Really, Truly, Awful Writing.

Written by Laura MacLemale | August 23, 2014

Greetings, fellow writers.

The idea for this prompt comes from an idea that I had as a college writing instructor, with the main idea being challenging the brain to think a bit differently about your approach to writing in general and in this creative exercise specifically. I used it the first time as a homework assignment and classroom contest at the mid-term semester point to break up the students’ tension from the crunch of projects at that point.

If you’re stuck in any kind of a writing rut or block, this prompt may actually be helpful. Trying to write bad prose on purpose actually can be harder than trying to write well!

The site from which the idea originated is this contest site, accessed at http://www.bulwer-lytton.com/, which awards winners for literally writing the worst or corniest beginnings of a novel that a writer can conjure.

Now, the writing prompt I am proposing to you today is in the same vein and the same spirit as this homework assignment was. There are numerous examples found on that website.

Your writing prompt here is to try to compose the first sentence (or few sentences) of the “worst beginning ever” of an essay, poem, story, or novel.

As you think about it, ask yourself if it is harder to struggle to write well as we all do, or is it harder to try to write purposefully horrible prose? That is the true point of the exercise and explanation here. And if you are inspired to enter your prose into the actual contest (see link), please follow up with us to let us know of your results.

This is meant to be a bit of an academic exercise, but please have fun with it! I wish you a positive writing experience and an even more satisfying outcome. Maybe you’ll even be encouraged to enter the actual contest, as I did after composing this prompt.

Here’s mine: ‘Despite all of the bright lights surrounding him in the usually claustrophobic work area, Simon could not help himself from falling under the sensuous spell of the green-eyed, red-headed siren on the flat-standing surface before him where he assisted in her dress and appearance. “Red,” as he had nick-named her several months ago since they had begun seeing one another, had proven herself to be both a giving and receiving lover of epic proportion, and he cherished her flexibility and openness to his desires. Unfortunately, his boss at the department store where Simon was in view of the street-side window displays during the over-time holiday season, came around that one day and told him, “Dammit, Simon! I told you to stop rearranging the mannequins that way in the front window display! You’re fired!”’

Enjoy your writing, and have fun breaking the rules a bit!