The Whole Truth: Writing Advice for Students from Writing Coach Roy Sorrels

Posted on 8th January 2010 in Tampa English Tutor

One of the e-newsletters that I read comes from writing coach Roy Sorrels. This week his newsletter had some great advice. He has been kind enough to let me share his article here:

The Whole Truth

***The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but….” If you’ve ever testified in a courtroom you’ve spoken those words, a solemn promise to tell the truth.

The problem with much of what we write is that we do indeed tell the truth, but often we don’t tell the whole truth.

Here’s what I mean: When I was teaching one of my face-to-face memoir classes, an elderly woman wrote about her wedding day. She wrote about how happy she was, how much in love she was, what a fine fellow her new husband (who was still her husband after almost 50 years) was.

And it was all, I believed, the truth.

But I suspected that it wasn’t the whole story. And I told her (gently) that I thought the whole story, the “whole truth,” would make a much more compelling piece of memoir.

The next week she brought the piece back, revised. Now it included the fact that the wedding was in the middle of the Great Depression. She was out of work, her new husband was out of work. She had holes in her shoes. Her wedding dress was borrowed and a color she hated. She’d eaten the last frankfurter in the fridge for breakfast. And she was pregnant. Yes, she loved her new husband, but she was also angry at him for his part in getting her into this pickle. And, of course, she was angry at herself. She even admitted being angry at God. / CC BY-ND 2.0
This photo created by Andrew Stawarz.

Usually, we tend to write the truth in draft #1. Then, if we’re determined to make what we’re writing as good as it can possibly be, we start as we revise trying to tell the whole truth. And, as we do, our writing becomes more interesting, more compelling, more dramatic, and often funnier.

*** Working with people who are writing about their own lives is, for me, one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of being a writing coach.

They are often in a process of self-discovery that can be very valuable for them. And they are often creating a gift for their children and grand children that, in my opinion, is the most important gift they can give.

If you are interested in learning more about Roy or any of his online writing workshops, visit him at

Tampa Tutor PSAT Student Makes 99th Percentile

Posted on 7th January 2010 in Tampa PSAT Tutoring

I needed some good news today and I got some. One of my very best students got his PSAT scores. Due to his hard work and extraordinary discipline, he achieved a PSAT score in the 99th percentile. I am so proud of him for his dedication to excellence. / CC BY 2.0

Tampa Language Arts Tutors Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

Posted on 5th January 2010 in Tampa Language Arts tutors

If you are a high school student, you probably have to write regularly.  From homework to term papers to college application essays, you get your share of writing assignments.  Even good writers sometimes have difficulty writing. At times you may feel as if you have nothing to write about a particular topic.

You have writer’s block.

Writer struggling with Writer's Block photo / CC BY 2.0

Here are a few tips to help you overcome writer’s block.

  • Don’t procrastinate.  Procrastination can make writer’s block worse, but it can also cause it.  The pressure of a deadline can be paralyzing.  Try to get a draft done well before it’s due.
  • Don’t worry about the details.  The most important part of writing is to simply write.  Avoid focusing on spelling, grammar, and punctuation as you get your ideas down on paper.  Fix those details during editing.
  • Write about what you know.  If you are facing a creative writing assignment, write about something you know about.  Ann Lamott, a novelist who writes about writing in her book Bird by Bird, suggests writing about experiences in the school cafeteria.  It sounds strange, but her point is that when you write about a personal experience, you can sometimes get the momentum to overcome your writer’s block.
  • Read or go to the movies.  If you are really at a loss for writing material, reading will be an immense help. Read about your topic; read something that has nothing to do with your topic.  Reading opens the mind and invites new ideas. Isaac Asimov’s answer to writer’s block was a trip to the movies. Sometimes the best thing to do to get the words flowing is to let the world tell you a story.
  • Do a body check.  While this may sound like part of the new TSA screening procedure, it’s not. When I’m tired, I find writing harder. Check yourself and make sure that you are eating well and sleeping enough. Create the conditions that will let you do your best writing.

If you are stuck and need help writing an AP History DBQ or essay for English, call Tampa Language Arts tutor Eric Anderson’s tutoring hotline at 813.787.8959 or reach Eric by email at tampa tutor at tampa bay dot rr dot com.

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The Benefits of Reading Fiction

Posted on 4th January 2010 in Tampa English Tutor

Daphne Gray-Grant, the author of 8.5 Steps to Writing Faster, Better, tweeted about a recent article on the benefits of reading fiction from the New Scientist. The article describes experiments done at the University of Toronto that provide some evidence of increased empathy by fiction readers.

City Lights Bookstore front / CC BY-ND 2.0

Makes sense. Identifying with a fictional character requires the ability to see the world from his or her point of view. I thought the design of the research was interesting.  So was the conclusion that empathy may also come from identifying with characters in movies and video games. I can’t see playing Grand Theft Auto helping a kid develop empathy, but it’s probably because I’m old.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to find evidence that reading fiction is good for you. (If you are looking for a good young adult novel to read with your 7th or 8th grader, try Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.)

Eric Anderson is a English Tutor in Tampa, Florida. Naturally, he thinks reading is good for you. If your son or daughter needs help with English, history, essay writing, English grammar, or reading, call Eric at 813.787.8959.

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