Monday, July 2, 2007

Bad Writing at its Best: Bulwer-Lytton and Slush and Punishment!

Usually on Mondays, I post about books, authors, and great writing that I love. Just for fun, here are a couple ways to enjoy particularly bad writing:

1. The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine sent me to the website for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. This is not just any old fiction contest. This is a fiction contest with the tag line: Where WWW means "Wretched Writers Welcome."

In 1982, San Jose State University's English Department began the Bulwer-Lytton contest where contestants submit the worst first sentence of a novel they can come up with. Thousands of writers enter each year. You can read all of the deliciously bad winners at the Lyttony of Grand Prize Winners. Here is last year's winning entry:

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.
2. Slush and Punishment. On a similar note, Editorial Anonymous has been running a very enjoyable series on bad writing. This blog is written by an anonymous children's book editor, and it's great fun to read if you have any interest at all in the publishing world and how it works. Typically, readers of the blog submit publishing-related questions (mainly along the lines of "What does this vague rejection letter really mean?") and Editorial Anonymous answers in a sarcastic, dry, but entertaining and generally informative manner.

This week, someone asked "What percentage of the slush pile [definition: the submissions sent in randomly from regular people without literary agents or connections] is outrageous?"

Editorial Anonymous answered by posting a series of snippets from the actual slush pile. Here's a particularly good (read: bad) one about a goose. Oh boy. Enjoy!

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