Watch this video for a sneak peek inside the master class!

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Write a fantastic opening page for your novel so that any reader— including agents, editors, and publishers—will sit up, take notice, and keep reading.

WRITE A GRIPPING FIRST PAGE is a comprehensive online master class presented by award-winning novelist and writing teacher, Joan Dempsey.

Simple lessons with robust content and engaging assignments are designed to help you write a fantastic opening page for your novel so that any reader—including agents, editors, and publishers—will sit up, take notice, and keep reading.

Class is open and buzzing—come on in!

Don't miss out—enrollment closes in . . .

Stephen King

“An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” ~ Stephen King

Too often, writers make the same common mistakes on the first page of their novels-in-progress, which can cause readers to stop reading.

Learn how to keep readers riveted from page one.


The course takes place entirely online inside the Gutsy Great Novelist Writers Studio, an online community hosted by Joan Dempsey, and can be accessed from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone. 


Once you enroll, you can start immediately on the day the class opens, or any other time that's convenient for you. Work at your own pace, whenever you wish. You have lifetime access, too, so revisit the class at any time.


Bite-sized lessons let you work in short bursts over time or binge-learn on a weekend, whichever works best for you. Each lesson is designed for learning that sticks – for your current project and all future novels.


Easily engage with other writers who are all working on their novels – read each other's work, meet new friends, chat together, share tips and resources and celebrate your newfound writing skills – fun!


By the time you finish this online class, you will have:

Determined what works to grab your reader's attention (and why);
Determined what doesn't work to grab your reader's attention (and why);
Analyzed gripping first pages from bestselling novels to identify why they work;
Explored the power of a great first sentence;
Written and critiqued your own first page and those of other writers in the class;
Received personalized feedback from award-winning author and writing teacher Joan Dempsey; and
Shared your final, polished first page.


Joan Dempsey, Award-Winning Author

I highly recommend Joan Dempsey as a mentor to help aspiring authors produce publishable writing pieces. 

I will always be in her debt.

Cheryl Abney

I am finished with what is now a published book—Waking in Havana—that grew from a project I had almost tossed away in frustration. I can’t say enough about the value of Joan's support to a self-doubting but determined writer!

Elena Schwolsky

As an instructor, Joan is present and active. 

Her online courses were well worth my time and money. They have been the best investment in strengthening my writing craft.

Diana Rigor

Joan’s input and advice has made me a far better writer. 

If you want a teacher who is honest, superb at her job, and kind as well, I unhesitatingly recommend Joan. 

She’s the best!

Frances Barrett-Reed

“That's what writing is. It's moving past your fear.”  

~ Jacqueline Woodson

Write a fantastic opening page for your novel so that any reader, including agents, editors, and publishers, will sit up, take notice, and keep reading.

Class is open and buzzing—come on in!

Don't miss out—enrollment closes in . . .

Begin whenever you wish after you enroll – there's no set schedule.

"You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence." ~ Octavia Butler


Where does the course take place and when does it begin?

The course takes place entirely online inside the Gutsy Great Novelist Writers Studio, an online community hosted by Joan Dempsey, and can be accessed from a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone. Once you enroll, you can start immediately on the day the class opens (Wednesday, December 16, 2020), or whenever it's convenient for you after that. Nothing is on a set schedule, and you have lifetime access, so start whenever you wish and proceed at your own pace.

Do I have to participate at specifically scheduled times?

Not usually, no. The course is asynchronous, which means you can participate at any time you wish, when it's convenient for you! No worries about scheduling, or living in different time zones. You have access to the full course at all times, and there's no end date, so come on back whenever you wish.

Depending on how the class is going, I might on occasion invite you to participate in a live, online, scheduled event, which would be optional. If this happens, I'll record the event so you can view it at your convenience if you can't participate live.

How long do I have to complete the course?

As long as you'd like. Work whenever you wish, whether two in the morning or one in the afternoon. It's entirely up to you. You'll have lifetime access to the course, so you can revisit the content at any time.

Do I have to complete the assignments?

It's entirely up to you. The proven way to truly master your learning, however, is for you to apply what you're learning by completing the assignments. If you don't, you're short-changing yourself. The assignments have been specifically designed with your learning in mind—complete them and you'll master new skills, leave them out and you won't. It's that simple.

Who facilitates the course?

I, Joan Dempsey, am your guide. I’m an award-winning author and writing teacher with advanced degrees in both from Antioch University Los Angeles. I love working with writers and I'll be with you every step of the way during your course.

When can I interact with Joan?

I will always be monitoring your progress, commenting when I can on your work in the comments section, and be available via e-mail to respond your questions, comments, or suggestions. I'm on US Eastern time and will be checking in numerous times a day, Monday through Wednesday, to see what you're up to. (Thursday and Friday I focus entirely on my own writing.)

I'm not that computer savvy - is the course hard to navigate?

No. Mighty Networks, which hosts the class, has designed an online learning environment that's streamlined and simple to navigate. There's helpful and friendly online support, and I can also assist if you run into trouble. Complicated tech stuff can be frustrating, so the course design is deliberately simple. So far all participants have easily managed. That said, if you are not adept at all with email and the internet, you might find it difficult to learn online.

Will I interact with other participants?

You bet! Learning from each other is as important a part of your learning experience as working with me. The Mighty Networks learning platform makes it easy for you to connect directly with other writers in the class, through the comments sections, via tagging and private chat, and I'll be asking you to provide feedback on the first pages of other writers in the class, as well as receiving feedback from others.

In addition, the class takes place inside the larger Gutsy Great Novelist Writers Studio, a free online community where serious creative writers gather to finish their novels, and as of the time I'm writing this, there are more than 700 writers in the studio, all of us working on novels. There's a lot of great stuff going on in the studio, so that's an added benefit.

I'm not sure I can take the course right now—will you offer it again?

I never know exactly when I'll be offering the course again, or if I'll be offering it again. I work alone and make my own schedule, so there are times when I'll set my teaching work aside to focus on my own writing, and times when I want to do something new and I develop a new online class and ditch the older ones. That means I can't predict if or when the course will become available again. If you're okay with the risk of missing out, don't enroll now.

But if you don't want to miss out, sign up right now and don't begin the class until you're good and ready, a week from now or six months from now; that's the beauty of "lifetime access!" If you're too busy right now, sign up anyway and start when it makes the most sense for you. You'll still get every single benefit from the class, and I'll still provide you with personalized feedback on your work.

I'm on a limited income - do you have scholarships or discounts?

I don't. The price of this course has been set to be as reasonable for you as possible while still allowing me fair compensation (I'm a sole proprietor and a working writer). Compared to similar online courses, my prices are more than fair. 

What is the cost of tuition?

$129 USD

Enroll now.

What if I don't like the class? Can I get my money back?

Yes! If, within 15 days of the date you enrolled, you discover it's not for you, simply contact me to request a refund and I'll give you 100% of your money back, no questions asked. Please do not ask for a refund later than 15 days after you enroll.

15-Day Money Back Guarantee

If, fifteen days after you enroll, you decide for whatever reason that the class isn't for you, you'll get 100% of your tuition back, simple as that! 



WELCOME – Start Here

1 – Welcome video

2 – Set yourself up for success

3 – Where to get help

4 – Where and how to add your comments

Module 1 – Why Write a Gripping First Page

1 – The purpose and definition of "gripping"

2 – Whatever works (or, there are always exceptions)

3 – The power of a great opening sentence

4 – Your opening sentence(s)—give and receive feedback

Module 2 – Elements to Consider for Your Opening Page

1 – Quickly establish point-of-view

2 – Embrace your particular voice or style

3 – Begin your story in media res (in the middle of things)

4 – Open in a specific setting

5 – Introduce some sense of conflict or action

6 – Include an emerging narrative theme

7 – Build anticipation

8 – Establish mood and atmosphere

9 – Begin with interesting dialogue

10 – Write lean and strong sentences

BONUS – Make your reader crave answers

Module 3 – What to Avoid on Your Opening Page

1 – Excessive backstory (and other information dumps)

2 – The waking up and dream scenes

3 – Long passages of landscape description

4 – Withholding your protagonist's name

5 – Talking heads

7 – Generic settings

8 – Boring or disembodied dialogue

9 – Too many characters

Module 4 – Analyze First Pages

1 – Study and assess first pages from published novels

2 – Your first page draft—give and receive feedback

3 – Share your polished first page

Assess Your Progress and Determine What's Next

1 – Reflect on your progress

2 – Farewell video—what's next for you?