Story writing software for my 10 year old

Hi - Does anyone know of a kid friendly software package (for the Mac) that can be used for storywriting ? My 10 year old son wants to create stories online, and I cannot find any software that will help him do this - most for his age are “madlibs” and the like. He wants to create characters, add dialogue and a story line, etc., and have the software put it all together in story format. I did find a program called “Story Wizard” but it is not Mac compatible. Please help! Thanks.

Is it the “templates” that you are looking for? I am probably just slower than the average box of rocks, but I am not sure I get what story wizard does other than templates and names.

Which is sad. I should be able to figure this out. I must need another adult beverage.

This is the kind of question that makes me wanna bang my head against the wall and cry. So I will leave out most of the loud parts of what I could say and just say this:

FIRST: Why? Can’t? Parents? Today? Just? Leave? Their? Kids? Alone? :imp: From time to time, at least. I started writing stories when I was eight. I wrote them on paper. I discovered the (mechanical) typewriter when I was twelve. It took me a whole afternoon to fill my first sheet of paper. But imagine: I figured it all out, without any help from my parents. Kids are not that dumb. In fact, it’s the grown-ups that are dumb. If I imagine my father had interfered, had given me unwanted advice and supervised my progress, I surely would not be a writer today. Writing was mine, all mine, and this is how it has to be: Writing has to be your refuge in the first place. Stories have to grow in a womb of privacy, or they won’t grow at all (except trivial formula stuff, which is not grown, but constructed).

SECOND: Does anyone really think it’s useful to support the kind of view on writing that the marketing for products like this “Story Wizard” pretends? That writing stories is a matter of having some “wizard tool”, that it’s a question of filling out forms, using tricks and formulas? Gimme a break. Telling stories is an absolutely natural thing; I dare to even say it defines us as human beings - and children tell stories all the time. To impose such a “productivity tool” on a child is the most sure way to kill a talent in the cradle and should be punished, if you want my opinion…

OK, I feel I better stop before I cry again. To make a loud thing short: Give the kid any word processor and leave it alone*. He will surely even figure out how to use Scrivener, I bet.

  • Of course, if he comes and asks “How can I…?”, answer. But don’t plan his career as a writer yet.

As an ex-teacher I’m all for anything that gets kids fired up about writing. Although many writers like to tell us how they started writing novels before they got their first tooth, most children - like many of us adults - look at the page and panic, not knowing what to do with their ideas. Telling stories may be a “natural thing”, but it’s also something we learn. If it wasn’t, then no one would say that you had to be a good reader before you can be a good writer.

Believe me, I used to teach Year 5s (10 year-olds), and even the most creative and intelligent could end up writing two pages of gibberish or spend an hour writing two sentences and then staring at the page in near-tears or anger and frustration. You can’t just give a kid a piece of paper and say, “Here, write me a story.” Or rather, you might be able to, but it would be the rare kid indeed who could go away and enjoy the experience or do anything worth their time; and surely we shouldn’t take the elitist attitude that only the most naturally-gifted children should be encouraged to write?

The break-though for my last class, which was mostly boys who really hated writing, came when we started doing a number of exercises based on Ros Wilson’s Big Writing ideas - which a lot of UK schools are adopting. They took off, and the ones who had a propensity for writing - some who had previously hated it - ended up writing more stories at home out of pure enjoyment, some of which were bloomin’ good as well. The point is that many - most, I would say - kids need a lot of structure and guidance, to have things that help them build up to a sustained piece of writing. (And don’t many adults, too? Isn’t that what I wrote Scrivener for? As adults we do all our own research and do all of the building ourselves; there’s nothing wrong with children having help with some of that.) So whilst I generally dislike software for adults that tries to impose a particular story structure on them, I think there is nothing wrong with writing software for kids that helps them generate ideas - not impose a story structure, but just help get started. (And the fact is that many kids are much more likely to want to try something out if it’s on a computer - a sad fact of life, but a fact nonetheless.)

The trouble is that I don’t know of any software out there - especially for the Mac - that really helps with this, which is why, when Totnesian2 e-mailed me to ask, given my links page, if I knew of any software suitable for kids, I suggested she ask the helpful and friendly users on this forum. :slight_smile:

One thing I would say is that a lot of the software we used at school - Windows though - to help with writing activities wasn’t really writing software at all. We had the kids make maps, collect images or use a comic-making program so that they had fun collecting their ideas (many of these kids didn’t have computers at home so just loved using computers) so that they then had a basis for their stories. A decent writing program for kids would have lots of side activities like that which lead into a sustained piece of writing.

A great book I used to use for warm-up writing activities for kids was Ros Wilson’s Jumpstart Literacy. Unfortunately most of it is based on having a class, I think, but there are some fun ideas in there. Wilson’s central ideas are simple - she proposes that on top of basic grammar and spelling, kids between 7 and 14 need to focus on VCOP - vocabulary, connectives, openings and punctuation - and they need at least one session a week where they get a sustained period of time to write in silence. Everything she does is about exposing kids to a larger vocabulary and getting them to practise using different connectives, punctuation and powerful openings. Whilst I’m sure some writers here would blanch at such a system, it’s incredibly effective, because most children need clear goals. It’s wonderful for boys, who prefer clear-cut subjects such as maths, as it gives them some very specific ways of improving their writing - learning how to use “However” correctly and so on. There’s nothing to say that a good piece of software based on such pedagogic systems couldn’t be useful. Sure, ultimately kids need to be left alone with some paper for a couple of hours, but there’s all sorts of stuff that can help before that point. And given the poor levels of literacy across English-speaking countries such as Britain and America, any good parent is bound to want to find as many ways of supporting and encouraging their child’s writing as possible.

Right, I’ll get off my soapbox now! I just thought Andreas’s reply was unduly - and unusually - harsh. :slight_smile: Not that this helps the op much - sorry! I still don’t know of anything that fits the bill.

All the best,

P.S. Of course, I did appreciate Andreas’s Pink Floyd reference.

In small defense of Andreas I was going to say that “doing” is more important than writing. My son wants to write poems, fantasy novels, and movies/plays (i made the mistake of granting him access to my library of classics now I am not allowed to read my own books!). Next thing i know the house is littered with character sketches (actual drawing of person included), maps, post it notes of ideas, cutouts of scenery, quotes from books, and lots of spiral notebooks. How he decided to do this I don’t know, because I never told him “how to write” (mostly because I am completely unqualified to tell him). It was just recently that he came to me and said “Dad, Can you ask one of your on line people what movies I should be watching to get movies? I don’t think the ones you watch are right.” (Thank you Mr. Coffee).

Now my kid is not anyone else’s kid, but I look around me and i see a lot of kids driving themselves to success with parents just providing resources. I also see a lot of kids just skating by doing things that mom and dad want, but not really enjoying it. Especially the ones with natural talent.

So I suggest a middle approach. If the kid is asking for help consider a couple of non-computer based approaches:

  1. Read. Read. Read. The kid, not the adult.
  2. Ask for stories or poems or whatever. We have a daily “story of your day” at dinner. Everyone participates, but his are … stories.
  3. Provide easy access to old fashioned techniques. Lots of notebooks, pens and pencils.
  4. Provide POSITIVE FEED BACK. If you are going only criticize the mechanics (spelling, etc) NOT the story.
  5. Wait to be asked to help, don’t force it.

For the record I have done the opposite with him on other “things”. They are all dead. That is a bitter pill to swallow. I killed a fun thing for my son. The daughditor has it even worse.

Anyway, I am not the sharpest knife in this block, but as a parent this approach is working for me.

For anyone keeping count, my son just received a “request to publish” letter for a poem he wrote. A teacher submitted it to a contest. Talk about a serious boost to the self confidence. They asked for more poems and short stories. Not sure how we are going to handle that. On one hand it feels like a confidence scam. If anyone wants to PM me some advice I would not object.

In retrospect, I said myself that I overreacted. Yes. Mea culpa.

As a feeble attempt of excuse… You should really see the emails I get!

“My 10/11/12/13/14-year-old son/daughter has started to write a fantasy epic, very much like ‘Harry Potter’/‘Eragon’/‘Lord of the Rings’/. He/she has already 20/12/5 pages completed, so now the question arises how to find a publisher/how much one could demand/will publishers refuse a novel once they learn it’s written by a 10/11/12/13/14-year-old child/how to deal with film rights/”.

In reading the starting post again, I have to admit that it does not fall into this category. In fact, he said that his son asked him. If this is true, only my argument 2 remains somehow valid: One should not support the idea that you need software to invent a story.

Now, what would I recommend? Easy. A book instead. And the by far best book to get anybody writing is "Writing the Natural Way: Using Right-brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers" (yes, clumsy title - just don’t mind), written by Gabriele L. Rico.

I discovered this book when I was 36, had already published my first two novels and actually believed to know more or less everything about writing - and still I learned from using* it, and a lot! In fact, after said first two novels, that were not very successfull in commercial terms (and still aren’t :frowning: ) and having started “ricoing”, the next book I wrote became my first bestseller that, among other things, paid the house I am sitting right now that I am writing this - you may take this for more than pure coincidence. I certainly do.

(*note the word “using” - in the sense of “actually really doing what she suggests”)

No single answer will work for all kids, but the suggestions from KB seem like a good start. My teaching experience was with older student (sometimes, much older) who generally had a better conscious sense of story structure, and more comfort in putting words on paper (or on a screen).

With my own kids, the experience varied greatly: my middle son began writing stories not long after he learned to read (at age 4, by watching me and the page as I read to his siblings); youngest daughter was not much interested in “story,” but loved the sound of words, began quite early jotting down phrases and images which she liked or did not like, and was writing lyric poems before she was ten; youngest son never did show much interest in writing.

All I did, really, was to encourage them – to read, to listen, to think.

If they were starting out now, I might get them something like xPad, a notebook sort of app which lets you keep a dozen different stories – or poems or essays or ?? – at hand. It doesn’t impose or even suggest structure, but it’s easy to get at and easy to use. It’s particularly good with the kinds of short and scattered pieces which most young writers favor.

ALSO: His apology notwithstanding, Andreas makes several important points, particularly


Great, you just made me buy yet another writing book. :slight_smile:

The process I was taught as a kid is still the basic way I write today (this was in the days when you were meant to show your workings, even in writing). Have an idea, turn that into a beginning and an end, make some notes as to what you’re going to include in the middle, and then join the dots.

I used to write in WordPerfect, which in some ways is one of the reasons I like Scrivener Full Screen.

It’s just words on a screen, in the same way it’s originally it was just words on paper.

As a kid I would be able to hold the story entirely in my head, so I could cheat and add my ‘workings’ afterwards. Nowadays I write in a much more circular motion, expanding this bit, moving down the page, jumping back up, erasing. I’ve often wanted to do one of those speed-painting videos of me writing, so I shock myself into focusing a little more.

But to answer the OP’s question, perhaps StoryLines from The Writer’s Cafe might do the trick? That’s a much more ‘mechanical’ process writing application, that steers you into all sorts of detail and process.

One of my 14-year-old twins has the writing bug. He’s been using Scrivener for the past couple years – went through the tutorial to figure it out, and played around with it until he found a workflow that suits him. I’ve learned never to underestimate a kid’s ability to figure out a software application! (Incidentally, his twin sister most decidedly does NOT enjoy creative writing, but she’s found Scrivener to be the absolute best tool for organizing research papers and projects for school.)

One of the best tools for an aspiring young writer isn’t software, it’s finding other writers. My son and I talk for hours about books, character development, pacing, etc. But even better, he’s joined the creative writing club at school where he can discuss all this with his peers and they critique each other’s work. Before he started high school (and had this club available), he got together with friends who also enjoyed writing, and they critiqued on a more casual basis.

My other suggestion also has nothing to do with software – get him a small journal and encourage him to write about anything that comes to mind. If he sees a flag waving in the park, let him write about it (or draw it or make up a story about it, etc.). Establishing the habit of writing and describing things in everyday life is invaluable!

All the non-software related advice is good. Nothing to add.

On the software side, I’d suggest two tools (besides Scrivener): Curio, and Inspiration. Both are aimed at the very early stages of pulling ideas together, before things are coherent enough for even Scrivener. When I was starting out, that was the hardest part for me. Still is, actually.


No Reveal Codes, though. :angry:

Have you looked at the resources provided by NaNoWriMo for the youth program here?


I’d forgotten about Inspiration - they have a kids’ version, too, Kidspiration:


Non-software-wise, the involvement of a reliable mentor is pretty useful, IMO. Sounds like the parents here have that cracked, though.

Or alternatively, at the other other extreme, a mean and lousy upbringing has done wonders for many young aspiring writers in the past. I don’t know where you’d find a blacking factory nowadays, however. :slight_smile:

Yes, but those parents weren’t really trying to make a writer were they?

Neil Gaiman shines a light on the importance of reading.

Huh. I used a story-mapping program once for a short story, but I can’t remember what it was. When I get home, I’ll have to see if I can find any references to it anywhere.

As a side note, my parents actually discourage my writing (because it’s fiction–and worse, fantasy), and it’s still my main hobby. So don’t underestimate willpower.

On-topic, other than the common advice here for him to read, since he’s going to make the characters and storyline and dialogue anyway, why doesn’t he write it down? If he’s a decent typist and likes time limits, Write or Die has a kamikaze mode. (It starts deleting your text if you don’t keep writing.)

I’m with all those who think software is not the way to go.
And with Hugh, on the key importance of reading.
People do NOT become writers unless they are already readers.
And really, really, good at it. Like they live for print, for books, for stories.
So, my suggestions to parents who have a child with an early interest:

  1. take them to libraries, and let them follow their tastes.
  2. talk with them about what they’re reading.
  3. Ask smart questions: why did that happen? Who is that character like?
    Do you have memories/ideas/feelings like that?
  4. tell them stories about your families, including ancestors they’ll never meet.
  5. ask them to tell stories about their friends, experiences, wishes, dreams.
  6. ask them to dictate to you what they think are their best stories.
  7. have them watch you type up what they say, giving the words form.
  8. show how they can edit the typing, make it clearer or briefer.

That should fill the years between 5 and 12.
And with that preparation, maybe then some software would be a good idea.
And Scrivener would be an excellent starting place.
Or else SimpleNote on an iPad… 8)