A few years back, I discovered the Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest — a search for the fake opening line of the worst of all possible novels. Sponsored by the English Department at San Jose State University, the contest is an homage to the opening line from Paul Clifford (1830), which you probably know best from this:
I wrote (and submitted) my own version of the worst opening line in the world, never heard anything about it, and forgot it, until I found it yesterday while searching for a different file entirely.
I present it here, for you…
I stood for hours under that street light waiting for him to get off work, wondering all the while if his lateness in achieving an exit from his wretched place of business was in fact because of stray, lingering customers, or if in his position as manager of a “gentleman’s club” he had finally succumbed to the lurid pleasures of the flesh his harlot employees offered to other less scrupulous men who (one would hope) did not have the kind of quality wife waiting for them that he did, a wife who would stand outside in the pouring rain even when he’d asked me to stay home on numerous occasions, on account of him being so concerned for the state of my health, though something could be said for the fact that a woman standing under a streetlight in the pouring rain in only her pink fuzzy bathrobe and bunny slippers might not be so good for business.
I didn’t win the Bulwer-Lytton the year I sent it in, which is to say that I failed at writing a sentence awkward enough to be truly terrible.
At least now, when I’m feeling low about my writing, thinking that it’s awful and shouldn’t see the light of day, I know: whatever I write could always be worse.
And that cheers me up.