"What are you going to offer us?" we wonder. "Will we like it?"
Sometimes it's obvious within the first few sentences that it's not going to work. The language is dull. The punctuation (or lack of it) makes it hard to grasp the meaning. There is no description and it's impossible to picture either the character or setting based on the information given. But every so often, a story just takes off confidently.
I'm marking one now. Though there are a few tiny slips in the spelling (off for of, for example), the narrator's voice is distinctive; his descriptions of the place he lives are vivid and the story he has to tell starts off by being intriguing and then gets even more so. The pacing is perfect and I realised that I was reading with that little bubble of excitement you get inside when you see a performer doing tricks on the tightrope or juggling flaming clubs or skating on ice. Of course if it were an experienced professional, you would fully expect that all this early promise would be fulfilled, that the story will end in a satisfying way, but with new and unknown writers, you can't know that and so often they let you down. :(
So right now I'm reading as though I'm watching a new act perform on Britain's Got Talent. He's entered the stage confidently, caught my attention with something that's genuinely interesting (no flashy gimmicks here). He has managed to keep all the balls in the air so far and all that is left is the finale. Can he do it? Or will this be the point where it all goes wrong, the balls kiss together and bounce off in all directions as I utter a groan of despair? I so want him to succeed but... but...
(A few minutes later.)
Yes! Yes, he managed to hold everything together for the ending so that means high marks for him and a little glow of satisfaction for me. I do like seeing students 'get it' and leave the course better writers than when they started.