Intelligence Report: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

Most rejections are a matter of business rather than story quality, but that’s logic.  Logic don’t satisfy the warrior-poet in you.  Warrior-poet want the truth!  And in your mind, the truth invariably sounds like “I suck as a writer.”

I say, if you suck then prove it.  That’s what the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest is all about.  Come hither, warrior-poet, and celebrate the best of the worst lines imaginable in fiction.

Named after the dude that originally wrote “It was a dark and stormy night”, this contest is an all out battle to see who can write the worst novel opening.  It’s harder than it sounds.  Your cliches gotta be ripe, your prose Barney purple, your dialogue the stuff of half-eaten B movie scripts.

You would think the winning entries this contest produces would be abhorrent, right?  This is never the case.  Just like movies, bad literature has an event horizon that once you cross it, the bad writing becomes good.  Check out my favorite:

Through the gathering gloom of a late-October afternoon, along the greasy, cracked paving-stones slick from the sputum of the sky, Stanley Ruddlethorp wearily trudged up the hill from the cemetery where his wife, sister, brother, and three children were all buried, and forced open the door of his decaying house, blissfully unaware of the catastrophe that was soon to devastate his life. — Dr. David Chuter, Kingston, Surrey, England (1999 Winner)

Stroll through the Lyttony of Grand Prize Winners and see how awesome some of these bad lines are.  It’s a fun stroll, and you may likely find yourself pondering the worst possible line you can think of.  If you do, enter the contest… it’s free with little at stake other than bragging rights.

Not only is the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest therapy for you warrior-poets wallowing in your own sucktitude, but it’s actually good writing practice.  Actively identifying bad writing to the extent necessary to draft the worst lines ever forces you to think critically on what makes for bad writing.  Which means you stand to make your writing better.  You know, when you’re not intentionally trying to be bad.

Now get out there and be crappy.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Intelligence Report: The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

  1. datman

    I must say I rather enjoyed every piece I’ve read of yours. Keep it up. Still laughing at the irony of the life vs. death piece.

  2. Robert Qualkinbush

    Wow. I followed the link and that’s some funny stuff. Actually, I came up with a writing exercise that’s worked for a few people based on this idea. You write a descriptive passage, and try to make it the lousiest piece of crap you can come up with. Then another person hilights the passages that stand out as very unique. Voila! There’s your personal voice as a writer peering out amidst the caca. Why? Because your inner editor is off drinking a fresh mango pina colada and not jumping your case at every word. Try it. At the very least it gives your inner editor a break.

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