How do you know when a novel is finished?

Every time I dig in to go any deeper than proof-reading i.e. than minor corrections, then my story seems to have a life of its own. Characters say things they haven’t said before, little things happen that I didn’t know about and it seems as though I’m walking around in this heaving organic place.

How do I stop it happening? Do I want to stop it happening? Is it just a sign that it isn’t finished?

I remember when I was painting that some pictures were finished. It was clear when you had to stop. Others were not quite right and you kept tweaking here and there or even painting over huge areas and changing them. Some were painted too much and had to be thrown away – that initial freshness gone. Lost.

Is a painting like a novel?

One of the novels that I wrote – in fact, the most recent one The Thought Bird rolled out clear and complete. After three drafts, it was finished and it took only one month to write.

None of the others have been like that, but none have been as difficult as Red is to remember – the one I’m working on now.

Any advice from out there? What is your experience?

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash