People are terrified of offending each other, so they refuse to offer any advice at all. If you share your story with someone, usually, the response will be...
So, you thank them, and prompt them to say more.
"Well, I don't know..." *shrug*
"...but I really liked it."
You may be able to eek a small criticism out of someone - they might point out a minor grammar mistake or a spelling error, but honestly, when everyone responds to you with a, "It's good" or "I really liked it", you begin wondering if your book really is good. You begin wondering if these opinions are honest, or simply shallow words instead of real criticism.
Of course, if you ever do find that one person who tears your manuscript apart and tells you that you will never be a writer... that might not be particularly helpful either.
So, let's flip the situation around. Your friend asks if you'll read a portion of their story. You say you will, and they send it to you. How do you respond? Surely you, as a fellow writer, will not respond with the hated words, "It's good!" So what do you say?
How do give good advice / criticism
I used to have a Writing Group. We would hang out, eat snacks, read a chapter of our stories, and then comment on each other's stories. I had a format that went something like this:
I think I got the idea from somewhere else, but I can't quite remember where, so please forgive me.
At my writing group, I would often take notes while the author read her story out loud. I would make notes about grammar, I would write down if something confused me, and make comments about what I liked. When my friends send me their stories, I generally try to respond in a positive manner. Their stories are usually well-written (I have never received a horrendous story from anyone) and I can find many things to compliment.
My advice might end up sounding something like...
"Hey, that was really good! [Yes, I begin with the hated words, so immersed are they in society that I can't help but use them] I really liked how you described so-and-so. You used very vivid adjectives and I can see him perfectly in my mind. I also love how you left us on a cliffhanger, I can't wait to find out what's going to happen to him next week! One thing though, I got a little confused on the scene where he falls off the cliff and climbs his way back up... maybe you could make that scene a little longer and describe it in more detail. Anyway, good job!"
Okay, so I don't think I've actually ever read a friend's story where someone falls off a cliff, but that's beside the point. :)
Obviously there are many ways to critique a novel; another method I use is to send the story back to the author, with my comments in bold. A lot of editors do this, and when I asked people to edit my books, they would do this as well. This also works well if the story is being sent over the email.
If I have a hard copy of the story, I make notes in the margins or on the paper, then return it. I actually do this when editing my own stories - I will write notes to myself on the hard copy and then make the changes to the computer.
So the next time someone asks you to look at their story, you could ask them if they would like to receive advice. Then perhaps you could try out the 2 nice things, 1 bad thing (that's what we ended up calling it at our Writing Group :)). But about that "1 bad thing" - it's really not so bad, is it? I'm actually quite appreciative when I receive a critiquing comment. :)
So, if any of you would like to send me your stories, I would be happy to read them...and critique them!