Fiammetta Rocco, the literary editor of The Economist, was one of the judges in this year's Man Booker Prize. She has written an interesting essay on the process of the Prize in her magazine.
What interested me was the three points she mentioned. These three points are essential for good novel writing. They are courage, immense clarity of vision, and language.
Sample this: "In order to capture a reader, an author must first duel with them and force them to submit to the writer's vision. Nowhere is a writer's guile and weaponry more finely honed than in their choice of words and metaphor. Here, more even than in the ability to draw a character, more even than in the skill needed to shape a plot, is where the difference between good and great can be seen. It sometimes took Gustave Flaubert a week to write a paragraph that pleased him, and with good reason."