The Purge

Today was purge day!
I’m so happy.

I know there have been a few books and movies about a purge, where society gets rid of their undesirables or whatever. This was not that.
So what is the purge in Dan parlance? In DanSpeak?
I’ll tell you
When I am putting together a book, when I’m starting to think about how this would be a neat idea for a scene or that would be a neat idea for a plot, I dash off a quick note to myself and I throw it in a folder on my computer. By the time I sit down to make the outline – I like to use outlines so I know where the heck the story is going; that way I get there – I have lots of story prompts. Ideas to write for scenes or dialogs or subplots.
One idea might be, “Oh, the killer turns out to be the Butler.”
The next one might be, “No wait it’s the maid!”

You get the idea.
Many, many times they are ideas that are dialogue, created to flesh out a complicated plot point. (You can have two characters summarize something pretty quickly in dialogue. That makes for a good conversation to read but it doesn’t necessarily make for a good story to read.)
I will also want to throw in some “red herrings.”
What are those?

Suppose I’ve got you thinking we are looking for the killer the whole time, and suddenly the butler shows up with blood on his hands! We are all thinking: maybe he did it.
But really, he was… I don’t know, butchering a hog for dinner, and in fact the maid had blood on her hands, too! She was actually killing the wealthy billionaire whose house they all live in. (I don’t know. I don’t write stories like that. Not really. Maybe a little.)
Anyway, the red herring is where you make the reader think the bad guy is one person and then you get later to expose that it’s not that person.
I can’t tell you how much FUN writing red herrings is.
Red herrings are a blast.

There are several in Primary Target, the 2nd book in my wildly popular Double Blind series – maybe. If I told you, they wouldn’t be red herrings anymore!


So all these ideas get thrown into a folder. And then I start numbering them. I say, well, this will be chapter 1; this idea would be chapter 2… and then I have these other miscellaneous things like, Here’s how this type of gun works and That’s not really an idea, that’s more like research.
And as you might guess, or maybe you wouldn’t guess this… Well, let me back up.

I guess I should explain, and say not every idea that goes in the folder turns out to be one that I can use in the story. Or could use it all. Or should use.

And so I might have said, “What if the maid jumps out at the end and kills the butler!” But I also might’ve said, “What if the maid kills herself in the opening scene?”
Probably, the maid can’t do both. So of those two conflicting ideas, one gets chosen and one gets purged.
And some other stuff that gets purged is research information, like “What if they all fly to Spain” and then I have some information on Spain. I keep it for a while, and when I decide I don’t need it, purge! Or the description of a character that I ended up not using. Purge!
Some of the stuff from the purge is a good idea that’s just not gonna be used in this book. That stuff goes into an idea folder of things I should look at writing down the road. Other times, I’m like, that’s a good scene for this character but not in this book – so I will stick it in the folder for the next book, and maybe I can use it there. Maybe it’ll be the one after that.
But – and this is probably the scary part for a lot of people – there might be 50 or 60 ideas in my story folder, and probably 30 or 40 got purged today.
Again, doesn’t mean they were bad ideas. It just means I don’t need them or it’s too late in the plot to introduce something new or whatever.
And so, the purge.
Once the purge gets done, what’s left? A handful of bullet points that need to be addressed before “The End.”
And then a few little scenes that make everything tied up with a satisfying little bow at the end.
Maybe one or two little hooks baited so you click over to preorder the next book in the series.
All said, there are 20 remaining things to address – five are main story points and the rest are little pieces that help wrap those five main ones up.
I’d say more but I don’t want to give anything away.
But suffice it to say once the purge happens, we are in the home stretch – and probably no more than 30 days away from requesting beta readers. In fact, For Primary Target, my goal is to have it done before October 1.
Will I make it? Not if I keep writing this instead of that! So stay tuned!

That’s it for now. Talk soon!

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 50+ titles published in more than 120 countries and over a dozen languages.

7 thoughts on “The Purge

    1. I never 100% know everything that’s going to happen in a story when I start writing it, so I’m thinking about it all the time, and good ideas come at odd times. I just capture them for later consideration. If I’m looking at an idea six weeks later and it still gets my interest, it’s a pretty good idea.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I learned how to outline in 7th grade and, like algebra, rarely used that skill. Not that I shouldn’t, but some of us aren’t built that way. If there were a disorder called Social Norm Dyslexia, that might be a way to describe it.

    What I use is a “scrap file.” I’ll finish a book, reread it (with a text reader to hear the mistakes better), and sometime will amputate parts of it. Those book-body parts are stored into the scrap file created for that particular book.

    No, it’s not as efficient, but it works well enough if you’re a pantser and not a planner.

    For people who can successfully use outlines and plan out a book long before it’s written, it is far better to listen to advice from an award winning writer than from me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You make a great point. That’s probably why so many people are afraid of outlining. The liken it to algebra and diagramming sentences and a bunch of other archaic stuff that isn’t really useful in the creative process.

      When I talk about outlines, I’m talking about some simple plot points. How did your story start? Does everybody live happily ever after the end? Do they all die? What’s the main goal the character is trying to achieve?

      To me, that’s an outline.

      The outline for Romeo and Juliet is as follows:
      A boy and girl want to be together.
      Their parents don’t want them to be together.
      They get together anyway.
      Everybody dies.

      When I do an outline, I put down three or four main points, maybe as many as six or eight, but not in any order. I think, oh a bank robbery with a follow up investigation. What would need to happen in all that? As I write, I think of other things. In between the main plot points, I put a few things that I think would happen to get to that point or as part of that point.

      That’s outlining, but it is like laying out a list of story prompts that I can jump into at any time.

      I think it’s a great system, and the best part is: you can change it at any time. It’s a way to help you get to your goal, not a way to box you in. Think up a better ending? Put it in! Use it! But before the amazing new ending, at least have AN ending. Something to be working towards. Many many stories don’t get finished because after the excitement in the adrenaline of the story idea starts to turn into the work of writing it, things get muddy. Taking an extra day or two to think about where the story would go and how it would end, that usually makes a big, helpful difference.


      1. There is a lot of great information in this reply. You’ve uncovered one of the reasons that outlines can be scary: Many of us are uncomfortable being boxed in by the expectation that we MUST follow the plan.

        Your explanation would make another good post.

        One of the problems I have is that often I don’t know what my fingers are going to type next. There are many times I’ve muttered, “I had no idea that was going to happen.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I have probably posted on outlines several times, but I take your point. And because I understand where you’re coming from, the original post was written with that already in mind – but somebody just picking up that post would not have known that. So it was definitely worth clarifying!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to do a fair bit of environmental articles for a company I used to work for. I had lots of folders both on my computer and hand written. The folders did help a lot, but it became necessary to purge as they were getting too cluttered with stuff I would probably never use.

    So interesting that it is the same analogy of purging stuff around the house. Thanks for sharing Dan.

    Liked by 1 person

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