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China Daily Global / 2021-12 / 27 / Page015

Online literature plots overseas success

By Yang Yang | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-12-27 00:00

Growing market for talented writers offers new chapter of opportunity, Yang Yang reports.

Before becoming a web novel writer in 2018, Disha Florence from Dhaka, Bangladesh, now 25, was trying to find a way to free herself from the restrictions faced by a woman, a wish she has had since she was 8.

It was then that she observed that being a girl meant she could not go to play in the park like boys, she needed to learn household chores but boys could play all day, and her sister wanted to go to her friend's house but the parents did not allow it.

"I lost many opportunities because I had to listen to my parents and I regretted it. That's when I thought that if I had freedom, I wouldn't have to listen to others," says Florence in an email reply to China Daily.

As she grew up, she realized that without any experience and knowledge, it is impossible to be free. Therefore, while continuing her study, Florence went to work as a volunteer in an NGO, going to different places and meeting many people with or without her parents' permission.

But one day, her father told her, "If you want to do as you wish, you need to make your own money". Florence found this advice logical, but did not know what to do.

"I grew up and worked very hard to become who I am now. The last thing I wanted was to lose my freedom when I almost reached my goal," she says.

At 22, she was reading online fiction in English on Webnovel translated from Chinese. She noticed that the website was hiring authors who were said to have the chance to make a great deal of money.

"Without thinking further, I started writing, and became a professional web novelist," she says.

Webnovel, launched in May 2017, is the international version of Qidian, an online fiction website and application of Tencent's cultural business branch China Literature. Originally, it offered translated versions of popular Chinese online novels in English, and now there are also translations in Vietnamese, Hindi, Indonesian, Tagalog, and Malay.

In 2018, Webnovel launched platforms for authors. By June 2021, there had been more than 1,700 translation works from Chinese, and more than 280,000 works created by nearly 190,000 overseas writers from more than 200 countries and regions. Among the original works, about 100 have been hit over 10 million times by nearly 100 million cumulative users.

Among the overseas authors on Webnovel, women account for 57.8 percent, and Florence is one of them.

Inspired by popular Chinese "CEO novels" on the app, in which, usually, rich powerful men who are cold outside but passionate inside fall in love with Cinderellas, Florence wrote her first book, Handsome CEO's Darling Wife, a romantic comedy with drama, mystery and adventure.

In this story about self-respect and self-love, the characters are Chinese but it is set in Europe.

Now she has completed two books and is working on another two-Tangled by Fate and My Wife Is a Goddess: 99 Secret Kisses. As the number of readers grows every day, now she has about 164,200 readers on Webnovel.

"If Chinese online literature wants to develop prosperously overseas, a good way is to provide foreign readers with good translations of our best online novels, and another is to let more foreign writers join in the creation with our outstanding experience, model and system in the 20-year development of online literature," said Liu Jinlong, a popular writer pen-named Hu Shuo, in an interview with during the 10th National Congress of China Writers Association that closed on Dec 17.

Liu's online novel Chen Xi Yuan (Love and Destiny) was adapted into a TV series that was nominated at the 2020 International Emmy Award for telenovela.

"Since the reform and opening-up that started in 1978, new generations of Chinese online writers have had a broader international vision so that their works can be better accepted and recognized by overseas readers," Liu said.

According to the China Writers Association, by the end of 2020, more than 10,000 Chinese online literary works had been introduced overseas, covering most countries and regions around the world.

On Goodreads, the most popular Chinese online novels include Mo Dao Zu Shi (The Untamed), The Coiling Dragon, Yinian Yongheng (I'm Bai Xiaochun), Woyu Fengtian (I Shall Seal the Heavens), and Lord of the Mysteries, which are also very popular in China.

In terms of the genres of the translation works popular overseas, there are wuxia (martial arts), fantasy, sci-fi, among others. These works, while providing appealing stories that share universal values of human race, offer readers a glimpse of traditional Chinese culture and a modern China.

For example, among the most popular novels on Webnovel, Lord of the Mysteries combines elements of steampunk and Cthulhu Mythos; Library of Heaven's Path includes Chinese traditional culture that stresses respect for teachers and truth; Gourmet of Another World promotes Chinese traditional gourmet; The Legendary Mechanic creatively combines science fiction and computer gaming, creating a splendid astrospace and interstellar travels; Trial Marriage Husband: Need to Work Hard represents urban women's role in the family and workplace; The King's Avatar tells about the contemporary young people's "blood-burning "struggles; and Great Doctor Ling Ran shows China's urban views and medical development.

All these books are popular among overseas readers. Trial Marriage Husband, hit 346.4 million times with more than 73,000 comments, has been translated into Spanish, Indonesian and other languages besides English.

The Legendary Mechanic has been hit more than 40 million times, Lord of the Mysteries 25 million times with a rating mark of 4.8 points out of 5, Library of Heaven's Path 174.3 million times, and The King's Avatar 127.9 million times.

According to China Literature, inspired by Chinese online fiction translated in earlier years, overseas writers also include Chinese culture and Chinese online fiction elements in their works like respect for teachers and truth.

The most commonly seen are imitation of Chinese xianxia (fantasy and martial arts) and wuxia like the cultivation of gods and goddesses, the inclusion of Chinese elements such as panda, high-speed train and Huawei cellphones in their novels, and the employment of common writing methods of Chinese online fiction.

Among the overseas writers on Webnovel, many are young people under 25. Writers from Southeast Asia and North America are the biggest groups in terms of region, accounting for 36.2 percent and 32.3 percent respectively.

Fantasy and romance are the most popular genres among writers. Woman writers love writing romance, fantasy and the combination of magic and reality. Male writers prefer sci-fi, romance and video games apart from fantasy and the combination of magic and reality.

By writing, Florence has earned economic independence and rejected three arranged marriages.

"I never thought that my imagination skill was limitless until I started writing," she says.

"It helped me to boost my confidence and at the same time, I've earned enough money to feed myself. I can still dream about studying abroad, completing my study, traveling the world and I'm going according to my plan-all thanks to writing fiction. It encourages me to go beyond the limit and no one can stop me from doing so," she writes.

"To put it simply-I had wings since I was a child. My parents and society cut off my wings using reality. Writing fiction helped me to grow my wings again, and I'm ready to fly."

In the future, apart from writing, Florence wants to become a counselor to encourage people to follow their dreams.

She is also expecting to translate her later books into different languages and adapt them into comics, anime, TV dramas and movies.


Popular online novels from platforms of the China Literature Group have been translated into various languages. CHINA DAILY



The Webnovel section, the international version of Qidian, the fiction website of the group, attracts attention at the Yangtze River Delta International Cultural Industries Expo in Shanghai in November 2020. CHINA DAILY



From top: Some popular novels at Webnovel, The Legendary Mechanic, Lord of Mysteries and Trial Marriage Husband: Need to Work Hard. CHINA DAILY



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