I'm working on a scene in my current WIP where the hero confesses something to the heroine. It's the most important dialogue in the book. I'm not a dialogue specialist and I've been putting a lot to time into getting it exactly right without using silly tags or a boat load of adverbs. If the reader isn't crying or at least choked up but the end of the scene, I failed to convey the emotions of my characters.
I have two books on writing dialogue, have read dozens of articles about it in writing journals and sat in on sessions at writing conferences. It helps but I think I've learned the most from two other sources. I have a few authors I think are dialogue gurus. Pick up a Nora Roberts book, a Robert Parker suspense novel, Jayne Ann Krentz or Lee Child and study their dialogue. Sometimes Parker is too stingy with tags but he certainly never overuses them. I keep books by each of these authors on my re-read shelf.
Another place to study dialogue is at the movies or on your favorite TV show. No tags or adverbs there. Facial expressions, body language and tone color the meaning of the words spoken. I try to figure out how to write that in so the reader knows my character is speaking 'hysterically' without using that cursed adverb.
Writing a conversation about the weather in your book would likely be very boring but in this movie scene it is perfect. I think I'll go watch another favorite movie and study the dialogue. That's not really procrastination before getting back to that difficult scene.
How did you learn to write dialogue? What guides do you use to improve the dialogue in your novels?