Q & A with Paula Sheridan of Page Turner Awards
Paula Sheridan is an award-winning entrepreneur and the award-winning author of The People’s Book Prize for her debut novel, The Grotto’s Secret, written under her pen name Paula Wynne. Harbouring a near-obsessive love of learning the craft of writing, Paula has been scribbling down the stuff in her head ever since she can remember.
Paula came up with the idea for the Page Turner Awards when she won The People’s Book Prize in 2017 and received her award from Sir Frederick Forsyth at a glittering awards ceremony in London.
When she’s not daydreaming up plots for new historical thrillers while walking her Springer Spaniel in the Andalusian countryside, she’s helping Indie Authors to achieve their dream of seeing the novels in a reader’s hands, through her reading community on Book Luver. Paula also blogs about writing techniques and reviews writing books on Writing Goals.
What’s the last thing you read/watched you considered to be exceptionally well-written?
Last night I watched The Book Thief and the book has been on my reading list for ages so after watching the excellent film adaptation of the novel, I will definitely get the book and read it. I’ve also recently watched some cultural films from Australia and India with heart-warming stories and it brings back my mission on Page Turner Awards, which is to reach out to writers across all cultures, religions and interests, simply because they will have amazing stories to tell.
How’d you get your start in the industry?
My first book was published by Wiley. It was a non-fiction book called Pimp My Site. After that I published fiction novels and since then I’ve been learning more about screenwriting. I was also very lucky to win a Director’s Course through Screen South, which inspired me to continue my quest for learning more about writing screenplays. My debut novel, The Grotto’s Secret, won The People’s Book Prize which inspired me to set up Page Turner Awards.
Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
Yes, absolutely! For many years I’ve had an obsession with learning writing techniques and I’ve read hundreds of excellent writing guides, so many that I eventually started WritingGoals.com to showcase all the great writing guides which help writers to improve their craft of writing.
What do you consider the components of a good story?
Lots of elements make up a good story. For the first few pages, the character must hook the reader so they are compelled to continue reading. Beautiful prose is another good element and good writing is easy to spot. It shows the reader, or in the case of a judge on Page Turner Awards, that the writer has honed their craft. At the same time, it takes them deeper into the story. So, compelling characters with a great hook get readers and judges of a screenplay contest to want to know more about the story.
What are some of the most common writing mistakes you see?
Lots of grammatical errors, which are really easy to fix. For example, a writer can use self-editing software, such as ProWritingAid, to help them spot these pesky gremlins which creep so easily into a piece of writing. You can take a free trial here.
What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
Zombies! There was a stage where everyone and their aunt wanted to write a zombie story, but soon that will morph into writing about viruses and pandemics if that hasn’t already happened!
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
-We only accept the first ten pages.
-Film producers and readers in a film production company normally would know by the first ten pages if they want to read further and if they are engaged with the story up to that point.
-The same goes for literary agent and publishers. They also know very quickly if the story will make the grade. They can also tell if the writer has just thrown something together or if they have put precious time into the story’s first pages.
-Writers should know their premise or logline, and hone and tone it. This is to give the judges a good idea of what the story is all about and how it shows conflict and growth for the character in the story.
-We’re not concerned with spacing and formatting because our judges are looking for story and character and the words they read. Spacing and formatting comes when the agent or publisher asks to see more of the work.
-Screenplay entries, on the other hand, are very different. They need to be submitted in the industry standard format for the film producers to see the story as a screenplay script.
Have you ever read a script or manuscript where you thought “This writer gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?
We had lots of entries last year where our editor, who was doing feedback, came back to us telling us that one writer, in particular, was very good and could write exceptionally well. Other judges had similar experiences and as a result, three writers won a literary agent to represent them, five writers won a publishing contract, six writers won a writing mentorship and thirteen independent authors won an audiobook production. We are thrilled with these fantastic successes from our inaugural awards.
Seeing as how you run a writing contest, what are the benefits for writers and screenwriters to enter the Page Turner Awards competition?
The benefits to screenwriters is that they will have the opportunity to put their scripts in front of our judging panel, who are all actively looking for scripts to option and produce. Thus, screenwriters will have the opportunity to get their work optioned for film if any of the judges like the writing. The same goes for the Writing Awards, where literary agents and publishers may want to publish the work if they like it. Success stories from 2020 include three writers won literary representation, six writers won a writing mentorship, five writers won a publishing contract, and thirteen independent authors won an audiobook production.
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
They need to go to https://pageturnerawards.com and follow the steps under our menu – Enter. It’s all done online so they will be asked to register an account, which will then send you an email to verify it. Then you can log in and follow the steps to submit your writing.
The early bird discount for Page Turner Awards ends this Sunday (28 Feb), so you can register now, and then have until the end of May to submit your script.