I began a new book recently. Although I have been busy for some weeks creating characters and their stories, developing the ideas for the murder case, and researching on topics I needed to know more about, for me a book isn’t started until I write those first lines. That’s the ‘proper’ work of writing and no matter how much plotting and planning I might have done in advance (and that varies from book to book) it is in the process of writing that everything is given life and form and new ideas often emerge.
The finishing point is not quite so clear cut. I think there are two of those. The first is when I scrawl the last sentence, put the closing full stop. And the second is when after typing up, editing as I go, polishing and amending in the light of feedback from my writers group and doing a final read through I have a whole book, ready to send off my agent and editor. Of course there will be further work to do – changes suggested by editor or agent, copy edits to agree, proofs to be checked, cover images to consider but in my mind the novel already exists, fully formed. And what comes after, crucial though it is (and it is!) I see as part of the production and publishing process not the creative process.