Twenty-two years ago I started working in Information Technology, learning how to troubleshoot and solve many internal and external customer issues. Troubleshooting an issue and getting to a resolution has very specific steps that can be applied to a) many areas of life and b) will help you from wasting / losing time by allowing you to deal with the root cause now.


According to one of the industry standards for computer troubleshooting (CompTIA Theory), troubleshooting consists of the following elements:

STEP 1: Identify the problem – Ask probing question to figure out why it may have never worked or what changed that stopped it from working

STEP 2: Establish a theory of probable cause – Question the obvious culprits to the issue and decide which culprit is most likely causing the issue.

STEP 3: Test the theory to determine cause – Once the theory is confirmed, determine the next steps to resolve problem. If the theory is not confirmed, establish a new theory or escalate.

STEP 4: Act – Establish a plan of action to resolve the problem and implement the solution.

STEP 5: Test and prevent – Verify full system functionality and, if applicable, implement preventative measures.

STEP 6: Report – Document findings, actions, and outcomes.

That’s nice Erik, but what does Troubleshooting Theory have to do with writing?

Many of us struggle with various aspects of writing. We may know what those areas are or we don’t know what’s the problem, we simply know something isn’t working with our writing. Like most good advice, before we can fix anything we must first admit we have an issue.

For many the issue(s) may be:

  • Writer’s block
  • Grammar (this is so me!)
  • Punctuation (a second runner up for me)
  • Giving characters all the same voice even though you don’t mean to
  • Not completing any projects because you’re too caught up in the discovery writing process
  • Self-editing while writing
  • Using too many cliches
  • Dealing out backstory in piecemeal throughout the story
  • Not “feeling” like your writing is improving
  • Life gets in the way of writing
  • Your characters are caricatures, not three-dimensional individuals
  • You short stories always run too short or too long
  • Or any number of challenges. . .

In the following posts we’ll take a look at each of the steps in troubleshooting theory and see how it can maybe help us improve our writing. The following posts will not tell you the solution for each of the above mentioned challenges, but the hope is you’ll have better tools to solve your writing challenges and ultimately improve your writing.

Until then, keep writing! There is no better replacement for practice.