Once upon a time, everyone wanted to be the best and was obsessed with doing everything really, really well. Cooking. Dancing. Ice Skating. Singing. Cake Decorating. Being ridiculously good looking. They made TV shows about it, performed to sell-out crowds and wrote books imparting their wisdom to eager readers. How To Make It In The Music Industry. How To Bake Like Paul Hollywood. How To Get Rich Without Really Trying. How To Be The Next Steve Jobs. How To Write An Academy Award Winning Screenplay in Three Weeks.
In the midst of this, one man stood alone, a lone reed if you will. That lone reed was Joel Stickley, Poet Laureate for Lincolnshire and co-author of the excellent Who Writes This Crap?, a man who realised that the world didn’t need any more people telling them how to do something really well. No. What the world needed, Joel decided, was a book that showed them not now to do something well, but how to do something really, really badly. And so he set out to do this, first in a blog, and then in a book, published this month by Nasty Little Press and available here at the NLP shop.
Featuring both highlights from his blog and newly written material, 100 Ways To Write Badly Well takes the reader on what can only really be described as a Grand Tour of terrible, though sometimes awfully familiar writing. You’ll witness tragic back stories, unlikely plot twists involving dwarves, wildly misappropriated punctuation, inanimate objects with feelings, characters with names involving at least three apostrophes and metaphors so elaborate you need a little sit down afterwards. You’ll have to fight the urge to go check everything you’ve ever written to make sure you haven’t fallen prey to the mixed metaphor or the over-used dangling modifier. You’ll finish reading it a better person, or at least having read two or more parts aloud to someone sitting near you, whether you know them or not.
You probably don’t need convincing, but here, because it makes me laugh, is an excerpt:
Signpost your twists
Agent Sam Glowingly waved a hand at the tangled web of notes on the whiteboard.
‘So,’ he said, ‘we still have no idea who the killer is.’
‘No,’ said McSleet. ‘Unless we can find someone in the monastery who’s able to leap thirty feet off the ground, pass through a stained glass window without breaking it and kill his victim through the power of sheer terror.’
‘Not your average monk,’ observed Glowingly. ‘In fact, it sounds more like one of the legendary fighting monks that reputedly inhabited this very monastery hundreds of years ago, but whose secrets have been lost for generations.’
‘Aye,’ agreed McSleet. ‘But we need to find a real solution, not sit here chit-chatting about ancient history that has nothing to do with the case.’
‘You’re right,’ said Glowingly, getting up from his chair and adjusting his pistol holster. ‘We’ve got no time for idle talk about legends that neither of us has any reason to believe are even true, let alone relevant to our current investigation.’ He consulted his notebook. ‘Where next?’ he asked.
‘We need to interview more potential witnesses,’ said McSleet, fishing a battered pack of cigarettes from his coat pocket. ‘How about Brother Laurence, who’s been studying the ancient manuscripts which sat undisturbed in the monastery vault for centuries and who has also, incidentally, been working out quite a lot recently?’
‘Okay,’ said Glowingly with a shrug. ‘But I think we’re wasting our time.’
Mr Stickley, we’re so pleased to welcome you to the NLP family! This book contains some of the worst writing we’ve ever seen. And we love it.