The Crime Writers' Association

What are Criminal Critiques?

Criminal Critiques is the CWA’s critique service (formerly called the Manuscript Assessment Service) for aspiring crime fiction writers, to help you polish your writing and prepare your manuscript for submission to agents and publishers or for competitions such as the Debut Dagger and short story competitions, too.

The critiques are carried out by our own published authors and other members who bring a wealth of writing, editing and manuscript assessment experience to the task. We understand that the competition to achieve a publishing deal is fierce and that it can really help to get a professional view on what works – and what doesn’t.

As an organisation we’re committed to the crime genre, and we know what makes a thrilling crime novel.

Your work will be read by one of our experienced members, who will provide you with detailed feedback that will help you hone your writing. (We provide editing services through our partner Fiction Feedback, too – see below.) The CWA has been running the prestigious Debut Dagger competition for twenty years, which has helped many crime writers meet agents and editors and secure publishing deals, and entrants benefit hugely from this assessment service – as do entrants to the CWA/Margery Allingham Short Story Competition.

“Many thanks for this. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this critique, but this is great – some practical things to help me improve my writing and storytelling, and particularly illuminating in highlighting things that I haven’t explained clearly, what I’m losing in translation between my brain and the page! Good stuff. I’ve already made a lot of changes based on the feedback and I can tell it’s looking better, tighter and more coherent (I hope!)”. AC

“Thank you so much for this. It is hugely encouraging to know that I’m on the right track and to read such a positive response from someone who clearly knows exactly what they are talking about!”

How does it work?

We not only highlight strengths, we also identify weaknesses and suggest how to address them in a constructive and practical way.

“Fabulous service! Please pass on my thanks to the reader. I knew the manuscript needed more work, but wasn’t sure where to start. I really appreciate having some direction.”
– Sharon, Western Australia

“I just wanted to say how helpful I found this assessment. I found it useful to have someone objective read the whole manuscript and it gave me some new ideas about how to approach the novel. This is a great service and I have recommended it to several other writers I know.”
– Jackie, Scotland

“The manuscript review was outstanding, addressing the overall plot, pacing, how well particular scenes worked and characterization. This was the first time someone had read the manuscript from beginning to end, and the comments were invaluable in helping me prepare the next draft. Many thanks!” – Peter, Pittsburgh, USA.

How much does it cost?

Prices are now shown INCLUDING VAT. Sadly we have to charge this whether or not you live in the UK.

Manuscript length
Time required
What to expect
Level A
Up to 5,000 words

(plus 1,000 word synopsis)
3 weeks
A detailed critique

(minimum 2 pages)
Level B
Up to 100,000 words

(plus 1000 word synopsis)
5 weeks
A detailed critique

(minimum 4 pages)

Mini Criminal Critique

Our Mini Critique service, aimed especially at Debut Dagger entrants, is so popular that we now offer it all year round.Please tell us if you’re intending to enter the Debut Dagger and ensure you get your work in for critique in time – we need to receive it at by Sunday 13 February 2022. (We’ll send you an invoice and expedite it on Monday 14th.)  If you’re not entering the Debut Dagger this year and just want a Mini Critique, there is of course no deadline – submit any time.

LevelManuscript lengthCostTime requiredWhat to expect
MiniUp to 4,500 words
– Can be a novel opening
– Can be 3,000 words plus 1,500 word synopsis
– Can be a short story
£933 weeksMini critique of 500 words minimum

“This is really helpful. It’s exactly what I paid for and hoped for – an independent opinion with constructive feedback. It’s so hard when you’re close to what you’re writing.” – Simon F

Now I need editing!

Need more in-depth help? Closer guidance? A full structural editing report perhaps, or maybe your MS is ready for copy-editing? We are now working with professional editing partners Fiction Feedback. Please email with your request or query and mention you saw this on the CWA website.

“The CWA/Fiction Feedback gave me an invaluable and insightful structural analysis of my MS, and then copy-edited it to within an inch of its life! Wonderful, painstaking service, which I shall certainly use again.” Simon M

How do I submit a manuscript?

Please send your Word Document (.doc or .docx) to and provide your email and postal address (we need the latter for VAT purposes). Please note we no longer accept pdf files. We should be able to accept .rtf files if necessary.
After we have received your file we will invoice you for the fee for the service (see above). Your file will be sent to our assessors as soon as the payment has been received.

Submission guidelines
Manuscripts should be 12pt, double spaced, in an easily readable font such as Times, Arial or Helvetica. They must fall within the prescribed word limits.

“Many thanks for the swift return on my novel. Please pass on my sincere thanks to the reviewer. It is truly wonderful to have an independent, yet well informed, opinion on my writing. I will take all advice on board in my next draft.” – Robert M

“I have nothing but praise for you for your expertise and your excellent service. I am delighted with your report and the speed with which it was delivered. I consider that I have had sterling value for money from you and the CWA and I wish to thank you. When the novel is complete in the summer, I would hope that you will be willing to compile a further report.” – David H 

“Thank you for your wonderful assessment. It was far more than I dared hope for!” – Natalie N

Submit a manuscript