Are you a good enough reader to write badly? I mean, really, really badly. If you are, it’s time to prove it by submitting to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. This fiendishly alluring competition asks contestants to create a first sentence to an utter bomb of a book. With enough skill, that sentence will equal or top the famous stinker produced by contest namesake Edward Bulwer-Lytton back in 1830: 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.”

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest was started in 1982 by Professor Scott E. Rice of the English department at San Jose State University and has endured ever since. In the first year of existence, the competition attracted three entries. But the next year, aided by public announcement and media attention, approximately 10,000 awful entries poured in. So much bad could only produce good:

The camel died quite suddenly on the second day, and Selena fretted sulkily and, buffing her already impeccable nails–not for the first time since the journey began–pondered snidely if this would dissolve into a vignette of minor inconveniences like all the other holidays spent with Basil. (Gail Cain, San Francisco, 1983 Grand Prize Winner of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest).

It’s natural to assume that the namesake of this illustrious contest was something of a literary hack. He wasn’t. Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton was born in London on May 25, 1803 and died January 18, 1873. His writing career began in 1820 with the publication of a book of poetry, and it never let up. Poetry, novels, plays–Bulwer-Lytton produced them all (sometimes anonymously), and they helped support an extravagant, eccentric lifestyle. He was extremely popular with the reading public, and his bestselling novels earned him a fortune. Not only was Bulwer-Lytton prolific, he coined a few phrases we still recognize today: “the pen is mightier than the sword,” “pursuit of the almighty dollar,” and “the great unwashed.”

Sure, authors want to be remembered, and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery … sometimes …

The heather-encrusted Headlands, veiled in fog as thick as smoke in a crowded pub, hunched precariously over the moors, their rocky elbows slipping off land’s end, their bulbous, craggy noses thrust into the thick foam of the North Sea like bearded old men falling asleep in their pints (Gary Dahl, CA, 2000 Grand Prize Winner).

Are you intrigued? Inspired? Do you think you’ve got what it takes to enter the ring? The Bulwer-Lytton contest is easy to enter. Entries are due by June 30th with winners announced in mid-August. If the invitation to write poorly hasn’t enticed you enough, know that the winner receives “a cheap certificate (and bragging rights).” Come, now. Who wouldn’t want to play?

Just be aware that you will be playing with the “big boys,” writers so adept at their craft that their final products are exquisitely, addictively bad. Do you think you’ve got the chops to beat the best … I mean the worst … I mean this:

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination (Chris Wieloch, WI, 2013 Grand Prize winner).

Good luck!