's been neglected, and what new planks can I add to it.  Updating my Twitter?  Sure, no problem.  Updating my blog?  *Clears throat and looks away*

Navigating Social Media

Social media is a big part of the promotional game, what with folks spread out all over the globe.  The Internet is a powerful tool that, like the Force, binds us together.  And like the Force, it has a dark side in the variety of outlets.  Facebook.  Instagram.  Youtube.  Pinterest.  The best thing you can do is take your time on this and think about shaping each outlet to suit your needs.  A blog is great for keeping people up-to-date on what you're doing.  Twitter is perfect for short quips and announcements, and my website is a sort of online business card and résumé.

Would I use Instagram?  Probably not because photography doesn't really have anything to do with my writing.  Would I use Youtube?  Perhaps later on if I have a book trailer or some other video content.  But right now I don't, so it's not a top priority for me.

Connectivity Is a Grand Ol' Thing

Each piece of social media is a plank for the platform.  They're okay on their own, but they're stronger when linked to each other.  Because of that, I'm always making sure that my media outlets have references to each other.  My website, for example, has links on the homepage for the blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages.  Not all of these links work out.  Twitter has a link for my website, but not for the blog or the Facebook page.  If you can link at least 75% of your media content, I think you're in a good position.  You want to give people the shortest routes to take if they want to look around at other stuff you might have out there.

It Takes People to Make Shit Work

I've said it before and I'll say it again, a writer's community is a great thing.  A community in any field is a great thing for two reasons.  The most important is that you've got a sort of mental support network in which people understand what sort of hardships you're going through trying to get your work done.  For the purposes of this post, the other reason is a professional one.  These other writers are your colleagues.  They've got their ear to the ground when you don't.  They'll mention opportunities and job openings that you might want to take advantage of.  They're your editors, your advisers.  In short, social media is merely a tool.  People are your real platform.

No one likes being used, so your relationships are the ones that will require the most savvy.  Be altruistic.  I've edited essays for writer friends not because I want them to do the same for my work later on - well, yeah, I do - but also because I want them to succeed as well.  The best rule of thumb I can give for this is: expect nothing, give everything.

Know the Boundaries

This might sound counterintuitive, but don't spend all your social time promoting.  At best, you'll end up looking desperate.  At worst, people will think you're trying to fellate yourself.  For example, I have my first schedule public reading a week from today.  I haven't announced it beyond putting it up on my news feed on the website.  The biggest reason is that I just haven't gotten around to it.  I've been super swamped with other work lately.  But once I do, I don't plan on promoting every single day.  For sure, I'll announce it today, and then the day before the event and the day of it.  But the other four days in between?  I probably won't say anything simply because I don't want to be a billboard.  I don't want to wake up every day saying, "Look at me!  Look at me!"  That would be whore-ish.