These are fragments of three letters from Tolstoy to his friend Nicolay Starkhov. The novel he’s in panic about––and seemingly making consistent progress with––is Anna Karenina.
May 31, 1873
My novel is resting, too, and I’m already losing hope I will finish it by this fall.
August 24, 1873
…And I must confess, shamefully, that I am now correcting and trimming the novel about which I told you in my letter, giving it a more frivolous and less formal style. I wanted to be mischievous and now I can’t even finish it and I’m afraid it won’t turn out well, i.e., you won’t like it.
…I’m as healthy as an ox, and like a locked-up mill, I’ve collected water…
September 23 or 24, 1873
I have moved far ahead with my work, but I’ll hardly finish it before winter––maybe December or somewhere around that time. Like the painter needs light for his final touch-ups, I, too, need to have an inner light, which usually begins to fade in the fall.