l) Voice: Does the author have a distinctive, unique voice that captures your attention, or is her writing bland, colorless. Do you want to spend the next several hours with this author? Note that Voice is not the same thing as Style. Think of a thriller writer who might not be a particularly felicitous prose stylist, but keeps you on the edge of your seat with his breathless, perhaps even melodramatic voice.
2) Pace: The test here is quite simple. After finishing one page, do you want to go on to the next page? In fact, are you compelled to do so? That is, is it a page-turner? A good thriller writer, of course, must have an unerring sense of pace. But the pace of literary writing, drawing you deeper and deeper into ideas and feelings, is also irresistible.
3) Character: While you might think plot should precede character, the fact is that the best plots emerge from characters in conflict. So the question here is whether you are compelled by the characters and are you involved in what is happening to them? Do they come alive on the page? Do they surprise you with their complexity?
4) Plot: Whether the plot comes out of the characters' development or not--a good thriller writer might have one-dimensional characters, but that doesn't matter if his story is riveting--we're looking for a story that keeps us reading because we want to know what happens next. And if what happens is surprising--not just arbitrary but convincing--that's all the better.
5) Style: As already mentioned, here we're talking about the quality of the writing. And while we all probably respond to a beautiful style, and it may impel us to keep reading, yet in the end if the author says nothing, reveals nothing, creates no strong effect on us with her story and characters, then we're left unsatisfied. What the reader asks of the author is: Astonish me!
6) Verisimilitude: By this I mean not so much accuracy or true-to-life details as convincing invention. If the author can convince you that something is true, it really doesn't matter whether it's true or not.
Finally, you must ask yourself--and this applies to both fiction and nonfiction--whether the author has accomplished what he set out to do. You could think of this as the combined effect of all the elements, but it's a crucial question to ask. You can't evaluate a manuscript on the basis of what you want it to be.