On Taking 10 Years to Write a Novel...


Today, I read an Editor's Note in Poets & Writers magazine that made me feel much better about a novel-length piece that has been taking me forever to finish. 

The editor, Kevin Larimer, takes on the phrase "No Excuses," which is usually about a relentless push to write no matter what life brings, but re-frames it in terms about writers' embarrassment about the "tardiness" of their debut:

"My feelings on this matter began, I suppose," Larimer writes, "with last issue’s profile of novelist Ben Fountain who, as Roberta Werdinger points out in her recent letter to the editor, was quoted as having said:

"It’s slightly ridiculous to be fifty-three years old and about to have your debut novel come out.

"Turn to this issue’s twelfth annual roundup of debut fiction and you’ll find Anna Keesey talking to Peter Ho Davies about why it took a decade to finish her debut novel:

"Oh God! If something takes you that long to write, it had better be Middlemarch or Gravity's Rainbow to justify the time. So it’s embarrassing to discuss. The short answer, maybe, is that for years I was tentative about the book, anxious and ridiculous, and for years after that I was adopting and then raising a child, mostly on my own, while working.

"To which I cry out, 'No excuses!' The truth is, if we’re doing good work there is no need to justify it. No matter how long it takes; no matter how many revisions have been scrapped or how many agents and editors have rejected us, we shouldn’t have to offer excuses for how we got here. Living a life (with its attendant mortgage payments, pediatrician appointments, and flat tires) and writing a great poem or story or essay or book are not mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite. The writing life is messy, and there’s no secret to success. Instead, there are many paths leading to where you want to go...."

God bless you, Poets & Writers. 

(Click here for the full article.)