A few years ago, one writer I knew sent me a few chapters to beta read. I happily did. And for a number of reasons, I thought one of the scenes wasn’t there yet. Before telling her what wasn't working for me, though, I told this writer I thought her MS would be stronger if she nixed that scene. And THEN I named all the problems I saw in the scene.
She got a little upset. And she was like, really, Mónica? Really? You think I HAVE to nix that scene? But I don’t WANT to nix that scene! Oh, no! Oh, no!
I think she may have had a panic attack.
I tried to backpedal. I said I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant the scene wasn’t working for me. And I spent like 5 emails trying to make it right and explain myself. Meanwhile, I realized why exactly I had screwed up:
I had given a suggestion first, and then I had told her the reasons I thought her scene wasn’t working. In the end, she didn’t nix the scene. She just fixed it.
So that day, I learned this: You ALWAYS have to give your objective thoughts first. And then, give the suggestions. But be extra careful to make it clear that they are just that: SUGGESTIONS.
So instead of saying: “I think it’d be nice to nix that chapter, because I didn’t connect with your MC there.”
Say: “I didn’t connect with your MC in this chapter [name all the reasons why. Such as: I think your MC sounded whiny in these paragraphs, OR these sentences make your MC sound too rational so the voice isn’t working for me, etc]. But I have a few suggestions that might help you fix that, like: 1) You could nix those sentences. 2) you can change them *this* and *that* way. 3) etc, etc. [You get the idea!] Or you can have your own brilliant ideas that are better than mine to fix those problems."
And (this has little to do with the post, but...) don't forget to be nice! Always start with a compliment... when you start with compliments, people are usually more receptive. =)