August 13, 2020

Know Where Your Story Is Going? Part 2

Susan Shapiro Barash / pen name Susannah Marren 

 In terms of plot, because it is what drives the story and what captures our attention, I must visualize it ahead of time. I don’t start writing until I understand what will happen. This might take weeks or months and I mull it over, ask myself the questions- what if and what then. When my writing group gets together, we often talk about each other’s plots. I find it helpful to get their perspective, but I’m always fairly convinced of what will happen in the book I’m about to write anyway. What we do talk in our group is how plot is the toughest part to get right and totally necessary to hone. Without a plot that makes sense and is compelling, the story flounders. Not only is that very frustrating, but the despair of not having the plot completely worked out can be painful. For this reason, I will rewrite an outline until it is about eighty percent developed. Then I’m confident that the rest will play out as I hammer away at the pages. That is when I am certain enough of the plot for it to work. This isn’t to say that I don’t make changes, but the broad strokes must be set in motion.


I am a believer in ‘hooking’ the reader from the start. By the first page of a novel that I am reading, or writing, I want to know what’s next. One’s curiosity must be there from the very beginning. That being said, when I’m writing a novel, I imagine that the reader and I are on a journey together, engrossed, rooting for our protagonist, waiting to see what might or might not happen, that their goals can be realized and obstacles overcome. As the story moves ahead, the reader learns more and more about the essence of the story, all told in an active tense. A memory or flashback is recalled and wove into a chapter in real time.


How compelled are we to search for stories – for tales and experiences that we can relate to and learn from? I would say during our dark days and our happier times, having a novel to turn to is equally compelling. There is never a dearth of important books to read and to write.

Susan Shapiro Barash is an established writer of thirteen nonfiction women’s issue books, including Tripping the Prom Queen, Toxic Friends, and You’re Grounded Forever, But First Let’s Go Shopping. Her fiction, Between the Tides and A Palm Beach Wife, are published under her pseudonym, Susannah Marren. A Palm Beach Scandal comes out on September 15, 2020. 

She has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, Elle, Marie Claire, and has appeared on national television including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS, CNN, and MSNBC. Barash has been a guest on national radio including NPR and Sirius Radio. 

Photo by James Maher 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Susan for your post, can't wait to read your new book. We appreciate your sharing your techniques and info on your new book.