Nothing is ever finished, only abandoned.
I'm not sure who said this - or if I'm even mis-remembering it - but it's a phrase that often comes to mind when I'm writing. You can always make another tweak, cut another word, add another sentence. 'Finishing' seems a better verb, the participle suggesting that work is always ongoing until the point when you step away for better or for worse.
So, that's where I feel I am with my fantasy novel. Yes, it is 'finished', in the sense that I have written a final sentence. Do you want to see it? No - better not. I might want to change it, do a Dickens on 'Great Expectations' (not that I'm comparing myself to him of course). And the likelihood is that if an agent picks it up, it will change.
It will even change as I ping it down the wires or wrap it up and drop it at the Post Office. It will be moving away from me as it already has from that moment when I typed the final word and punctuated the final sentence. It will become someone else's property, commercially, emotionally and physically.
Writing the damn thing was the easy bit. Finishing it - the never-ending process of its afterlife as the story steps away from me - will be the really difficult part.
And already it is changing. I foresee a future conversation with an editor or agent.
Agent: You can't call your main guy 'Procter'.
Me: Why not? And don't call him 'main guy'. .
Agent: Well, people will think you stole the character from 'The Crucible'. John Proctor.
Me: Ah ha! I changed the spelling. Put an 'e' in. Clever, huh?
Agent: They'll still think you're channelling Arthur Miller.
Me: What's wrong with that? My Procter's an embittered farmer in a loveless marriage. Do the math.
Agent: That might be plagiarism.
Me: Don't be ridiculous. My novel is completely different. Was 'The Crucible' partly set in an underground kingdom with a circular prison based on The Panopticon?
Agent: Now you're plagiarising Jeremy Bentham (see post from a few weeks back). Good stuff. Arthur Miller and a Victorian philosopher/thinker. Way to go. All we need now is a character called Elvis...
Me: I took him out.
Agent: What? You had a character called Elvis?
Me: Only kidding.
Agent: Anyway - point is you've potentially been stealing other people's ideas. That's illegal. Against the law..
Me: (stunned) I KNOW WHAT 'ILLEGAL' MEANS.
Agent: Court cases. Years tied up in legal battles. All those royalties lost.....
Me: Ok, ok. I get the picture! Do you keep alcohol in that mahogany desk of yours?
Agent: This isn't real. This is an imagined conversation.
Me: Fair point.
Agent: Just call him.....I don't know.....Fred.
Me: Fred? Fred?
Agent: It doesn't have to be Fred. Just not 'Proctor'
Me: Procter. With an 'e'.
Agent: Whatever. Just do it.
Me: But the novel's finished....
Agent starts laughing, stands up and shows me the door.