The Conclusion of the Bulwer-Lytton Rewrite
I spent 100 of this year days rewriting the same sentence. I did this beginning on April 3rd, 2018, when I wrote out the original Bulwer-Lytton sentence in my journal. I did this as participation in something called the 100 Day Project.
The original Bulwer-Lytton sentence is considered by many readers and writers to be the worst opening sentence in the history of the novel. Some might argue that it is the worst sentence ever written. If you do not recall, 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.
When I say that I rewrote this same sentence 100 times, I do not mean that I literally wrote out the same sentence again and again and again. What I did was revise it, edit it, re-imagine it. See what it might become.
I’ve written about this process extensively, in blog posts here and here and here and here. I also stopped writing about it, early on, and did not start writing about it again until now.
Here are a few things that I noticed as I went along:
The part about social media: the idea behind this was that we, the participants in the 100 Day Project, would post something to Instagram daily with the hashtag #100dayproject. I could not do this part of it. It felt gross to me. Unappealing. In fact, I did not post anything from it to Instagram after Day 6.
The part about blogging. I attempted to blog about it, but I did not make it past Day 19. It seemed, again, like too much. Like a distraction, blogging about other writing when the other writing could receive the focus.
The part about blogging, continued. This did get me thinking about what purpose this blog serves. This entire website, truthfully. It got me thinking that I could do more blogging related to reading and writing.
The part about writing daily. This was the good part. This is the part that really worked. I wrote at least one sentence daily and the one sentence that I wrote was written in pen, in a notebook, and it was perhaps some of the best writing I’ve done. By which I mean it was my favorite writing I was doing. Because every word counted.
The part about discipline. This was a good reminder that, like National Novel Writing Month or the 48 Hour Film Festival or other such events and arbitrary markers of time and production, sometimes imagined and self-imposed rules can be a very good thing.
What also matters is not just what I learned but the final product of this one hundred days. The end game. The place where I arrived.
The final sentence of the Bulwer-Lytton Rewrite.
I wrote a sentence on the hundredth day, just as I had written one on the. I wrote this at the beginning of July and I’m just finally blogging about it.
This is the final product:
I would never read a story that began with a description of the weather and so I refuse to tell you about it.
Far from the original, yes. A sentence I enjoyed writing and, now, enjoy reading. A sentence that may be the beginning of something new, something larger. Or perhaps a sentence that will just exist as itself, for itself.
What will happen next? Stay tuned. And for those of you wondering what I’ve been up to, what’s next: there will be more writing, lots more, coming soon.