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, December 29, 2014

The Self-Punisher

If I had a nickel each time someone told me how hard I am on myself, I could probably go on tour as a self-punisher.

Last week was bad enough with two stories falling apart.  I tried reigniting my desire to write an alien invasion story, something I've wanted to do for about fifteen years, but it felt like my brain was clogged up.  And when that happens, one think never changes: you feel like shit, and question even your own literacy.

What's the hardest part of writing?  Finishing the first draft.

What's harder?  Getting the damn idea!

It's great when an idea pops into your head, something so cool you get chills thinking about how enthusiastic you are over it.  That's how I felt when I started tinkering with my screenplay idea, which, in a nutshell, is 2001: A Space Odyssey meets The Thing.  I thought, Wow!  This is awesome.  I have no idea how to make the science of it work, but who cares?  It feels right.

But sometimes the right idea isn't doesn't click as well.  One of my collapsed stories from last week was called Rock Is Undead about a group of vampire friends who reunite for a concert.  Sounded pretty cool.  People like music (at least, I like music) and vampires are in these days.  Except the story just didn't click for me.  As I wrote, I thought, Okay, these guys are going to a concert.  They're vampires.  So what?  What's so special about this concert, and what do I care about vampires?

And with twenty pages of meandering nonsense and no direction, I gave up on it.  I just didn't know what to do, Peggy Sue.

I'm mostly venting frustrations here, but I think it's a universal problem with writers.  We all want to be special little butterflies, creative juggernauts with an all-access backstage pass to the Muse (no, not the British band).  And it might be even more frustrating when you don't have other writers on hand to bounce ideas off of.  On average, I get to see my writer friends about once a month, and when I do, I'd rather not selfishly pick their brains over my work.  I'm much more interested in how they've been and how the holidays are treating them.

What's harder than getting the idea?  How about getting over your own self-loathing?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Dumb Dumb

Today's been a bittersweet one on the writing front.  On the one hand, I added a few pages to my sci-fi screenplay, and I feel pretty good about that.  The screenplay began a little hazy and uncertain even with an outline.  And not about twenty-five pages in, I feel like it's really finding its feet.

But then this afternoon, TWO other stories collapsed, and that sort of double-whammy did not inspire much greatness in moi.  One of those stories, by the way, was almost as long as the screenplay, and dealt with a scenario I thought was pretty good.

The problem with one was that I didn't care as much as I thought, and the other kept meandering.  Oddly enough, plotting has also been my enemy up until now.  Roar Shack wasn't plotted until at least the second or third draft.

This isn't uncharted territory for me.  It's me revisiting the magical land of Hey-You-Screwed-Up-ia, a tyrannical kingdom at war with both Utopia and Dystopia.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Organizing Projects

A couple of months ago, I began using Trello while finishing my internship, and it impressed me so much that I began using it not only for weekly to-do lists, but also writing projects and even job searching.  It's a wonderful and intuitive organizer and you can also using it for group projects too by sharing a board with other members.  Basic service is free, but even then it's a very powerful tool.

If you have a lot on your writing plate, I strongly recommend thins, and in this post I'll show how it can help keep you focused on multiple things at once.

Here's my writing board on the site...

In Trello, you can make a number of boards, each one consisting of columns called lists and a number of tabs or cards in each list.  I use one card per project or story.  Each list helps organized by the kind of work being done, so I've got nonfiction and long and short fiction as well as a "Business" list for general housekeeping stuff and "Research" to help keep track of progress on the Document.

You'll notice that some cards have colored accents on them.  Trello allows you to color-code cards, and I use this to tell at a glance what stage each project is.  You can customize these labels in the sidebar to the right under "Menu."

Below are the different stages I assign to a project at any given time...

I don't know if this is included on other operating systems, but I use Yosemite on my MacBook Pro and it lets you tag files with different colors.  I mention this because those are the same colors available to you in Trello.  Personally, I find that very helpful because it lets me mark the projects directly based on their status.

If an project has been published, it has no color assigned to it because there's no additional work to do.  Of course, sometimes stories can be reprinted or retired pieces can be polished off later for publication, which doesn't delete them (although you can permanently).  Instead, archiving a card hides it in the sidebar to be retrieved later, making it a convenient vault for past work.

The cards aren't idle either.  In fact, they have a lot of helpful features.  Below is a card for a film review I'm working on for Carpe Nocturne...

The orange box contains the all-important due date or deadline, which can be edited on the right hand side.  If you're withing twenty-four hours of your deadline, it'll turn yellow as a warning, and red if you're pass due.  The green box contains the description in which I write the logline of the project I'm working on to quickly refresh my memory on the story.  And the red box, which is a convenient way to track progress over time; so you can write a quick comment when you finish a draft, submit a piece, or hear back from a publisher.  There's also the attachment button in the black box so you have the option of uploading and removing different drafts as you go along.

All in all, Trello is an amazing organizer, and once you make it part of your routine, I think you'll start wondering how you managed without it.  Steve Dotto in Canada has a good demo for it on Youtube.  And if you're part of a company that does a lot of collaborative work, I highly recommend the demo from Trello's developer Fog Creek Software.

Don't Quit

This week has had its ups and downs, especially the first half, but as I got ready for bed tonight, an old plaque on the wall caught my eye.  It's the kind with a poem written on it.  I forgot it was even there.  I read the poem, and it seemed to be just what I needed lately, so I thought I'd share it with you.  It's called Don't Quit:

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside-out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


I've slacked off on the Document lately, that compendium of knowledge that's meant to be all the research notes I'd ever need for any project, so tonight I decided to chuck the hard copy into the trash and sift through the files I have saved on dropbox.  Besides, I had a project in mind and wanted to make sure some of the notes really were as complete as possible.

Horror of horrors!  As I began the reprinting, my printer's ink cartridge finally ran dry.  Because ink is pretty pricey for me (yes, I'm trying to cut the fat from my expenses that bad), a friend of mine recommended I check out Cartridge World in Pasadena, which does refills at a fraction of what a shiny new replacement would demand.

So there I am going through these files anyways, and it suddenly popped in my head: why the hell am I printing this out?!

I mean, the whole point of the document, really, is for me to print out what notes I needed and then mark and annotate them according to the project at hand.  So even if I've got this master copy set aside, it's just going to gather dust because it's not meant to be marked up.

There are some notes I do need printed.  For example, I have a quartet of fictional towns in California that I'd like to set a number of stories in.  As I mark the maps with various locations, it's unrealistic to print out a fresh copy with those handwritten notes on them, see?  But with the rest of it, I ought to think less about printing out notes and more about printing out an annotated table of contents so I can look up each item by category along with a brief summary of how it's helpful.

In my defense, I'm a moron, but as Socrates says, the greatest knowledge is knowing you know nothing.  Which also means Jon Snow is a freakin' genius.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Drugs Like Me

So Lars von Trier recently confessed a number of things.  First, he admitted he was undergoing treatment for drug addiction.  I commend him for this.  Second, he admitted he's attending AA to get a grip on alcohol problems.  I hope he sticks with it.  Third, he admitted he's afraid sobriety will cost him his creativity.  I...wait, what?!

I've had my own problems with drinking until the day came when my family and friends voiced their concerns and frustrations.  They were worried about my health.  They were embarrassed by my actions.  Like a number of artists, I felt like I had to drink ravenously in order to get in the zone.  But reading this article about von Trier had me feeling about as much an expert on addiction as Sean Hannity is an expert on politics.

So I asked my friend Patrick O'Neil - friend, writer, and tormentor of TSA agents - to chime in.  Patrick has written extensively on his own addiction and recovery, and his response to von Trier was mind-blowing:

"This is a fear that a lot of us in recovery have had.  Not just with creativity, but with our entire lives.  If we stop using and drinking will we still be the same persona?  Will we be able to still do the creative things that we were doing?  And of course the answer is yes.  You can live your life anyway you want.  Yet when von Trier says he'll never be able to make a movie again because he stopped taking drugs and drinking like a fish, it's pretty fucking lame.  So you have to be shitfaced to make a film.  Really?  That's a drastic stance and the reality is you might not be able to make the movies that you are currently making, but you'll make different ones.  And isn't that what artists do?  They evolve and in turn the personal internal changes are revealed in their work.  My addiction took me as far away from being a creative artist as I possibly could go.  I went from a filmmaker/musician to a street junkie/armed robber and it has taken me years to get back to being that creative person I was before the drugs took over.  Von Trier is actually lucky he didn't have to fall too far from grace before getting help with his addiction.  And of course we're hearing this from him in a very short time clean and sober - the brain's chemistry hasn't even leveled off yet.  It's all a big mystery at this point.  It'll be interesting to hear what he says in six months or a year."