I can finish a novel in a month, with the correct focus. Finishing them isn’t the problem – it’s the editing. I have four novels finished at this point (three of them finished during NaNoWriMo, and I’m looking forward to doing it this year. Again.) but none of them in a state that I can consider “complete.”
And if you have to ask about the difference between finished and complete, you’ve never been in this position.
Finished means oh, goody, I got the storyline down, the plot holds together, I can relax now. Complete is several levels above just “finished.” It means that while the work isn’t perfect (it will never be, to my mind) it’s not something that I would be ashamed for others to see. I can send it out to agents, publishers, and get more of those nifty little form-letter rejection notes to add to my collection, hopefully with a hand-written p.s.
I love those hand-written comments at the end – it means it got far enough for someone to actually look at the first page. Even more encouraging are the form letters that have been personalized, where there’s enough information there to realize that the person writing the letter actually wrote it, or at least glanced through the query letter and synopsis.
But even the form letters without comments go in my file with a hint of smug satisfaction. It means I actually did something, took a step toward my goal. That’s more rare than you might think.