This is the manifesto for Yoza, written for authors of stories that will be published on Yoza.
The m4Lit (mobiles for literacy) project is about using mobile phones as a way for teens to read and write. We provide mobile novels (m-novels) to read, as well as invite writing in the form of reader comments and writing competitions, all on mobile phones. Our point of departure is that South Africa is a book-poor, but mobile phone-rich society. If teens don't read and write enough, but love their mobile phones, then that is what we have to work with. Go fishing where the fishes are! By the end of May we had published two successful m-novels on a mobisite and on MXit -- Kontax 1 and Kontax 2: The Big Win -- which in seven months had been read over 34,000 times on mobile phones. Each story is about a 20 page Word doc!
Our goal is to build a mobile library of stories of multiple genres -- called Yoza -- that is available to teens not only in South Africa, but ultimately throughout Africa. For the foreseeable future the mobile phone, not the Kindle or iPad, is the ereader of Africa. We will exploit that to improve Africa's literacy levels.
-- First and foremost, stories featured on Yoza should be compelling, entertaining reading for teens in South Africa. We want teens to be captivated, inspired and to catch the reading bug.
-- Yoza publications are colourful, and they are rooted in South Africa. Our digital library is a space where South Africa is creatively written into literary existence.
-- Yoza aims to support writing talent by giving writers an innovative space to write in, and an appreciative audience to write for.
-- Yoza is born out of good intentions and values and our reading material should play a role in promoting good, healthy, useful values to our youth. Good writing has the potential to make a difference to individuals and society as a whole. 'The pen is mightier than the sword'.
-- South Africa is a place of cultural diversity - cultural representations must be researched and verified, not assumed. This is the responsibility of the author.
-- While staying true to the storyline the m-novel should make compassionate space for 'problem' areas for youth in South Africa as sub-themes in the text. Each story should push destructive boundaries, opening minds to good, positive attitudes.
-- From each m-novel readers should (i) learn something interesting or useful about a culture, and (ii) gain some practical knowledge.
Yours. Unique, entertaining and convincing.
Style should always be fresh and funky, never preachy, but creates a mood/space that is reassuring, entertaining, uplifting for teen readers. Txtspeak is only used when a character is writing or reading SMSes or instant message chats, otherwise we stick to good language practice.
Should be variable and interesting - the short story formula means the story naturally moves along quite fast.
Environment should be brought to life - bring in descriptions of all the sensory experiences of the place. Readers should be able to see, smell, taste, touch and hear it.
Minimum 1 and maximum 4.
Writing for mobile
Authors should be conscious of writing to the nature of the mobile phone medium:
-- The format that has worked for us is the following, but variation is welcomed (there's no manual for writing m-novels in Africa):
-- Each story is around 20 chapters.
-- Each chapter is 400 words.
-- Interactivity is very important - the publishing platform allows for readers to comment on every chapter, as well as to vote for something. For both Kontax 1 and 2 this has been a popular feature. Readers will comment; feedback on the story is almost immediate. Building provocative or dilemma moments into the chapters usually results in more comments. Examples:
Comment prompt: Do you think your friends hook up too easily at parties?
Poll: Is Sbu moving too fast?
Yes. He's only just met her.
Yes, but so would I!
No, they're both going at their own pace.
He shouldn't even be at that party!
-- Readers consume the story in five-minute word bites. Keep their attention while you can. Without being overly explicit, remember that readers shouldn't have to hang on to too many threads to make sense of where they're at in the story, but should be able to pick up whenever they have a moment and be carried along by it.
-- Teenagers like to relate around their mobile phones, they like to show and tell - write each chapter so that if it's shown it will intrigue.
-- Think mini-series - soapies end every episode with a cliff-hanger ending. The same formula should be applied to every m-novel chapter. Soapies begin with a reference to the previous episode - the same formula might be applied to every m-novel chapter, albeit with more subtlety.
Our stories are generally about teen issues: relationships, friends, confusion, boredom, adventure, drinking, sex, peer pressure, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, drugs, career choices, sport success and failures. We welcome content with social messaging, as long as it isn't preachy or overly predictable. Just plain fun, rollicking good reads without any teen angst or issues are also great!
Yoza is about openness. We want as many people as possible to read, enjoy and share our stories. For this reason stories on Yoza are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5 South Africa licence. If you donate stories to Yoza you still retain the copyright and can publish your stories under different licenses on other platforms and in other media forms. But on Yoza the stories are Creative Commons licensed. The conditions of this license include Attribution and Share alike. This means that Yoza, and any member of the public can freely copy, distribute, display and perform and make derivatives (remix), provided that they credit the original and subsequent authors. Versions of the stories published on Yoza may be published elsewhere but not under an exclusive license.