Unlike building a piece of furniture or painting a room, writing a novel has no real end so it's important to know when you've accomplished all you set out to do and then BACK AWAY FROM THE LAPTOP!
Now, it's not about word count so much as that sense that the story has come to a logical and satisfying conclusion. If you set a goal of 50,000 words, but came up a little short or a little over, that's okay. You'll plump things up or pare them down once you start self-edits...Ha! And you thought you were done. It's called a first draft for a reason.
But how to tell if a first draft is truly complete? First things first, does it have a beginning, middle and conclusion? If you answered yes, you're on the right track. Now it's time be a little more critical. Did you write enough to develop the characters fully? Did you illustrate their motivations? Did you take them on enough of a journey to reach the conclusion without the reader feeling as though you rushed? Did you tie up any sideplots you developed, or at least those that won't be addressed in a sequel? (OMG, did she just mention a sequel? You mean I have to do this again???) Did your main characters grow and change? Did you conclude the main plot line in a way that let's your reader know the journey is over?
If you answered no to many of these question, you still have work to do. But if you answered yes to all these questions, it's likely you've completed your first draft! YAY! Now it's time to break out the champagne, celebrate, pat yourself on the back and update your twitter status cuz you have accomplished something amazing.
Tomorrow, the real work begins.
Next time we'll go over self-edits and beta reader edits or what I like to call, "It's my manuscript and I'll cry if I want to."