Writing Great Dialogue Available Now

Ready to captivate readers, write great stories and attract the attention of agents and publishers?

WRITING GREAT DIALOGUE 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 master the skill of writing great dialogue.

Why is it so important to write great dialogue?

GREAT DIALOGUE CAPTIVATES READERS. If a reader gets pulled in by your dialogue, chances are far better that she'll love your characters and want to follow them to the end of your story.
GREAT DIALOGUE MEANS GREAT STORY. Powerful dialogue isn't just about characters talking to each other, it's also about story! (And character, and theme, and setting, and tone.)
GREAT DIALOGUE ATTRACTS AGENTS AND PUBLISHERS. Even if other areas of your manuscript are still rough, great dialogue indicates that you've got what it takes to write a terrific book, and they're more apt to take a chance on you.

Mastering dialogue is the fastest, most powerful way to improve your manuscript.

“Readers do tend to skip through novels, but they won't skip dialogue. I'm very much aware in the writing of the dialogue ... of a rhythm. There has to be a rhythm with it, a beat ..." 

  ~ Elmore Leonard

Is Writing Great Dialogue Right for You?

Take this class if any of the following apply to you:

You love your characters but don't feel like they've come fully to life;
Your characters all sound exactly the same;
You love writing dialogue but aren't wild about your results;
You dread writing dialogue and want to start enjoying it;
Your beta-readers say your characters seem flat or lifeless;
You want to feel confident about what your characters say and how (and when) they say it;
You're not sure how much dialogue is too much and how much isn't enough.



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!

The scope of this online course is laser-focused on one thing and one thing only: making sure you master the art and craft of writing great dialogue.


Joan Dempsey, Award-Winning Author and Your Guide for This Class

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

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either." 

                                                          ~ Meg Cabot

Ready to captivate readers, write great stories and attract the attention of agents and publishers?

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

"You fail only if you stop writing." ~ Ray Bradbury


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 whenever it's convenient for you. 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 private chat 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.

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 1,000 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?

You're welcome to sign up right now and begin the class whenever 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?

$129.99 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.

I have another question that's not answered here—who can help?

Reach out via email to support [at] joandempsey [dot] com (replace the "at" with @ and the "dot" with a period).

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?




1 - Set Yourself Up for Success

2 - How to Get the Most Out of the Master Class

3 - Where to Get Help

4 - Managing Your Comments (add, edit, reply)

Module 1 – Prepare to Edit Your Own Writing

Introduction to Module One

1 - Examine Your Attitude

2 - There are No Rules - A Self-Editing Philosophy

3 - The Shitty First Draft vs. Editing as You Write

4 - How to Cope with Feeling Overwhelmed

Module 2 – Assume Your Role as Editor

Introduction to Module Two

1 - Let it Lie Fallow

2 - Hang It Up or Lay It Out

3 - Listen Carefully

4 - Different Printing

5 - Transcription

6 - Leave it to Readers

7 - Foreign Environment

8 - Edit Backwards

Other Methods

Module 3 – Determine Your Best Approach to Editing

1 - Big Picture (Macro-Editing)

2 - The Details (Micro-Editing)

3 - Four Approaches to Self-Editing

Module 4 – Master Your Macro-Editing Skills

1 - Open Strong, Avoid Backstory

2 - Are Your Characters Compelling?

3 - Watch Out for Point of View Violations

4 - Driving Plots—What's Your Throughline?

5 - The Necessity of Purposeful, Vivid Settings

6 - Managing Time (Chronology, Transitions)

7 - Check Your Tone for Consistency

8 - Develop Your Themes (and what's a leitmotiv?)

9 - Is Your Structure Sound?

10 - Foreshadowing Propels Your Narrative

11 - That's a Wrap - Compelling Endings

Module 5 – Excel at the Micro-Edit

1 - Resist Those Tempting Qualifiers

2 - Is "That" Necessary?

3 - Just Don't Simultaneously Show AND Tell

4 - Avoid Filtering

5 - That's Implicit, Get Rid of It

6 - Weak Repetition, Effective Repetition

7 - Only Vivid Modifiers

8 - Beware Redundancy

9 - Simplify Dialogue Tags

10 - Cut Out Dull Dialogue

11 - Use Action, Not Activity (and how to tell the difference)

12 - Don't Kill Your Darlings

13 - Take Care When Using "It" as a Subject

14 - Scrutinize "To Be"

Module 6 – Create Your Personalized Self-Editing Plan

1 - Create Your Self-Editing Plan

2 - Why Use a Checklist?

3 - Create Your Personalized Self-Editing Checklist

Farewell Video

Additional Resources

Punctuate Like a Pro

Links to Articles on the Craft of Writing

Recommended Books




Introduction to Writing Great Dialogue

How to Navigate the Course


Introduction to the 5 Functions of Dialogue

1—Reveal Character

2—Advance Story

3—Reflect Theme

4—Enhance Setting

5—Amplify Tone


How to Write Natural, Fluid, Authentic Dialogue

When Dialogue is Unbelievable

Cut Out Useless Talk

What's Emotional, and What's Overwrought?

Avoid "Know-It-All" Dialogue

Dialogue as Mouthpiece for Research

How Overwriting Can Deaden Dialogue


Make Dialogue Relevant to Your Story

How to Write Subtext

Pay Attention to What's Said and What's Unsaid

Use Action, Not Activity (and how to tell the difference)


Writing Characters Who Aren't Like You

Effectively Incorporate Dialect, Foreign Language and Jargon

Resources for Writing Authentic Dialogue


Avoid Clichéd Language

The Power of Being Specific

Don't Intrude on Your Character's Voice

Be Clear, Not Convoluted

Active Versus Passive Dialogue

The Value of Lean Dialogue


Use Evocative Language

Body Language

The Value of Brevity

Dialogue Interrupted—Perfect the Pause

The Power of Silence

Emotional Dialogue that Resonates

Use Humor Effectively


When to Use Summary Exposition Instead of Dialogue

Have You Written Too Much Dialogue?

When and How to Interrupt Dialogue

The Challenges of Dialogue in Group Scenes

Reveal Backstory Through Dialogue


How to Manage Speech When Your Character is Alone

Conveying a Character's Thoughts


Dialogue Tags (Attributions)

Choosing How Dialogue Appears on the Page

Tenses and Punctuation


Reflect on Progress and Value

Farewell Video—What's Next for You?

Resources—Books & Other Helpful Resources



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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!