Several years ago, while surf/stumbling through the Interwebs, I happened upon a curious site which hosts the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.


The Bulwer-Lytton contest was begun in 1982 by the English department at San Jose State University in California. The contest is unusual in that it challenges writers to create the opening sentence of what would be the world’s worst novel.

The contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who in his novel, Paul Clifford, penned the infamous opener “It was a dark and stormy night – “. As hackneyed as this line is, Mr. Bulwer-Lytton is well known for several phrases that have come into common use over the years, including “The pen is mightier than the sword.”.

The Buller-Lytton contest raises bad writing to epic levels, and has become a magnet for word-bending writers the world over. A sampling of “winners” from the past years contains such gems as:

Seeing how the victim’s body, or what remained of it, was wedged between the grill of the Peterbilt 389 and the bumper of the 2008 Cadillac Escalade EXT, officer “Dirk” Dirksen wondered why reporters always used the phrase “sandwiched” to describe such a scene since there was nothing appetizing about it, but still, he thought, they might have a point because some of this would probably end up on the front of his shirt. — Joel Phillips, West Trenton, NJ



When the dead moose floated into view the famished crew cheered – this had to mean land! – but Captain Walgrove, flinty-eyed and clear headed thanks to the starvation cleanse in progress, gave fateful orders to remain on the original course and await the appearance of a second and confirming moose. — Elizabeth (Betsy) Dorfman, Bainbridge Island, WA

Back in 2007, I was happily surprised to be awarded with a “Dishonourable Mention” for the following:


His feelings for Lydia became a jumbled mess, like when the pen slips out of the hole on a Spirograph wheel, ruining the drawing you have been working on for hours, or possibly, the pen running out of ink during the process, snagging and tearing a hole in the 110# cover rated vellum of his heart.


Ready to have a go? There is still time to enter this year’s contest before the deadline of April 15 (Income Tax submission day in the US), but entries can be submitted all year long.


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