Holly Bourne, author of books such as ‘It Only Happens in the Movies’, ‘Am I Normal Yet?’, and ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’, visited Tolworth Girls School as part of a ReadingZone live event. As a published writer for five years, she was asked many questions about her experience and what kind of advice she could offer to those who want to write.

Each of her books has something to do with mental health issues, whether it’s due to the protagonist or side characters. Bourne worked at a youth charity and stated that she felt that books are a safe way of exploring the darker parts of the mind, where people can find real comfort in a fictional world. “Everybody has mental health”, healthy or not, so it’s “madness not to write about madness”. Excluding the mention of mental health issues, especially in teenagers (her main target audience), is inaccurate to reality. 

Her background as a reporter allows her to ‘write through writer’s block’, which is her first piece of advice on writing: keep writing even when you lack motivation. As the author said, “you can’t edit a blank page”. Though it can be an uphill struggle, getting something written down is better than not doing anything, as you can always improve upon it later, or delete it entirely, once inspiration strikes. Anything that you write is never going to be as good as what’s in your head, so getting through the full story before editing is important, since it gives you the choice of editing upon it afterward and making it as good as the idea. Knowing the full story ahead of time after it’s written allows you as the writer to edit the beginning to be more cohesive.

One problem some writers have is how realistic the characters are. Bourne writes in present tense, which she does to “look through [the characters’] eyes” and writing what they see and feel based on that. Letting the characters drive the story gives it the authenticity that some authors fail to achieve. In reality, life is unexpected and often doesn’t go according to plan. Writing your characters in this way is beneficial to both the reader and the writer, as Bourne has stated that it, “helps the reader get into the story, and helps [her] write”.

Many people neglect the power of reading. Bourne believes that you “can’t become a writer unless you read”, since you learn from the books that you read, absorbing stories and allowing for more creativity. Reading a good book will encourage you to aspire to that level while reading a bad one will teach you what style of writing you should avoid. It helps you find your voice. Another way to find your voice would be to start a diary, which gives you an opportunity to write something without waiting for inspiration. For those who are reluctant to read, she believes that you haven’t found the right book yet, and going to a librarian is a good start as they’ll be able to find you books based on your interests. “One of the best gifts you can give yourself is reading,” she says.