My goodness, Laura. You don’t ask easy questions. ;-)
I approach all crits with caution, and each novel differently. If the manuscript needs a LOT of work, I might do a line crit, pointing out spelling and grammar errors. The less help I feel I can be to the writer, the more detail-oriented my response is. There may be nothing overall “wrong” with the work, but if I can’t connect to it in some way, all I can offer is proofreading.
Ideally, though, I prefer to give overarching critiques. I like to point out when something worked brilliantly, or when limped along. I like to note good foreshadowing, or when an element popped out of the blue – and not in a good surprise way. I’m particularly fussy about endings that rush by too quickly, or that leave me scratching my head.
My goal is to help the novelist in a positive way. To make him or her say, “Ah-ha, that’s what was bothering me.” And best of all to say, “I can fix that!”
So far, I haven’t regretted a novel crit, though I cringe at my early attempts to crit short stories. I always worry that I’ve depressed the writer, which is the last thing I want to do. All stories have merit. They just might not be marketable in their current form.
Today I’d like to introduce Churchill, my new Muse, to all my bloggy friends. I think he looks like a cross between a stuffy Prime Minister and a thug in fancy dress, but he’s a sweet gentleman. He loves to sit in my lap when I’m writing. And rest his chin on the space bar. Yikes! When I’ve been writing too long he gets up on the desk and sits in front of the monitor. Talk about a hint. LOL!