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, January 26, 2015

Brainstorming Sessions

Coming up with ideas has always been a problem for me - always - and I don't think it gets any easier with time.  At a reading of my story Roar Shack, the other writers in attendance and I were asked where our particular stories came from.  In the case of Roar Shack, it was basically an assignment.  The monster theme came from Penumbra in a list of themes they were covering before they closed their doors.

That's the easy way to get an ideas, but there are others.

Every story begins with an idea, and to have any hope of being a productive and prolific writer, you need to keep the ideas coming.  I'm speaking for myself, of course, but I think an hour a day at least a few times a week should be spent on brainstorming.  Even if you're busy with a bunch of projects, I'd rather have something rather than nothing.

Here are some things you can use for your own brainstorming sessions...

Get out of the office.

This is something I heard from independent filmmaker Ryan Connolly who hosts an entertaining and informative Youtube program called Film Riot.  Couch time is exactly what it sounds like: you stretch out on a couch running ideas through your head.  Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran says, "Go outside.  All the big ideas are on the outside.  You'll never have a creative idea at your desk."  The bottom line is you need to get out of the office.  You might not come up with your next story in this brainstorming session or that, but by getting away from the desk, you're telling Serendipity you're available.

Notebooks are good.

Stephen King says notebooks are the best way to preserve bad ideas, but I also suspect he's got a psychic connection to Todash Space; he might not be willing to admit it.  King says that everyone's method is different, so while the notebook might not work for him, it could work for you.  I keep one of those composition books on hand and just jot down whatever comes to mind, especially when I'm working through particularly difficult brainstorming problems.  No one might read it.  Even I might not read it.  But writing things down has always been how my brain works.  I kept about a dozen journals in college, never looked back on most of them, but I can still remember a few good ideas that bubbled up.  I also keep a little pocket notebook in my pocket when I'm out and about.  If I'm working on my MacBook Pro and something comes to mind, I have got the stickies app to make a quick note of it.

Talk to friends (real or imaginary).

An idea might sound good on paper, but it could fall apart when spoken out loud.  If I have a chance to brainstorm with a close friend of mine, I'll do it.  It's hard to get out of your own head, so having someone else with you is a good way to get a new perspective on ideas.  I hung out with a friend of mine the other day and bounced ideas off of her on an alien invasion story (something I've wanted to do for a long, long time).  A lot of the ideas I had for specific story elements had been in my head for a few years.  At the very least, it was a chance for me to ask, "Does that make sense?"  It could make all the sense in the world to you, but bouncing ideas gives you the audience perspective on it.  If you don't have someone to talk to, think out loud.  Tell your idea to your houseplants, and then be the devil's advocate.  Sure, people will think you're crazy, but if they know you're a writer, they'll probably think you're crazy anyways.

Put on some music.

Along with couch time, it's hard to think of listening to music as part of the workday (unless you're in the music industry).  Not only does a particular song help set the tone you might be aiming for, but every now and then, your ears might pick up on a particular line in the lyrics that could stir an idea.

Some imagination goes a long way.

When all else fails, there is one instance where you could brainstorm in your office: imagine you're in a writers' room.  I used this when I began work on my screenplay after taking a TV writing course on building stories and outlines.  I also worked at an entertainment company at the time.  Basically, I imagined my boss calling me up one morning saying, "Mario, Studio X wants a story about Theme Y.  Think you can come up with something?"  Theme Y is whichever topic I'd like to write about and gives me a starting point.  Then I come up with ten one-line ideas revolving around it.  I develop the most promising half into a short paragraph, and then pick the most promising of them.  I go right into drafting from that.  If it becomes a novel, great.  A short story is the least I can hope for, but one can dream.  I'll turn the idea into a page-long synopsis and then and outline if I'm working on a screenplay, but only because I've learned writing for the screen is a different animal than for the page.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Publications - Unholy Spirits

Happy Sunday, folks!  My new short story Unholy Spirits came out today on The WiFilesUnholy Spirits is about a man who does, goes to Hell, and finds it's not all about fire and brimstone.  In fact, as AC/DC says, Hell ain't a bad place to be.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Getting Out of Creative Black Holes

I recently finished the Document, my big ol' stack of research notes.  And we're talking about notes!  126 documentaries, and I know I watched more that ultimately didn't prove so useful.  But know that my brain's swollen with knowledge, it's time for me to get back to the serious task of actually writing.  After all, these notes are useless unless I can apply them to some good stories.

As useful as the Document is, part of me really did use it as an excuse not to write.  I feel like I've hit a creative slump recently, and was too afraid to admit it to myself.  I was afraid because then it meant I'd have to roll up my sleeves and *gulp* work to come up with new material!

That doesn't sound fun.  Let's spin it into something pleasant.

Okay, next week I'm not going to work towards coming up with new story ideas.  Instead, I'm going to hook my brain up to jumper cables, defibrillate my neurons, and scream, "It's alive!"  Muahahahahaaaaa!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dealing With Distractions

I live with family.  It's true.  Gallup polls show I'm not alone.  That's not to say I'm sitting on the couch all day watching The Walking Dead.  I'll have you know I've been out of the loop on the last season, so please don't ruin it for me.  I don't want to hear about how Shane was really Judith's father or how Daryl and Michonne are having a little of warrior babies.

Writers can work at home.  So can translators, virtual assistants, web developers, and travel agents.  And there's no shame in working from home either.  The way I see it, I've got two jobs right now: writing and finding stabler work.  And I'm happy to say that my family understands a lot of effort goes into these two things.

That said, even with a cozy little office (or scary if the dim lighting freaks you out), I still have to deal with distractions.  This is probably the bane of the worker-at-home's existence.  People think, Well, he's home, so he can help me put together my bookshelf or run some errands with me.  No, sorry.  If we had clones, sure, but we don't.

Here are a handful of tips I've tried out lately.  Some have been more successful than others, but on the whole, it's pretty solid advice I can give so you can get the most out of your day without being a douche to your peers.

Work when people aren't around.

The first tip sounds the most obvious: get your most important stuff done either early in the morning or late in the evening.  Either way, the goal is to hammer through it when everyone else is asleep.  I personally advocate getting things done early in the morning so you don't feel pressed for time late at night, which, of course, you would be.  Besides, why would you want to spend you nights working when you could be with friends and family?

Clue people in.

No one's a mind reader except Professor X.  You're going to have to sit down with your family or housemates and tell them, "Listen, I don't mean to be antisocial, but during the day, I do have to get X, Y, and Z done."  If you do work from home, distractions could mean lost income.  If you're job hunting, distractions could mean missed opportunities, which is just as bad.  The people you live with (hopefully) want you to succeed, so you need to give them a chance to help you, even in a passive way.

The Doors.

Doors aren't just an amazing band, they're a great thing to have in your office, and I'll go so far as saying half the reason you should have an office is just to have a door.  I have a nice little code with my family.  If the door's open, come on in and bug me.  If it's halfway open, bug me only if it's important.  If it's closed, I'm pretty much not at home.  In exchange for this understanding, I try to keep the door closed as little as possible so they don't feel I'm shutting them out 24/7.

Headphones are code for fuck off!

I'd say use this as a last resort, but nothing says "I'm busy and can't talk right now" like a pair of headphones.  I have a pair of earbuds, but I've noticed over-ear headphones are back in vogue.  Plus, they have the benefit of being not-so-subtle.

Accept that you WILL be distracted.

You should just make peace with the fact that you're going to be interrupted no matter what.  If a kid breaks a leg while you've got the door closed, your spouse isn't going to give two shits about your private time.  Fingers crossed, that won't happen, but the point I'm trying to get across is that people got their own lives too and things to do.  Sure, they'll try giving you as much space as you ask for, but if they do need to butt in, there's no sense in being bitchy over it.  Take a breath, be a grown-up, and accommodate them.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Setting Goals

When 2015 began, many people came up with resolutions for the new year.  I went the other way and elected to come up with a new resolution each day.  Yeah.  Suck it, lack of willpower.

I don't take much stock in New Years resolutions, but this last week, I did realize I needed to set some goals for myself in the future, targets to aim, otherwise I'd wander around without even the vaguest idea of a plan.  And it sounds cliched to explain why goals are important, but it's only a cliche if it's true so much of the time.

I think I began taking goals seriously when visiting my buddy Seth once and seeing he had his written down with various deadlines from months to years.  I have five deadlines: lustral (that is, a five-year deadline), annual, monthly, weekly, and daily.  Some are kind of vague with only a fixed time frame in mind like starting a film production company by 2020 or paying off most of my debt this year.  In writing this post, I should probably take some time to break those down into more manageable pieces.

But let's say I want to publish a novel by 2020, which I do.  That means one of this year's goals should be getting a first draft done, and within that year, this month's goal could be as simple as coming up with an idea and perhaps and outline too.  From there, I can break things down further by weeks and then day-by-day.

People are quite visual.  We see something shiny and we want it.  We merely think of something shiny and, eh, we'll get around to it one day.  But if you have your plan written out and in front of you, I think it'll go a long way towards motivating you to take steps to achieve them.

So if nothing else, making tangible goals should be your New Years resolution.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Platform AROUND Writing

Most of us start the new year with resolutions whether it's losing weight, giving to charity, or planning a trip around the world.  I've decided to try out a new resolution each day, but there is a year-long commitment I'm aiming for, and that's better management of social media.

Social media is something I love and hate in equal measure.  I love it when people reach out to me through Twitter, for example, and I love reaching back to them.  But it can be a notorious chrono-leech sucking time from my day, especially when you're striving for multiple posts throughout the day or week.  The three pillars of my platform are this blog, my Twitter page, and my Facebook page.  The problem of staying on top of social media is therefore tripled.  Even one outlet like Twitter can be a headache because you have to stop what you're doing to make a post just to keep the service effective.

Wouldn't it be great if you could just schedule everything?  Wouldn't it be great to make all you promotional tweets for that reading or your blog posts in advance, get it out of the way and not have to worry about it?

Well, you can.

I recently started using an online app called Buffer.  I stumbled onto it after reading an article about a guy trying to become more of a morning person.  He used Buffer to schedule embarrassing tweets early in the morning.  In order to avoid the embarrassment, he has to get up by a certain time and postpone the tweet for the next day, and then repeat.

It hasn't been ironclad - I'm still getting used to being a better early riser - but I have found Buffer to be an amazing tool in handling my Wednesday Wisdom posts and scheduling announcements on my upcoming reading this month.  It's like that rotisserie oven Ron Popeil advertises.  You really can set it and forget it with Buffer.

Blogging is another thing I want to do better on.  Right now, I try getting a new post out once a week, usually on Sundays when I'm prepping for the next week.  About ten minutes ago, literally, I saw Blogger's scheduling feature allowing users to write posts and delay their publishing until a later time.  That's great because you can spend one day writing several posts for the week ahead and not have to worry about being consistent.

One thing I haven't figured out is how to schedule links to the blog.  It's a common practice for me to post the links to articles on Twitter and Facebook.  As far as I know, this can only be done after the post is published, which means I can't schedule them on Twitter and Facebook via Buffer.  The only remedy for this seems to be spending a few minutes each day to post those links manually.  Ooooo...there's five minutes!

All in all, I think this is a really great thing for any writer to have.  It lets you take care of the busywork associated with social media and devote larger blocks of time to storytelling, but still gives you the freedom to make impromptu posts like when you spot a 25-pound gummy bear while window shopping and have to share it with the world.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Announcements - Cirque Salon Reading

Hi, everyone!

I will be reading Roar at Book Show in Highland Park this month and if you're in the area I would love it if you joined.  I'm reading alongside Tanya Ward Goodman, Rachel Warecki, and Alana Saltz.

Showtime is at 7:00 PM on Saturday, January 24th.

Book Show is located at 5503 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90042.