A Persimmon Tree And The Want Of A Horseshoe Nail
Posted by Jason McIntire | Feb 27, 2013
In generations long past, mothers taught their sons this little rhyming parable:
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For want of a horse, the rider was lost
For want of a rider, the message was lost
For want of a message, the battle was lost
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
What, you may ask, has this to do with a persimmon tree? For me, plenty.
The manuscript of my new book, The Sparrow Found A House, has been in the editing phase for about a month now. Almost every day, I open the file to find some hole I didn't know was there. Usually these are just small problems - logical pinholes, if you will. For example: "Why is Chris saying he doesn't care about his phone? It meant everything to him ten pages ago." (Delete, delete, fixed.) Sometimes they're a bit larger, like this one: "Cassiopoeia doesn't 'rise' at all in the summer; it's at its apex." (Go find another constellation to use for the signal.) The author of that astronomy comment also has a way of sniffing out the most devastating factual inconsistencies. A few comments later, he uncovered a doozy - a hole about the size of a persimmon tree.
"A mistake costs you three times: First the time you waste making it, then the time you waste fixing it, then finally the time and trouble to do it over again right."
Toward the middle of the story, there is a sequence where some teenage summer campers undergo an outdoor "test" involving nearly-ripe persimmons still on the tree. Without giving too much away, this "test" has to do with following instructions and thoroughly examining all the facts. After they flunk on the first attempt and find they've gone off in the wrong direction, one of the campers remembers an applicable saying: "A mistake costs you three times: First the time you waste making it, then the time you waste fixing it, then finally the time and trouble to do it over again right."
I'm glad my characters learned their lesson. I only wish their author had learned his. You see, there's a problem here. Due to the overall timeline of the story, which I cannot change, the camping trip takes place in June. You persimmon buffs can say this with me if you like: Persimmons don't ripen until September. Even if you're not a persimmon person, it takes approximately 7.1 seconds to discover that fact using Google. As the boys note in this very sequence, "[this is a reminder to] double-check everything and never assume anything." I guess my fictional teenagers had the last laugh.
And no, it's not a simple fix. From this persimmon tree grows a heavy branch of the sub-plot, running at least 500 words and encompassing some of my favorite parts. Get the connection with the horseshoe nail now? Fortunately, the mistake was caught before we got to press. That would have been losing the kingdom. As it is, we've lost one rider and one message - but we're still in the battle.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a persimmon tree to chop down. A mistake costs you three times....