For what it's worth about enforced absences from a novel. I started my first novel back around 1990 and wrote about 50 pages of it. I then spent years not writing. In 2002, shortly after my daughter was born I decided that I was going to finish a novel. Although I no longer had the original copy, I had enough in my head that I was able to write the first 113,000-word draft in a year.

Finishing that first novel, and then revising it, gave me the skills I needed to serve as the foundation of everything I've written since then.