I pay attention to the overall plot, breaking it down to its simplest points to see if it fits in with what I know about writing. I look for the conflict in each character, studying how it helps develop the character. I'm watching out for "show not tell" moments, as I know this is something I need to work on, learning from these people who have succeeded where I hope to tread.
I'm also using some to teach me how not to write. I'm halfway through a book at the moment that I consider to be poorly written. None of the secondary characters are fleshed out - I can't remember the names of any of them - and there seems to be no conflict at all, either internally or externally. The descriptive scenes are very well written, but it proves to me that it takes more than pretty writing to write a novel.
There has to be obstacles, there has to be character growth, there has to be something to makes these people stand out. Without them, you're just writing words on a piece of paper, not a story.
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