Critique Services

Top leaders, athletes, and performing artists have coaches to spur them to their very best—why shouldn’t you?

Writers from around the world have found results with our critique and coaching services. 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.

Critique services success story

Children’s writer finds success through Critique Services
Marion Young, a student of Continuing Studies' writing classes and critique services, has published Love Circles the World, a children's picture book that connects the dots among global cultures. The book won a Silver Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association for Children's Picture Book, as well as the Best Category Children's Award from the Printing Industries of the Gulf Coast.

"Working with Christine (DeSmet of Critique Services) enabled me to have confidence in my stories and myself," she says. "Over time, the words 'I can do this' became my mantra. Then everything I wrote, from stories to query letters to press releases, helped me to evolve as I rode the path to publication."

What we provide in our critique service

We critique a wide range of all types of writing, including:

  • Novels, novellas, short stories, articles and essays, screenplays, TV scripts, stage plays, and poetry
  • Synopses, nonfiction book proposals, and MFA application material
  • Children’s literature and picture books as well as Young Adult fiction
  • Resumes and cover letters

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 proposals, 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. For job seekers, we will give you feedback on your resume and/or cover letter to help you put your best foot forward when applying for jobs.

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 Christine DeSmet ( before sending or e-mailing any materials. Unsolicited submissions will be returned unopened.

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 here 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.

For job seekers, we will critique your updated resume and cover letter. Please submit your resume and cover letter, type of job applying for and/or job posting, and your timeline.

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 is 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, and 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 one revision and a brief general comment. Submit no more than one poem per page. No matter how many lines on a single page, the charge for that page is $12.

$25 for:

  • Board Books 0-100 words
  • Early pic books 0-500 words
  • Pic books 50-1,000 words
  • Nonfiction books 500-2,000 words
  • Resumes and cover letters

$5/page for:

  • 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
  • Nonfiction 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:

Christine DeSmet, Critique Services
UW-Madison Continuing Studies
21 N. Park St., 7th floor
Madison, WI 53715

For the online payment link, please call our program associate, Laura Kahl at 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: Christopher Chambers, Christine DeSmet, Laurie Scheer
  • MFA projects: Christopher Chambers, Christine DeSmet, Laurie Scheer
  • Nonfiction projects: Christopher Chambers, Laurie Scheer
  • Screenplays, TV scripts, plays: Christopher Chambers, Christine DeSmet, Laurie Scheer
  • Poetry: Christopher Chambers, Angela Rydell

Whatever you decide to do, we wish you the best for your writing!