Philip Roth is quoted as saying, "The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress" (John Irving reported it), and this seems utterly true . I've written three novels now and none of them has visited a publisher for any length of time and I've spent years working on them to make them better. That part is done now as I work on finishing this one for the last time. Here's my new take on the process of novelling: you make it lovely and then you let it rest, then you edit it once or twice and you let it go. Last month, on John Gardner's birthday, I thought about how he died at age forty-nine... look at all of those fabulous novels, from Grendel to Mickelsson's Ghosts, not to mention October Light and Nickel Mountain and the Sunlight Dialogues... not to mention the books on writing, the scholarly career, the years of teaching, and the short stories. I want that.
To that end, I have plowed through the halfway point in this novel and am heading for the three quarter mark, with the ending written and nothing save a major life crisis will get in my way. The summer was good; I stood in the room where Hemingway wrote "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" and I heard how he wrote only 500 words per day but he wrote them every damned day of his life, no matter what.
A writer needs focus. A writer needs that "intent," selfish or not. I'm going to finish this novel and publish it, and meanwhile work on its successor (which will be set in Tennessee) and then I'm going to publish that as well. And then write more. And just keep writing and writing until I'm dead. Then I'll write from wherever that turns out to be (wink).