You Too Can Be A Writer!

Reading & Writing

Let’s have a laugh at some would-be writers who spend their precious time sending out unsolicited manuscripts with lines like these, from an editor who wishes to remain anonymous…


David wasn’t much, she admitted, but at least he was an up-and-coming businessman or lawyer.

She screamed in the soprano range until her diners came running.

Carlotta’s eyes dropped to the handkerchief in her hands.

His pen poised, he hovered over the white breast of the page.

The clouds continued their romp across the sky in the eager anticipation of the storm that lingered unmoving just above them.

‘You didn’t have to be an in-law to hate her guts,’ Chester said, ‘no pun intended.’

‘Goodnight,’ Lance forced. His feet were not in synch with his arms and he fell over a chair, popping blazer buttons all over the floor.

‘Hello,’ a voice yawned.

‘What a lousy time to blow up a house,’ Alfred muttered.

He grinned his infectious grin that would sweep any woman into his bedroom if he wanted it that way.

Shelley had a knockout figure that touched the ground from a height of five feet eight inches. She was a natural compliment to Brad’s six-foot plus non-fat frame.

‘It looks like a new beginning for us, Sylvia,’ Al choked.

She had to admit there was nothing hotter than a man with that kind of honed physique whose face was totally hidden.

She watched as his expression seemed to change. It became emotionless. Almost lifeless. Bronzed, savage features tightened until they seemed carved from stone as his eyes boiled like heated mercury.

39 comments on “You Too Can Be A Writer!”

  1. Paul C says:

    Wonderful. In a pulp paperback years ago I read the line ‘His eyes rolled down the front of her dress’ . A neat trick….

  2. Andrew Holme says:

    Another neat trick was Spike’s line, ‘ he opened the door in his pyjamas’.

  3. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Groucho Marx had something to say about pyjamas.
    ‘Capt. Spaulding : One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don’t know’

  4. Ken says:

    I would carry on reading the story which began, ‘‘What a lousy time to blow up a house,’ Alfred muttered.’

  5. Barbara Boucke says:

    Charles Schulz periodically drew Snoopy seated atop his doghouse typing “It was a dark and stormy night.” – the first sentence of his novel. Snoopy was always very proud of what he wrote and the typewriter never fell off of the roof of the doghouse.

  6. Peter T says:

    Caducephelitis feveret oculus is an unpleasant and dangerous condition. For purposes of diagnosis, the most obvious symptom is the patient’s eyes turning to a silver liquid and boiling at 360C. Though generally a rare disease, it is observed in males who regularly transform between flesh, bronze and stone (usually granite).

  7. SteveB says:

    I like this one just because of the innate contradiction: “The clouds continued their romp across the sky in the eager anticipation of the storm that lingered unmoving just above them.”

    And yes ‘What a lousy time to blow up a house,’ Alfred muttered.’ would be a great first line!

    The last two were definitely written by women 😉

  8. Roger Allen says:

    Snoopy was plagiarising Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Paul Clifford, Barbara Boucke. The full sentence, in all its glory, 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.” It tells you everything you could (or couldn’t) want to know.
    It goes on to feature characters speaking fluent Dialect rendered with exact precision.

  9. Paul C says:

    ”It was a dark and stormy night’ is actually the first line of a famously terrible Victorian novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton :

    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.

    Dickens thought he was a marvellous writer and changed the ending of Great Expectations on Bulwer’s advice !

  10. Peter Dixon says:

    I worked at a local newspaper for my first job. We had an annual feature called ‘Bride of the Year’ which basically consisted of some misguided bride-to-be being accompanied around various shops in the town who provided bridal services. We had an appalling features writer who started one 8-page feature with the magic line: ‘As Angela came up the stairs to see me the first thing that struck me was the top of her head’

  11. Stewart Macdonald says:

    These are great. There’s an annual Bulwer Lytton prize for the most atrocious opening sentence

  12. Roger Allen says:

    Snap! Paul C.

    Bulwer-Lytton’s advice to Dickens was to change the end of Great Expectations to please the readers- something he did know about.

    I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it here before, but Edward Bulwer-Lytton also was a genuine Victorian villain. His separated from his wife, Rosina, and deprived her of access to their children. She took revenge by writing novels featuring villains based on B-L. In 1858 when he was standing for Parliament she appeared at the hustings and denounced him, B-L had Rosina locked in a private madhouse, à la Woman in White. She was released after a public outcry and wrote about it in A Blighted Life. This didn’t stop B-L being offered (and turning down) the throne of Greece and becoming 1st Baron Lytton, PC.

  13. Helen Martin says:

    Roger Allen, or having Lytton British Columbia named for him.

    I would like to correct those who laugh at the bouncing and stationary clouds above. (hah!) What is being described is a sky with two discrete cloud layers, the top one sitting and threatening a storm, the lower one subject to varying winds. While perfectly possible, it still reads as very silly.

  14. Jonah says:

    Now-archaic definitions of words can lead to unintentional double entendres decades or centuries later. Hercule Poirot and Colonel Hastings, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson often exclaim in the following manner.

    “Sacré tonnere!” ejaculated the Frenchman.

    “My dear Holmes!” I ejaculated.

  15. Jo W says:

    I really must wait until the full effect of the first mug of builders has kicked in! I read that second line as ” She screamed in the soprano range until her dinners came running.”
    I love that Carlotta’s eyes dropped to the handkerchief in her hands, that must have been one hell of a sneeze!
    Please stay safe out there all of you, I need this blog and comments right now.

  16. Andrew Holme says:

    “On a long ago episode of QI, Stephen Fry waded through all the Sherlock Holmes ejaculations. I thought at the time that it was a shame we’ve lost the ability to use such a wonderful word without sniggering and making stupid jokes,” he ejaculated over his tea and biscuit.

  17. chazza says:

    Or H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds “I grew very weary and irritable with the curate’s perpetual ejaculations…” I’m not surprised with the Martians crawling around outside within earshot…

  18. brooke says:

    ” The last two were definitely written by women…” Sorry, written by a cat or a man. Probably a man who regularly transforms between flesh, bronze and granite, a congenital condition exacerbated by prolonged engagement with VR and digital devices. In extreme cases, victims have been known to shout, rave and otherwise ejaculate.

  19. Brian Evans says:

    I remember at school when we read one of Galsworthy’s plays-it may have been “Strife”. The entrance of a Mr Wanklin brought the house down. The master folded his arms, rolled his eyes heavenwards and gamely said “Come on lads, let’s get the laugh over with now and carry on with play.” It wasn’t the end, as a few times the character was addressed by name and titters ran round the room. The teacher, being a bit of a sport, had difficulty not joining in.

    I can never hear “titters” without thinking of the legendry Frankie (oo-er missus yes, no, yes, listen-ooh missus) Howerd, when on a laugh during his patter, he’d say- “Yes, that’s right, get yer titters out girls. You’ll feel better for it”

  20. Peter T says:

    As his boiling eyes rolled down her body and he transformed from flesh through bronze to granite, he prematurely exclaimed …

  21. Peter T says:

    Helen, The cloud stuff sounds like an inversion layer – I guess all the bouncing sounds more romantic?

  22. Steveb says:

    @Peter T
    Depends if the bouncing is followed by an ejaculation really (and the clouds are bronzed by the sun and carved into the likenesses of savage features … help I’m turning into a woman …or maybe a cat…)

  23. brooke says:

    “As his boiling eyes rolled down her body and he transformed from flesh through bronze to granite, he prematurely exclaimed, ‘Build Back Better.’ Swept into his bedroom by his infection, she watched as he seemed to change, become emotionless, almost lifeless, ready to get brexit done. A cat yawned.”

  24. Ian Luck says:

    Somebody needs to get a mop…

  25. Liz Thompson says:

    Yes, Ian. But whether they’re mopping up the titters, the ejaculations, or the tears of laughter, I’m not entirely sure.

  26. Peter T says:

    Can we mop or scrape all this of the floor and send it to Mills and Boon?

    To fail to change the subject: I noticed that I have a book published by Mills & B. It’s on breaking waves, no, not the metaphorical sort endured by granite man that leave exclamation marks, but those on the surface of the ocean, commonly observed on the beach. It must be from before they found their niche.

  27. Martin Tolley says:

    According to Wikipedia M&B had very different aspirations pre-1930. “An early signing was the mystery and crime writer Victor Bridges. Mills & Boon also published—in 1911 and 1912—two early works by Hugh Walpole, including the very successful Mr Perrin and Mr Traill. Between 1912 and 1923, it published numerous adventure titles by Jack London. In its early years the company also published “educational textbooks, socialist tracts and Shakespeare” as well as “travel guides, children’s and craft books”

  28. Peter T says:

    Thank you, Martin. I suppose it’s a kind of negative evolution or another example of things not getting better with time?

  29. brooke says:

    Yes, let’s send to M&B (Harlequin Enterprises for those on this side of pond). Perhaps an ebook submission? We’ll need to choose a category, as there are different editors. What about Nocturne Cravings category? No? Well there’s Dare, Desire, Medical,…?

  30. Martin Tolley says:

    Peter, depends on what evolution you think better. They sell tremendous amounts of books – seemingly 100 new ones are published every month – one is sold every 6 or 7 seconds or something daft like that. Whatever we might think of them, they clearly give a great deal of enjoyment to masses of people.

  31. Peter T says:

    Martin, You are right. Anything that encourages people to read must be good.

  32. Brian Evans says:

    I’ve heard everything now. According to the BBC news website, people are now buying books because they look good on zoom. You couldn’t make it up, could you?

  33. Helen Martin says:

    Brian, my computer is in our den/library so when I’m on zoom there is a solid wall of books behind me. A couple of people commented on it and I was bemused because who doesn’t have a wall of books somewhere? Am I just trying to look/sound good? Help! There is nothing that can’t be used to make you look bad.

  34. Martin Tolley says:

    Books do furnish a Zoom – allegedly. There’s actually a chap called Thatcher Wine (you could make that up, but no one would ever believe you) who makes a living “curating” bookshelves for the rich and illiterate –

  35. Brian Evans says:

    If you do get called on Zoom, Helen, you could start off by saying that actually, I have read all the books-so there! Oh, well, not the Virginia Woolf one-couldn’t get past the first page. I say this as a dig against my partner who is very big in the Woolf world and societies-whilst I literally can’t stand her writing. Completely over my head!

  36. Helen Martin says:

    Martin, when I look at my shelves I realize I could never follow any of Mr. Wine’s suggestions because mine are 3/3 full and organised by Dewey for non-fiction and author for fiction and they just don’t look that neat, except for the Reader’s Union English history shelf (all those Christopher Hibberts). I do have one book with the cover facing out: Dan Terrell’s “On Deep Bachground”, but the corner turns down a bit because it’s a huge paperback.
    I have read most of the ones that are “mine” as opposed to the ones that are “his” and I’ve even read a lot of those. The 9 foot ceilings make it difficult to reach the top ones now that I have to be careful on ladders.

  37. Paul C says:

    With you on Christopher Hibbert’s books : esp those on the Indian Mutiny and the French Revolution. It may be the latter which states something like : there was another revolution in the C19 but this was ‘more of an argument in a restaurant than a revolution’. Intriguing……….

  38. Wayne Mook says:

    When he writes on the white breast of the page do you think he goes round the nipples or writes straight over them?

    Don’t know if you still can but you used to be able to buy books by the yard or metre.

    I’ve not read a lot of books on the shelves (actually it’s not true, I have read a lot of them but there are still many to read.), but then I did inherit a fare few and 300 to 400 books went to charity a while back, space for new books.


  39. BB says:

    Books-sold-by-the-yard has been stimulated by Twitter’s trendy Room Rater (ratemyskyperoom).
    Carlotta’s Handkerchief might be interesting flash fiction.

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