Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the 100 Day Project
I learned about something exciting today: the 100 Day Project. I discovered it via Steve St Pierre, the illustrator and designer who created the cover for The Moonborn. He described it, on his Instagram account, as “creating something the same but different for 100 days.”
The first thing that crossed my mind is that it reminded me a lot of National Novel Writing Month, an annual “contest” that I’ve participated in several times and “won” twice.
I considered a few possibilities for this contest, with the immediate idea being the possibility of writing and rewriting a sentence that I enjoy. I considered writing out the opening sentence of The Great Gatsby every day, inspired by an anecdote I heard years ago about Hunter S. Thompson typing out that novel word-for-word. The story, as it goes, it that Thompson wanted “just to get the feeling of what it was like to write that way.”
I once had the idea in my head that I would memorize the entirety of The Great Gatsby. I can’t recall what inspired that idea, but I never got more than the first few paragraphs memorized, and even then it’s more of a paraphrasing in my mind than a memorization.
Regardless, I didn’t decide on writing and rewriting Nick Carraway’s first sentence. But I have decided what I’ll be doing. I intend to write and rewrite and revise and re-imagine one of humanity’s strangest creations: the opening sentence of the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
For the uninitiated, here it is:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Here is my handwritten take on it:
I am far from the first person to attempt an homage or tribute to Bulwer-Lytton. His name is famous for its inspiration for the annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest, in which writers attempt to write the worst opening sentence for a novel they can muster.
Meanwhile, “it was a dark and stormy night” has been re-used by both Snoopy and Madeleine L’Engle in the years following the publication of Paul Clifford.
And, notably, the opening of Paul Clifford is not considered garbage by all. It was included in the American Book Review’s 100 Best First Lines from Novels.
We will see where this takes me. For now, I’m excited for the project and look forward to the next 99 days.