Milton Keynes Speakeasy Competition 2008

Just heard that I came second in this one, with my piece “Fishermen’s Tales” (or, as they refer to it in their e-mail, “Fisherman’s Tale”, which is probably better). This one has had an unbelievably tortuous life. It sort of started out as my first-ever entry for the (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) Café Doom weekly flash challenge, all 349 words of it with the title “Bait”, back at the start of November 2007.

It then mutated into the first piece I wrote on the practice night for last year’s Children in Need, 356 words long, with the title “I Caught an Amazing Fish” (I hadn’t realised that you were supposed to use the prompts as inspiration, not as titles – duh). Following this, I inserted a whole load of backstory at the start, taking the word count up to 1133, with the title changed to “Catch of the Day”. This was, much to my surprise, Highly Commended in this year’s JBWB Summer competition.

Meanwhile, I’d posted it on the VWC virtual manuscript evening, where it was (quite justifiably) torn apart. I took the tattered shreds, stitched them together, renamed the piece “On the Hook”, and put it into the September session of the Café Doom crit group. There it was torn apart a bit more, following which I produced the final version, now renamed “Fishermen’s Tales” (or “Fisherman’s Tale”, if you prefer), with the word count bumped up to 1305, and the voice changed from first person to third. And the rest is history.

The moral of the story? Easy. If you’ve got an idea that you know works, keep plugging away at it. But never be afraid to subject it to criticism. And always, ALWAYS act on that criticism.

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