The Mark: Give us a small synopsis of the project you are working on.
Monica Carter: I am working on a novel about a famous and aging closeted lesbian writer living in 1930s Manhattan, who attempts to recapture the passion and honesty of her young days as a writer. Determined to write a truthful novel about two women who love each other, she alienates her longtime lover and her agent while falling in love with a younger woman who wants her success.
What has been the most thought-provoking question that you have been asked in the Mark Program?
This is difficult to answer because there seems to be one that is asked every workshop. But the one that resonated the most for me was, “What does it mean to your protagonist to return to who she once was?”
What has been your biggest challenge in the Mark so far?
The program itself is a challenge and a wonderful, stimulating challenge at that. But specifically, I think setting the tone upfront, presenting the right information upfront, and clarifying the specifics of each character’s desires in every scene have been especially challenging tasks.
What advice would you give to writers who feel that they must choose between starting over or making a major revision?
Don’t give up. I think it’s a misconception of writers to look at the rewrite process as "starting all over again." What surprised me the most was that it was much easier to work with the foundation I had laid down than to create a new foundation. The story was there, but it was the specificity of making character, theme, and structure as fluid and as clear as possible that came next. Feel good that you have your story written. Now you need to find the ways to make it as clear and compelling as it can be. It’s about putting your original vision into a crystal clear focus.
Please share a writing tip you have learned from the program.
"Every character has the same want as your protagonist." Our instructor, Al Watt, said this at the beginning of the program, and now, whenever I go to rewrite a scene, I examine how clearly all the characters involved show that want.
Ask yourself a question about writing.
What is the your most valuable writing tool?
Reading. I am surprised by how little many writers read.
Why did you apply for the Mark when you did?
I felt I had gone as far as I could go with my novel. I was no longer objective about it - I needed guidance and for the right questions to be asked. I liked the idea of a program geared toward the manuscript as a whole instead of exploring the tools and techniques of "the writing process." The Mark is about working with your process, within your project. It’s not a how-to program, but a program that assumes you know how to write and that now it is time to focus on the work—its weaknesses, strengths, its message and potential.