Class is open and buzzing—come on in!

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.

Enrollment closes 5 PM ET on Friday, June 18 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.


What writers are saying ...

Immensely improved my first page!

I appreciated the many examples Joan used, and the insightful individual critiques of each writer's page, which helped me analyze what was or wasn't working. Theory is great, but it's so helpful to see it in practice! This class helped me focus on the immediacy, action, and tension necessary to create an attention-getting first page, and it improved my first page immensely.

Molly Preston

Chock full of sound advice and supportive comments!

I've taken many courses with many instructors - but Joan is the best. This course was chock full of sound advice, great examples, supportive comments and the opportunity to share my work and get feedback from others. I'm so glad I learned how to write a gripping first page! 

Sharon Frayne

My entire novel will benefit!

This course is excellent. Through analyzing the first page—really analyzing it— I realize my entire novel will benefit. Clearly a lot of thought went into the course design. The examples are spot on. And the feedback and cheers of classmates were beyond helpful.

Debra Whittall

The First Page Cheat Sheet will never leave my desk!

I'll always remember "make your reader crave answers," and the First Page Cheat Sheet will never leave my desk. As I suspected when I enrolled for this course, Joan's teaching applies to more than just first pages. 

Ranee Tomlin

Your guide for this class—Joan Dempsey, award-winning author.

One of "5 more writers over 50" to watch. —Poets & Writers Magazine

writers have participated in Joan's online writing classes since 2016

All the feedback I received was invaluable!

This course was great for my editing process, because my inner editor would rework a first sentence ad infinitum if given the chance. Having to post my writing before moving to the next step was extremely helpful, and all the feedback I received was invaluable.

Mary Noon

I feel ready to go on and finish this novel!

I am thankful for absolutely all of this class. The importance of the first page, and how much I needed it, has truly been impressed upon me! I'll apply The First Page Cheat Sheet to all future novels. Joan’s commentary, and that of other participants, has been most helpful. It's as important to know what's good as what's not working well. The examples from the various books clarified things for me. I feel ready to go on and finish this book! 

Carol Mauriello

I now embrace the idea of putting myself out there!

This course was very well planned. Each section related to the next in a thoughtful progression with gentle nudges to give and receive feedback, the most stressful part of the writing process for me—now I embrace the idea that I cannot improve, or get my work published, if I don't put myself out there.

Carroll Cullen

Online

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. 

Convenient

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.

Valuable

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.

Convivial

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!

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

~ Jacqueline Woodson


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


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

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, 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?

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 throughout the week to see what you're up to. (Thursday and Friday I focus largely on my own writing, so those days I'll be slower to respond.)

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 900 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 14 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 14 days after you enroll.

14-Day Money Back Guarantee

If, fourteen (14) 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! 

Close

FULL CURRICULUM

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?

Close