The Best Best of the Worst

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

Last week I invited you to come up with the worst first sentence with which to open a book in our Best of the Worst Contest. Goodness! You are a creative community indeed. We had 206 entries and comments. My team had the hardest time coming to a consensus on the best of the worst. Each entry was awful in its own unique way. We had to work diligently to separate the brilliantly bad from the solidly awful.IMG_3917

We ended up with four clear winners but a whole slew of dishonorable mentions for one reason or another. First of all, let me name some who deserved special dishonor:

  • Beth McKinney and her Dukes of Hazard entry for a category I’ll call A Metaphor Too Far.
  • Paula for coming up with a hilariously bad first sentence for the self-published book on writing. Awkward, Indeed.
  • Tessa Afshar for Awful Alliteration.
  • Cheryl Malandrinos for a Too Good to be Bad opener for Middle Grade.
  • Donnie Nelson for Twisted Logic.
  • Shirlee Abbott for Not Only Bad but Painfully Long.
  • Sharyn Kopf for writing a Splendidly Bad Sentence that got Air Supply stuck in the heads of everyone who read her entry. *I’m all out of love. . .*

So, without further ado, the winners are. . .

Her blood-red lips glistened into a grin as she tossed her ebony eyes over her shoulder and hit the hunk hunkering behind her, and he tossed his blue eyes back at her, eyes that glistened like limpid pools into the depths of his soul, and they both wondered what this exchange of eyes might mean, but hers were too small for him and his too big for her. —Susan Roach [contemporary romance]

I hatched from good, solid stock, the first in my litter of larvae, born on a bad, browning banana…but already, my transience tamped down, a thick smog of sorrow on my gossamer wings. —Becky Jones [Fruit Fly Memoir]

A journey of loss begins with a single step, and they say morticians can do wonders these days, but how was I to know that when we were on the shark-fishing boat and they said “Toss the chum overboard!” they were talking about bait? —Andrew Budek-Schmeisser [Narrative Nonfiction]

Six months old, and already their love had picked up memories like lint, which, now that Maddie thought about it, was appropriate, since she and Brian met at the laundromat, when Maddie found herself hampered by a stubborn washing machine coin slot, but then snickered at the thought of being “hampered” while doing laundry, and then found herself explaining her snicker to the nearest laundromat patron, who turned out to be Brian and who, better yet, turned out to have a sense of humor even, well, dryer than her own. — Kirsten Wilson [“Clean” Romance]

I put together Readers’ Gift Baskets as prizes– filled with great books from some of my favorite clients, tea, and of course, chocolate. The four winners above– Susan, Becky, Andrew and Kirsten– need to send their mailing addresses to me at representation @ so I can send your prize to you. (You will need to remove the spaces from the email address and ignore the auto response you’ll receive.)

I would encourage all of those who entered to send your sentence on to the Bulwer-Lytton competition. And to each of you played, we thank you for giving us great guffaws of laughter.

Would you care to comment on the entries chosen? Tell me why you think I found them brilliantly bad. What do we learn from crafting one of these sentences?


See the best of the worst first sentences. Too much fun! Click to Tweet

69 Responses

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  1. Susan Roach says:

    My goodness. I am so honored that my first contest win was for something so awful. Thanks for the fun, Wendy. I laughed a lot reading everyone’s creativity. Now, if I can just write as good of a sentence as this one was bad to open my real MS …

  2. Congratulations, everyone! And thank you for such a fun challenge, Wendy! I had a blast with this! They all made me laugh out loud. And I still think that Kirsten’s has “darling,” in the worst way, written all over it!! Grin!

  3. Thank you so much for holding this contest, Wendy – it brought a lot of fun, and was a challenge. (Winning is kinda cool, too!)

    I loved Beth’s ‘Dukes’ entry – it’s one that stuck in my head, perhaps because my adopted family is rabidly partisan to Chrysler/Dodge products, and that show went through Chargers like popcorn.

    My efforts were broadly divided into two groups (with some crossover)- sentences that were technically bad, and those that showed a deeper and more profound rot in their very conception.

    The process was, for me, something like writing convincing dialogue in dialect. Catching the music of something really bad was elusive. It was easy to go over the top, or to be settle into an ox-like subtlety which sank into stagnancy.

    Uh, oh. The paragraph above was written straight, and it could have been an entry.

    • I knew you were going to win, Andrew. You have a twistedly creative mind. 😉

    • Yay!!!

      Now, umm, my birthday is coming up, so maybe just re-route the shipping up north, eh?

      Come on!!

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      Your entry– like the Fruit Fly memoir– was not exactly bad. It was what I called brilliantly bad. You caught the voice of narrative nonfiction, an adventure story, but the premise was the part that was too fun not to pick. Nothing like a play on words.

      The fruit fly memoir totally cracked me up because Becky Jones played it straight. She nailed memoir voice. And the fly’s angst about his own transience was quintessentially memoir-ish. But the fact that she chose the least important creature on earth and gave him this self-important, navel-gazing memoir voice totally undid me.

  4. Wendy, this was such a fun contest. And yes, I laughed out loud at a number of the entries. 🙂 The winners are all deserving! I had fun trying to craft bad sentences, but I obviously need some practice. 😉

  5. As a long-time fan of the particular sort of warped brilliance that the Bulwer-Lytton contest represents, I am truly honored to be named a winner here. Thanks, Wendy! And thank you for turning last Tuesday into such an entertaining romp through delightfully bad writing.

  6. Jim Lupis says:

    Congrats to everyone!:)

  7. Congratulations to all the winners, and dishonourable mentions.

    I’m going to go cry like a 13 year old girl locked out of a One Direction concert.

    Okay not really, maybe I’ll just go raid the Easter chocolates I hid because I didn’t hide it from my kids.

    WHAT? And no one else does that?

  8. Congrats to the winners!

    Wendy, this was such a fun contest, and great to bring on a good belly laugh! The good thing about not winning is that I can safely say that nothing I have written has been publicly dishonered. I’m sure if I scrounged up my first ms, it would deserve plenty of dishoner though. LOL. I knew nothing about writing except to aim for 80K words. 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      When I won that contest way back then, I excitedly called my mother to tell her. She got real quiet and then asked, “Which of your books had the bad sentence?” Poor thing, she didn’t know I was deliberately bad.

  9. I’m thrilled to have been bad enough to make the dishonorable mentioned list. Thanks for putting up the contest. It was a lot of fun!

  10. Angela Mills says:

    These made me laugh out loud! I missed your original post, it must have been when I was out if town, so I’m going to go read all the comments. What a fun contest!

  11. Lori says:

    Congrats to the winners!

    I am not surprised that Andrew won. However, I am surprised that Cynthia did not win. I was crying and laughing on at thse same time on some of hers.

    I hope Books and Such will do something like this again. It was so much fun.

    They say good things can come in threes and I was hoping on receiving good news that I won today. However, yesterday I found out from the Copyright Office that they granted me a copyright on a project that I created and was involved with. Now I have my authorship. On Saturday, I found out that an entry I submitted for a contest for a national brand (the company is in my home State) is in the top 10 and will now be voted on by the public (yes its been on the news especially where I am at). There were over 15000 original entries and one could only enter once and the database only took the first original entry. I am still numb from that (kinda like Jennifer was when Mary offer her representation). It involved words but not writing.

  12. Carrie Padgett says:

    Those are a hoot! Congratulations to all the loser–er, winners!

  13. Congrats to all the winners and thanks for all the laughs last week! Well deserved on the awfully bad writing 🙂

    • Wendy Lawton says:

      My friend, LeAnne Benfield Martin just posted this Anna Quindlen quote on FB:

      “I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.”

  14. Paula says:

    Thanks for the (dis)honorable mention! 🙂
    Among the winners, I have to say that I knew Susan Roach nailed it as soon as I read it 🙂 which got me thinking about inappropriate actions taken by eyeballs, which led me to writing mine 🙂

  15. Becky Jones says:

    Aghh, this totally made my afternoon! Thanks, Wendy.!

    And I agree, there were waaaay too many fun entries tossed in.

    Thanks for the invitation to write terribly…cathartic. 😉

  16. Congratulations to the winners. You all did great with your awful submissions. What I really loved about these is that the writers stuck to their themes, dug deep down into the ridiculous side of overwriting and came up with stellar offerings.

    Thanks for the dishonorable mention. I’m truly honored.

  17. Tessa Afshar says:

    The fruit fly entry was a work of genius. But I worry for Becky Jones. Won’t the fruit flies get to the chocolate and make themselves very sick? Won’t chocolate shorten their already short life spans? To spare Becky and her fruit flies, I volunteer to take the chocolate off her hands.

  18. Judith Robl says:

    Somehow I missed out on the competition, but I do love the floating body parts. And the fruit fly memoir is a hoot. This is a creative bunch indeed. Now I’ll have to go back to the original post and read all the entries. Congratulations to all the winners and participants.

  19. Judith Robl says:

    So I went back and read all the entries and comments, compliments, roars of laughter and groans of disgust. What a hoot! No wonder you had a difficult time picking only four.