Writing Critique Services
Welcome to our critique and coaching services. Thank you for visiting us.
Writers from around the world have found results with us. We’ve helped writers start or polish a project, get a short story or novel published, option a screenplay, and propel a poem to publishable level.
Our success stories are posted at our writing area main page that lists our workshops, retreat, and conference: www.dcs.wisc.edu/lsa/writing. You’ll also find success stories posted at our web pages about online courses.
Scroll down for more details, or click on the item below:
- What we provide in our critique service
- How to submit material
- How to pay us
- Who does the critique?
We critique novels, novellas, short stories, articles and essays, screenplays, TV scripts, stage plays, and poetry. We also critique synopses and nonfiction book proposals and MFA application material. We also critique children’s literature and picture books as well as Young Adult fiction.
The critique includes a thorough analysis of your pages and a letter with suggestions. Expect a good amount of feedback. We believe in telling each writer what is working well and pointing out areas that can be improved along with suggestions or options for making those improvements. Our critiques cover the important aspects including story structure, plot, scene work, characterization, theme, dialogue, setting, transitions, and style. In nonfiction book proposal, we help you shape the necessary items an agent or editor expects to see, including the marketing page, chapter outline, sample chapters, and your query/pitch letter.
We don’t do line editing but will point out problems in grammar, punctuation, awkward sentence structure, and similar things. We critique from the standpoint of wanting the author to publish proudly, whether that be with a large publisher, a regional publisher and small press, or a self-publishing situation. We welcome your questions concerning your marketing plan. Although we can’t find you an agent, we will be happy to advise you on how to go about finding one.
How to submit material and what format to use
To submit a manuscript, please contact us first before sending or e-mailing any materials. Unsolicited submissions will be returned unopened. You can contact Laurie Scheer (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions or to be put on our critique schedule.
For novelists, we recommend that you try us out by submitting only the first chapter or so of your novel, maybe 15-30 pages, instead of the entire manuscript. It often happens that we spot things that you can correct on your own in the remainder of the novel without paying for further services. However, we’re also busy throughout the year coaching writers all the way through their entire novels, and we’re glad to do that if you feel that’s warranted to get the job done.
For nonfiction book authors, we look at your separate pages and your book proposal. For all others, including screenwriters and writers of short stories, articles, and poems, please submit the entire piece from beginning to end.
Please submit your manuscript pages in professional format: double-spaced, Courier or Times New Roman 12-point typeface, one-inch margins (ragged right margin, not justified), page numbers upper right, title/name in upper left. Please indent all paragraphs five spaces or a half inch. There should be no extra spaces between paragraphs except for a scene break. Scriptwriters and poets should follow their particular formats.
Send your pages with a one-page or short synopsis that tells us the beginning, middle and end of the story. That can be single-spaced. There is no charge for this page. It’s for our information only. We also look at query letters at no charge.
We charge $5/page (or $5/300 words) for novels, short stories, nonfiction articles, essays, nonfiction book proposals
$4/page for screenplays/television scripts/stage plays
$12/page of poetry.*
*Each poem critique includes up to one email exchange with questions plus looking over one revision and providing a brief general comment. A critique of the revision, however, would count as an additional submission—just like any other poem. No matter how many lines on the page, the charge for that page of poetry is $12.
- Board Books 0-100 words
- Early pic books 0-500 words
- Pic books 50-1,000 words
- Nonfic books 500-2,000 words
- Early readers 200-3,500 words
- Chap books 4,000-10,000 words
- Hi-lo books 500-50,000 words
- Middle grade 2,500-45,000 words
- YA 45,000-70,000 words
- Nonfic memoirs 5,000-50,000 words
How to pay us and where to send it
You can pay by check or credit card. Please make your check payable to “UW-Madison.” After contacting us and becoming part of our schedule, send material to the appropriate instructor directly, or to:
Laurie Scheer, Critique Services
UW-Madison Continuing Studies
21 N. Park St., 7th floor
Madison, WI 53715
To pay by credit card, please call our program associate, Laura Kahl, 608-262-3982.
Who reads and critiques material?
Naturally we want you to work with the writing coach of your choice. However, due to scheduling, not all of our writing coaches are available all the time. If we can’t accommodate your first choice, we’ll offer another suggestion that’s appropriate to your project.
Projects will be read by the following writing staff:
- Fiction: Christine DeSmet, Bridget Birdsall, Laurie Scheer.
- MFA projects: Christine DeSmet, Bridget Birdsall, Laurie Scheer
- Nonfiction projects: Laurie Scheer.
- Screenplays, TV scripts, plays: Christine DeSmet or Laurie Scheer.
- Poetry: Bridget Birdsall, Angela Rydell or Christopher Mohar.
Whatever you decide to do, we wish you the best for your writing!
“I very much like the editing you are doing on my book. After I put your revisions into the text in the computer I give it a rest-come back to it later to read. It’s then I get excited and see that it is better, more muscular somehow. It is hard to describe exactly how it is better, but it is. Thanks for what you are doing.” (Dave Brainard, Three Lakes, WI)
"Serious writers will benefit immensely by having their projects critiqued by Christine DeSmet of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When Chris reviewed my script, Whisper Alley, she made numerous suggestions that improved the flow of my script and made it a stronger story. Additionally, a number of questions she raised made me realize that I had not set up several of my scenes as strongly as I should have. Although it is always hard to hear that your story still needs work after you've poured your heart and soul into it for months, all of Chris' comments were positive and focused on how the script could be improved and not what was wrong with it. She also did a wonderful job pointing out the things that were right with my script. Chris' critique not only helped me to make Whisper Alley a stronger script, a lot of the comments she made were universal to all of my projects and I was able to use her suggestions to make my other scripts stronger as well. The UW's critique services gets four stars from this satisfied screenwriter." (Lori Enos, Rolling Meadows, Illinois)