Five key things it takes to write a novel

SophieCunningham31. If you want to write a novel, you have to start by putting words down on the page. Not talk about writing, but actually write. Once you have words down you can sculpt something and work with them. You can begin.

2. Writing a novel takes a lot of time. There are authors who write very finely in a controlled way but slowly. There are those who draft and redraft and redraft. Each approach brings different levels of pain.

3. The importance of experimentation. Writing a novel requires constantly looking for the best way to express what you're doing. You need to interrogate whether there is a better or different way of approaching a scene or a character. It's important to see all the potential elements of style: point of view, exposition, dialogue and tense, as tools in a tool box that you can use, rather than being at the mercy of them.

4. Writing is physical. Take a leaf out of Philip Roth's (ahem) book. He swims and walks every day and has a standing desk. Sitting all the time doesn't just stuff your back, it can send you crazy.

5. Enjoy it. Don't write in the hope of hitting the jackpot of international fame and wealth. That's an elusive goal for most of us. But if you're writing a novel because you get real pleasure out of the whole process of controlling words and creating meanings, well then it's all win-win.

Sophie Cunningham has worked in publishing for more than 20 years, had her journalism published widely, and is the author of two novels and a work of non-fiction. Sophie is the course director for the Writing A Novel course in Melbourne at the Faber Writing Academy.