I recently read two different partials from two different new writers - one from a class I was in, another from a friend who wanted a quick critique. Neither one of these are published writers. Both are new and just starting out, just learning. And yet, their abilities are worlds apart.
The first one, the classmate, had misspellings, bad punctuation, multiple repetitions, no concept of tenses, and even mis-used words. The second one not only had a sense of character, plot, and grammar and spelling, but she captured me with her words and her writing. Of the two, I am sure the second will eventually be published. The first may be, but not without a lot of work.
I felt a little sorry for the instructor in the class as she was forced to make comments that pointed out the problems while not discouraging the new writer. And that's the hardest thing to do sometimes. How do you encourage while still showing problems? Having been in that position more than a few times, I do not envy the teacher.
And yet, this position also gives me a new respect for often overworked and overwhelmed editors and agents. Their jobs require them to read hundreds of submissions, some of which are in desperate need of help. Though I don't like them, I can almost understand those dreaded "form" rejections that many writers receive. Not only does one save the agent or editor valuable time, but in sending such an impersonal missive, they are sidestepping having to make specific comments on the manuscript. As a writer, I hate these forms, but as a reader, I can understand them.
So my suggestion to all writers out there is this: no matter where you are in your career, never stop learning, never stop improving, never stop working on the craft of writing. And should you ever be in the position of having to comment on someone's work, never forget you were once new at this too.