One of the key components to a successful story is dialogue, so spend some time working on improving the skill of writing it. Most newbie fiction authors struggle with dialogue at first, but after you find the groove, you'll look forward to the next conversation between your characters. I've judged quite a few writing competitions, and one of the things that I look for is compelling dialogue. In my opinion, strong dialogue is the foundation of a compelling, character-driven story.
Dialogue tags have been beaten to death, and I'm going to give them one more flogging here. If you can avoid using "he blurted," "she hissed," and other such dialogue tags, then by all means do so. Most of the time, you don't have to use any tags if you can show who is speaking through action. Here's an example: Samantha picked up her fork, stared at her plate in disgust, and sighed. "I hate peas." You know that Samantha is talking based on the action. It's fine to use an occasional "she said" or "he asked" if you must, but don't overdo it.
Punctuation and Paragraphing
Punctuation and dialogue paragraphing were designed to prevent confusion in the written word. Learn proper use of quotation marks, periods, commas question marks, and other punctuation. Otherwise, you'll lose your readers. Each time a different person speaks, start a new paragraph. Yes, this is proper, even for single-word grunts. When I judge a contest that has several people speaking in the same paragraph, I view this as work from someone who didn't bother learning the craft. After you practice proper punctuation and paragraphing, it will become second nature, and you won't even think about it.
Read Your Work Aloud
One of the best ways to make sure your dialogue sounds natural and comes across the way you intend is to read it aloud. I do this any time I write long conversations between my characters or have sections where I'm not sure of how it will "sound" to the reader. I'm sure my husband thinks he lives with a crazy person, but he's used to it by now.
In Dixie Belle, book one of the Uptown Belles series, sparks fly when Cissy Hillwood arrives in New York City from her Alabama hometown and meets her uncle’s fiercest competitor.
SERIES DESCRIPTION: In this fish-out-of-water contemporary romance series, three Southern belles living and working in New York City develop a friendship based on their fondness and homesickness for the South. Although they’re different from each other in many ways, they share a love for the South and faith in Christ. And they each fall victim to Cupid, one at a time and when they least expect it. At least they have each other for venting, laughing with, and…shopping.