Moar etvo: Podcasts, Streams, Twitter Q&A

For an in-depth look at the world of web novels, please check out the MoonQuill Podcast, of which I’m a regular cast member of. Wuxia Selections is a special feature selection of the podcast hosted by yours truly, in which I dive in-depth on what is wuxia, xianxia, and the like.

MoonQuill on Apple Podcasts

YouTube: Wuxia Selections

MoonQuill on Spotify 

Running through the weekend of May 16 is a Twitter Q&A session for Wandering Sparrows/譯派湖燕/译派湖燕: a Chinese diaspora women translators group founded by Yilin Wang. Get to know the group and our takes on how we approach work!

And finally, Necropolis Immortal reading on Sunday, May 17 @ 11pm GMT+8/5pm GMT+2/11am US EST/8am US PST on the Wuxiaworld Discord server. A Q&A will follow, in which I’ll try my darndest not to give any spoilers!

If you missed previous readings, they can be found at my YouTube channel.

Relive Sovereign of the Three Realms and Dive into Necropolis Immortal!

Relive Sovereign of the Three Realms, now complete on Wuxiaworld! If you missed the final SOTR event, the recordings are now up on YouTube!

Chapter readings:
Ask Me Anything (with time stamps!):

Thank you so so much to Seru for compiling them!!

Now live on Wuxiaworld, my new novel Necropolis Immortal!
A hundred thousand years ago, there was a great war between cultivators. Immortals fell by the tens of thousands, the path of cultivation itself was severed, and after the dust settled, tombs forested the world.

A hundred thousand years after the last legend faded, Lu Yun, commandant of tomb raiders, descends upon the world. Armed with the Tome of Life and Death, he has some burning questions to answer.


“This isn’t how you raid a tomb!” Lu Yun smirked at the cultivators frantically scurrying about the ancient tomb. “Do you want me to teach you?”

Click me to dive into the story!

We are all Sovereigns of the Three Realms

4.5 years, 7 million characters. SOTR Nov. 19, 2015 – Apr. 9, 2020.

It didn’t really sink in when I translated the last chapter in March — probably because an immediate shift to NECRO was needed because I messed up launch date calculations XD. What really hit it home was posting chapter 2376 and realizing this was the last time I’d ever see that red flower in the updates bar.

How does one sum up the journey of 4.5 years? It really feels like a lifetime since on a personal level, I went through a career change, three global moves, and three more local moves. SOTR has been through three site moves and two leap years. And all of us together have weathered the rise of the industry and the craziness that spawned.

I’d like to greatly thank the team translators Citrus, House, and cv! All this would’ve been impossible without their efforts. Also, proofreader Nabuch (on the alyschu team!) and previous editors Deyna and Kidyeon. It takes a team to bring the old men harem to everyone. 🙂 An immense thank you also to Ren, the man who started it all and made it possible for all this to continue on.

But really, I want to thank the readers. Do you guys ever get tired of hearing that from translators? I don’t know what else to say, only that it’s so true. Every bit of support, be it comments, Discord chats, Twitter RT, reviews, and sponsorships keeps us going. I have received so many touching notes over the years, telling me how much the series or I have impacted their lives. A lot of things have to come together so that I can be sitting here, writing this to you, and the best readers in the world are an integral part of that.

So let’s celebrate! I will be reading the last two chapters on the WW Discord in about 9.5 hours (countdown in link). That’s 11pm GMT+8, Apr. 9, which is 11am US EST, 8am US PST, 5pm Central European Time. An AMA will follow, so come join the final sendoff for SOTR!

Also, I’d like to host a giveaway on Twitter with cool stationary swag from Taiwan. However, prizes are likely to be mailed out in the summer due to currently constrained airline traffic. In the meantime, please drop a review for SOTR now that the series is done! We have to bring the joys of Pokemon Trainer JC to everyone. XD

JC has finally completed his Pokedex & now needs to choose his favorite out of the old men harem!

Be well, be safe, and thank you.


A COVID-19 Tale: Quarantine Day 58

“Is this… happening all over again?”

I had the privilege of weathering SARS as a student, and though memories are hazy since that was back in 2003, I distinctly recall the miasma of fear and uncertainty that shrouded the island. Those negative emotions are more than likely heightened for me, because my school ended up closing after a student’s parent died from SARS.

Taiwan is 81 miles away from China with 24 million people crammed into an area the size of Maryland. There’s frequent travel across the strait for business, tourism, and academics.

When local news hesitantly mentioned a new respiratory disease on CNY Eve (Jan 24), I had a long discussion with my parents on whether we should prepare ourselves. Thinking about it again and again, I reluctantly ordered some face masks after the traditional family reunion dinner. The masks were very cheap, things considering, and all the gatherings to come over the next week meant we could distribute them to relatives.

“Surely it’s not going to be another SARS. You’re knee-jerking a bit too much.” I think that might’ve been my mom.

Thank goodness I hit “buy” before falling asleep. They were all sold out two days later.

This is where day 58 comes from.

This will be a sharing of anecdotal thoughts and less of a play-by-play analysis of the government’s actions. If you’re interested in those, please check out the well-written articles linked above!

Not gonna lie, the first few weeks were pretty tense.

The coronavirus hitting around CNY was the best worst timing. This is a holiday in Asia that can span two weeks, depending on the country, and is Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter all rolled into one. For migrant workers, this is the only time of year where they get to see their family. It wouldn’t be hyperbole to call this period the annual Asian migration.

A tense undercurrent immediately started running through family gatherings. Regardless of intensity, the island’s population remembers SARS very well.

Questions were bandied around, “Do we cancel the traditional meal on the second day of CNY? Should we not visit each other this year? Should so-and-so with young kids head home early?”

In the end, my family decided to go through all of the CNY festivities with face masks on and adjusted times to avoid crowds.

Daily news updates starting rolling in; a grim atmosphere settled onto the island. We still had our fair share of blasé folks, like some relatives who initially declined the extra face masks. But by and large, folks acknowledged the need for caution.

Why the sudden ratcheting up of tension? I get it, it’s hard for folks who’ve never experienced something similar to understand what’s going on. It looks like an overreaction, or a bunch of Chicken Littles prophesying the end of the world.

Here’s a quote from someone who has COVID-19: “To everyone who said it was just a bad cold or like the flu, or that people were far more likely to be asymptomatic: f*ck you. You have no idea what you’re talking about. This is not the cold. This is worse than the worst flu I’ve had. This is the Grim Reaper knocking on my door.”

SARS was less infectious, but more fatal than the coronavirus.

It really hit home when a businessman returning from Wuhan flouted his self-quarantine and visited a seedier nightclub. Alarm bells rang when one of the ladies who served him came down with a cough, sore throat, and other symptoms. Upon demanding answers, she finally learned of his recent trip. The club shut down for immediate, thorough disinfection, and the businessman’s route over the past few days was disseminated to the public.

The club was in the same neighborhood as my elderly relatives, and I’d just missed his trip down the high speed rail by one day.

Thankfully, he wasn’t a super spreader and that was the end of that case. However, I started checking the news obsessively and worried there were more selfish pricks out there.

Could I trust the people on the bus I was taking? Was that cough just now as innocent as it seemed? Who else was hiding their travel history? Where does case 34 live??

PSA: To anyone flouting self-quarantine rules, yeah you’re a selfish prick/biatch. The desire to go drinking, clubbing, shopping, eating, and seeing friends can wait two weeks. It took one super spreader in South Korea to infect almost 40 people at church, which sent off a chain reaction throughout the country.

I don’t care if you feel healthy. The incubation period is 14 days and infectious even when asymptomatic. Stay. home. If there’s a lockdown order in place for your area, please don’t treat it as a joke.

Whoever’s in charge of marketing at Taiwan’s CDC has a strong meme game.

Everything was uncertain in the first couple of weeks. The island braced for a possible ballooning of cases, and whispers ran rife through the streets.

“So-and-so’s uncle’s neighbor’s mother’s daughter-in-law’s second-cousin-twice-removed’s son says that a confirmed case popped up at XXX hospital!”

“New construction suddenly started on my block. Can it be for quarantine tents??”

“I heard this is airborne.” “I heard it’s not airborne.” “Is it airborne?”

“They announced 7 new cases today, but who knows if that’s the real number? How many more lurk amongst us?”

How’s life in Taiwan nowadays? TL;DR – it’s normal

After CNY, I wondered if I should refrain from returning to Taipei, but did so in the end. There were roughly 10 cases on the island at the beginning of Feb, and I admit I selfishly wanted to return to familiar surroundings.

As the coronavirus flairs up in the west, I’ve gotten a lot of questions from friends and family on how everything is here. And honestly, that ties into one of the hardest things about writing this article — what to title it.

Taiwan’s not under a lockdown, and neither am I in quarantine. “A COVID-19 Tale: Things-Are-Relatively-Normal-Despite-General-Unease Day 58”?

People are out on the streets, I got my fix of bubble tea today, and all establishments are still open. Large-scale events like concerts and weddings are cancelled, but life has continued on like usual. In fact, I feel that we were getting too complacent, and the recent spike in cases has jolted everyone back to wakefulness again.

This isn’t to say that the coronavirus is a joke, however. One patient’s tale above shows more than anything how it’s very, very serious. It all has to do with the measures the island took. This is how it manifested in my day-to-day.

When I returned to Taipei, I saw with gratification that all stores and restaurants had hauled out disinfectant and thermometers. This continues to this day. A quick scan of the forehead and splash of alcohol is required before entering an establishment. Some performance halls even record everyone’s temperature next to their names. Thermal screening is found in malls, the MRT, and businesses. Face masks are everywhere, despite the initial shortage.

This is one of the things that’s saddened me the most re. east vs west COVD-19 reactions. The face mask culture is so different, and I’ve had so many friends targeted with racism when wearing them in the west. Face masks are not useless, and if most of the population is wearing it, that drastically helps cut down infection.

Apologies for the hashtag, this is before the COVID-19 name came out.

After the initial scramble for face masks, the government stepped in to centralize distribution and regular prices. I helped some relatives purchase their daily quota from convenience stores, but didn’t bother lining up for any myself when purchase was later tied to national health ID cards.

That fortuitous order right before CNY kept me going for a slight bit, and given the nature of my job as a literary translator, there was no real need for me to go outside. (Click here for more about this disembodied voice blabbering at you.)

To quote a Taiwanese meme: 我ok, 你先買 > I’m okay, you buy first. When my masks ran out, I was blessed with the most generous readers on earth. Several of them leapt into action to send me what they could find.

Face mask purchases are tied to ID to prevent hoarding and profiteering.

This rationing extended to disinfectant as well, with the severity of rationing easing as factories ramp up production. People are also able to buy face masks online now instead of queuing for hours in front of a pharmacy (instructions above).

Nothing else is rationed. Shelves are stocked full of goods, except toilet paper. We’re short on that here too, lol. It briefly eased when the legislative leader memed that, “People, we only have one butt!”, but flared up again this week.

Daily livestreamed press conferences keep everyone in the loop. The authorities are forthcoming with information, except the exact location of the cases. That’s a stark difference from South Korea, and an omission that prompts plenty of debate. I found myself getting too stressed out and panicky with all the news coming in, so actively tried to refocus on other things in mid Feb.

Daily infographic of current cases on the island and where new ones originated from.
Debunking fake news. The dog’s the mascot.

I chuckled when the March 20th livestream announced that the entire world was now a level three travel advisory. This came three days after the March 17th livestream added 20+ countries to the travel advisory list. I wonder if an official just mentally threw up his hands and went, “Feck it, you get a level three, you get a level three, everyone gets a level three!”

By the way, foreign visitors are banned of as March 19 and as of March 22, even transit is banned. (Bans for various areas have been enacted since late Jan.) To folks blithely asking me if they can come visit Taiwan right now since flights are cheap, everything is closed at home, and they’re bored — you can’t, and even without that, HELLS NO. Don’t travel right now. There were 5,000 tourists caught off-guard about the ban on March 19. It was March 19, not January 19, folks! Why were you traveling for pleasure??

On a personal level, friends immediately cut down on social gatherings. No movies, no communal restaurants, and no welcoming back anyone who’s recently travelled. We pick local pubs and bars, eschewing the busy and tourist-popular Xinyi district.

We gather together just once a week, and birthday celebrations are a modest affair. There was one house gathering in mid Feb, and everyone entering the house got unified greetings of, “Hi!! Go wash your hands!”. And now, everything’s on hold for two weeks as we weather the wave of returnees from the west.

Many companies suddenly announced all non-essential employees were to work from home starting last week (March 18), likely in response to the massive increase in imported cases. Some of my friends have had to upgrade home internet to do so, the financial burdens of which are eased by government reimbursement. The second wave of government assistance rolled out on March 25 — mostly utility relief for households and companies. The first wave hit in mid-February, with 60B NTD going towards industries affected by the virus.

Despite being warned about a mass of returnees from the west, it is still a psychological blow to see numbers climbing 23 cases, 27 cases, 18, 16… Those are 10-20% daily increases. This has ratcheted up tension on the island, and were the final death knells for weddings to take place at the end of the month/beginning of the next.

And though folks in more stricken countries may roll their eyes and scoff at 200+ cases (March 25) being a big deal, that’s the thing when it comes to living in Asia. Things spread like wildfire with how densely packed in everyone is and how interconnected everything is. South Korea exploded with several thousand cases over the course of a single week.

The government says that the last two weeks of March are a critical time due to the number of returnees. It’s time to stay home with the mascot.

What’s most irritating now are the quarantine escapees. Taiwan fines escapees up to 1,000,000 NTD (USD 33,000). Good. The fines should be higher. Just this weekend, we had a club reveler busted for violating quarantine (said club has decided to temporarily close down as of March 23). Due to a newly launched platform integrating multiple databases, big red characters of “UNDER QUARANTINE” popped up when his ID was scanned.

Tabs are kept on quarantined folks via cell phone tower triangulation — which sometimes can go hilariously wrong. Apart from that, folks receive multiple calls a day to inquire about their current health, and they’re whisked off to a negative pressure hospital room if any symptoms develop.

Thankfully, most people do stay put, most likely encouraged by the new quarantine pay that’s been rolled out. Those under house quarantine receive 14,000 NTD for the two weeks (that’s almost 50% of the lowest monthly salary, almost USD 500). It’s not much, but employing both carrot and stick at the same time likely makes for higher effectiveness.

Since I have a lot of friends in the local healthcare industry, I was quite worried about them early on. In late Jan, the government stepped in to control PPE production, distribution, and pricing — making for short-term general public shortages that were slowly eased as factory capacity increased (from a hefty investment). The shortage was at first irritating and panic-inducing from a general public perspective, but the wisdom there seems to be clear as I haven’t seen my friends agitate about a lack of PPE.

The government also merged data from the national health IDs to the customs + immigration dataset. This way, a patient’s recent travel history will pop up whenever they go in for an eye exam, a root canal, or a sniffle. Sadly, it’s proven useful because people will be selfish arseholes and conceal travel history, whether out of convenience or fear.

Oh c’mon, it’s just the flu! I’m young, it’s not gonna affect me.


If travel was still a thing, I’d hop on the next flight to physically shake you into next week. Hopefully, this has been debunked by now, and please read the tough guy’s account above. But if not, here goes:

You can do a lot more than you think to help!

At the end of the day, the measures have really worked for Taiwan. The island managed to hold cases to 59 for roughly two months, and the increase in imported cases was inevitable.

The government’s swift response was definitely crucial, but I think equally important was the public’s mindset. All the thermometers and disinfectant just whooshed into existence, and all patrons are very understanding and patient. Holding my hands out for a spray of alcohol is second nature now, and I actually panicked yesterday when my face unlocked my phone.

“Wait… Face ID just worked. I haven’t been able to do that in months… F*CK I FORGOT MY MASK AND I’M IN AN ELEVATOR. F*CKF*CKF*CK.”

The general mindset is mostly one of, “We understand the need for these inconveniences and why everyone’s being more cautious. Yes, it’s annoying. No, I won’t travel. …fine, my wedding is postponed. WTF is wrong with that friend who just came back from abroad and wants to meet up?? Million dollar question, when the hell is toilet paper gonna be back in stock?”

This kind of mindset is something that everyone needs to adopt, and understand that inconveniences are inevitable. We must buckle down in the short-term to ensure that everyone gets through this.

There’s a Taiwanese meme of, “This is when not getting off our asses and just vegging out all day can save the world, don’t f*ck it up now!”

And it’s true! The best thing all of us can do is cut down on group gatherings (cut them out, if possible), avoiding crowds, and not thinking we’re invincible. One less cluster infection or one degree less community transmission means less of a load on our healthcare infrastructure. I read about how thousands of Argentinians sang from their balconies over the weekend, “Stay inside, you sons of b*tches.”

Heh, love it.

It’s not me I’m worried about — it’s my parents, my 90+ year old grandfather, and the elderly next door neighbor. I’d never be able to live with myself if I brought anything to them. It’s also not a walk in the park if a young person gets it.

Doom and gloom aside, what else can you do?

Definitely wash those hands. Whenever you come back inside, don’t touch anything before washing your hands. In fact, strip and shower before heading elsewhere in the house, if possible. Try not to touch your face and ears when outside.

Disinfect door knobs, locks, handles, and commonly shared areas on a regular basis. Wipe down groceries too! There’s no telling how many have handled them before you took them home.

Those with some extra supplies to spare, check in on your healthcare friends, grocery store employees, and delivery folk. Do they have enough? Maybe they need a roll of toilet paper. Finding a microwaveable, home-cooked meal on their doorstep when they come home after a 16-hour shift could mean so much to them. The only way we get through this is by caring for each other, together.

Friends who are extroverts or those who live alone could absolutely do with a checkup. I’ve taken to buying local baked goods and sending it to family in other cities. That knocks out two birds with one stone — supporting local businesses and reassuring folks that they’re not alone.

If you want to go hardcore with the baking, perhaps some home baked goods for those on the front lines. Something easy to eat and nutritious. They’ll really need it in the days to come.

That’s great and all etvo, but I’m seriously bored.

Haul out that homebody bucket list, because things are about to get wild. This is the perfect time for everything you’d always meant to get to, but just never did.

Since February, I’ve revamped my balcony garden, literally scrubbed every single surface and room in my apartment, Konmarie’d all of my belongings, finally organized the damn work shelves, annihilated every last bit of laundry (I never have a pile, woot!), cleaned out all home appliances, put up shelves, and started a wall mural of postcards. I’m still getting around to redoing my bookshelves. Oh you know what, cleaning the fridge will be a good task too.

Chores really do eat up a lot of time and they’re good exercise. At the end of it all, you’ll have a home you know is relatively germ-free, and a spic and span sight that’s easy on the eyes.

I’ve also caught up on several TV series, started a home gym routine, and written a ton in my bullet journal. Writing down your thoughts and feelings might greatly help in the days to come.

Do you know how to cook? Best. time. to. learn. ever. This is the beginning of a healthy, cheap habit that will pay dividends after all this is over. Bonus, there’s much less exposure if you don’t have to do food runs.

When all that seems too solitary, it’s the perfect time to get back in touch with those you haven’t talked to in a while. College roommates, fraternity brothers, book club members, or heck, even the girl you never asked out. Silver lining: asking folks how they’re coping is an easy conversation starter.

I’m seeing friends watch movies together through online streaming syncing services. Absolutely brilliant! Group exercises might be a thing to try too. I did an hour of core sculpting yoga and got my butt absolutely kicked. I thought yoga was supposed to be stretching and relaxing?

The outside is still accessible! Throw open windows, chill out on a balcony, or walk around in your background. Even taking walks out and about is fine if you stay away from people. Vitamin D is helpful for the immune system and general mentalities. Disconnecting from the internet/news will do wonders for mental health. Find some inner peace and don’t let everything overwhelm you.

Please take this seriously, but know that we’ll get through this.

The sky isn’t falling in, but neither is this just a flu. While my life is still relatively normal, I know that’s an abnormality. It’s hardly what you should expect, unless your government took similar measures and the general population is just as receptive.

Of course, our regular day-to-day this time ’round all comes from Taiwan being roundhouse-kicked in the face by SARS. We sure as heck don’t have all the answers, nor are we some perfect utopia. Back in the SARS days, the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital was spontaneously closed after a cluster case broke out, sealing 930 staff and 240 patients inside.

I’m advised by local healthcare-related friends that medical personnel literally went insane from the pressure. Thankfully, I think that’s no longer a policy. This kind of prior experience is what’s shaped Taiwan’s reactions today. One doesn’t emerge from the flames completely unscathed and unchanged.

One of my greatest struggles now is still trying to get friends and family in the west to take this seriously. Westerners, I understand. It’s very difficult to imagine the impact of a pandemic if one’s never lived through it. But Asians with family in Asia? I actually had a relative ask me a few weeks ago, “C’mon, is it really~~~ that bad~?”

Hello?? Yes, please do treat this seriously.

But also, as crazy as the days now might seem, please don’t despair. Sure, this will take longer than a three-week lockdown to resolve, and everyone’s itching for this to be over quickly. Let’s stand with each other; we’re going to get through this. But do postpone everything through May. I was to attend a wedding in the States in late May — it’s just been moved.

Also, please let me know if you need food. I’ll put out a request on my social media, and if not, I can ship you ramen and curry blocks from Taiwan (they’ll take 8-13 business days).

May we live long and prosper.

Doomed to be Cannon Fodder now out on Amazon!

What happens when you wake up in a novel, not as the main character, but as the supporting cast doomed for execution in a year?

This is a novel that I worked on two years ago as the lead translator and personally did 25% of the novel. It’s an absolutely hilarious romp, and remains one of volare’s most popular offerings to this day.

“Get with the male lead? I just want to stay alive! You can have him, anyone else can have him!”

Purchase volume one here!

Badass xianxia dragon pins have arrived!

The most badass of xianxia dragon pins have arrived for Christmas!!

The Azure Dragon is one of the four Chinese sacred beasts. Coiled around a sword, it’s here to take on the world!

SOTR readers, might this be Long Xiaoxuan? Grab yours here!

If you’d prefer a one-time purchase or just dislike Patreon, please head over to my Ko-Fi!

Any six teas will receive the badass xianxia dragon pin. Thank you for supporting your neighborhood translator!

ROS 400th Chapterversary + Giveaway!

Wahey? Roll out the fireworks and feast, FOR WE HAVE HIT 400 CHAPTERS OF RETURN OF THE SWALLOW!

Would you like to smack Qin Huining, Yuchi Yan, the old dowager, or Li Qitian? You can only pick one!

First off, a huge THANK YOU to all of my readers. This isn’t your typical web novel, so I dearly appreciate everyone very much so! This is a novel of nonstop politicking, scheming, and war between nations, all wrapped up in a no-filler perspective from a sometimes savage noble girl.

To celebrate this chapterversary, I’d like to hand out some marriage gifts for Qin Yining’s wedding!

Ahem, placeholder graphic. XD I yoinked it before Yuuko was done


  1. One Fuji Instax Mini 9 bundle with film, case, album, lens, and more! When Pang Xiao and Qin Yining are parted… things would’ve been more bearable with pictures of each other!
  2. General goods from Taiwan — it may not be Great Yan or Great Zhou, but there’s an interesting selection of souvenirs to choose from!
  3. An etvo-series pin or one from the upcoming xianxia line!


  1. Leave a rating and write a review for ROS on the NovelUpdates page. Also, please add it to your reading list to help ROS climb the ranks! I am not soliciting positive-only reviews. Write what you’d like! 
  2. Email with your volare username and a screenshot of the NU review for verification. The screenshot should clearly indicate your NU username and review date!
  3. Get those entries in by midnight, December 1st, US PST! That’s 4pm, December 2nd GMT+8.


  1. How are you choosing the winners?
    1. RNG madness <3
    2. After RNG chooses the winners, I will rank entries based on quality and depth of review. I will not penalize negative reviews.
    3. E.g. RNG chooses entry #53 and #54. #53 is a single line about how “ROS is cute. U guys shud read.” while #54 goes into a rant of how irritating and unredeemable the villains in ROS are. I will most likely rank #54 higher, unless it insults the author or me somehow.
  2. I’ve already reviewed ROS!
    1. No worries! Update your review and send in your entry!
  3. I’ve been stacking chapters to binge read!
    1. No problem, giveaway ends in 10 days on midnight December 1st, US PST! That includes two weekends and food coma time over the Thanksgiving holiday. While waiting for the turkey to cook, come read ROS!
  4. It’s really hard to ship to my country!
    1. Indeed, some places are hard to ship to. We’ll work something out!

I still chuckle when I think about how ROS came to be. I almost didn’t pick it up in the first place because I felt the Chinese synopsis was very generic/cheesy, and the typical female lead gets all the guys fluff fluff plot line. Then I wasn’t sure when I could get to it because I started another novel before it. Bizarrely, the stars aligned in the form of a huge plot hole in that novel, so I had to pause it and therefore… get started on ROS, woot!

Since then, we’ve had a rollercoaster of scheming, politicking, warring, and actual face slapping. ROS is my favorite web novel of 2017, hopefully it’s also yours for the year!

Thanks for reading and enjoying the series so far, here’s to the chapters to come (and my character cameo)! So much <3 to you all!

<3 etvo

Mandatory text something something about how I reserve the right to change the rules and conditions at any time etcetc.

So you want to be a web novel translator…

You’ve read the novels or seen the online scene mentioned in media interviews.

You, too, cut your teeth on fantastical Chinese dramas with beautiful leads and flashy special effects.

Or did you give yourself nearsightedness by sneaking old wuxia books under the covers when it was past bedtime?

Maybe you’re already in the translating profession and are excited to share these sometimes 8D novels with the world.

‘ey there. I’m etvolare (more about me here) and I’ve been around the Chinese web literature scene for roughly four years. Kernels of ideas for this article have been floating around for quite a while, and a behemoth of a future monetization announcement from the leading web novel platform finally galvanized me into action.

I’ll be sharing thoughts based off personal experience in the scene, starting from when there were no companies present. Of course, it’s all my opinion, so your mileage may vary! Other caveats include my background: US-centric and a previous finance career.

So. You want to be a web novel translator because…

…you like the novels and have some free time on your hands.

Do you also like digging holes? 😀 Translation is very much like digging holes, and an endless amount at that.

I first encountered this particular metaphor for translation by the founder of Wuxiaworld, Ren Woxing, way back in 2015. It’s stuck with me since because it’s so vivid and so true.

When you embark on the dao of being a web novel translator, you’re making a commitment to the readers, the author, the publishers, and yourself to see it through. Whether life gets busy or you hate the current arc, the translation must go on!

These days, the standard release schedule is 14 chapters a week, or two chapters a day. If you’re fully bilingual and can jump right in, that’s wonderful! You’ve already got a leg up on many other aspiring translators.

Or, you might be like me, an ABC with a decent enough grasp of Chinese…

…completely poleaxed when faced with the actual nitty gritty of translating.

Chinese idioms? Popular culture references? Slang? And to have them make sense when translated into English?? I almost quit a few times in my first year of this new hobby. No, we cannot just skip whatever it is we don’t know. No, close enough is not good enough. XD

So, given that my first year of this new hobby was as much translating as it was really learning Chinese all over again, I’d give a conservative estimate of taking three hours per chapter.

This also includes post-translation editing, because my creative writing skills had declined an appalling degree since college. Good writing skills are critical, because a mess of grammar/conventions/style in the most humdrum tone is a chapter no one wants to read.

For more on the technical difficulties of translating web novels, please check out this (Chinese) write-up I put together. If reading that is difficult, please do reconsider and save yourself the agony of digging all those holes.

This means if I were an aspiring translator now, I’d be dedicating six hours a day to wading through a chapter of 3,000 Chinese characters, Chinese and English dictionaries in hand, and trying to figure out how to make something like ‘Explode Star Point’ sound like the badass martial move it is.

Six hours a day.

Man. That already sounds more like a chore than anything else.

It really is. Day in and day out, trudging through chapters, battling Chinese and turning it into English. The allure of sharing stories of hot male leads or epic battles wears off after a while, and what’s left is the chore of translating daily. Tough, continuous work like digging holes.

The holes need to be dug, everyday, regardless of how you feel about them that day. Most schedules tend to block in recharging and socialization on Friday – Sunday, work or studies from Monday to Thursday. Now, add in another 6 hours of daily hole digging, and those holes don’t go away if the previous day’s quota was missed.

If that sounds painful, that’s because it definitely can be.

It can feel like a drag even if your novel gets a foothold into mainstream popularity, because Chinese novels are long. One of mine called Sovereign of the Three Realms has 2,374 chapters. I’m only just now wrapping it up after four years! (Granted, that was because I started off as a hobbyist fan translator at 2x a week.)

Are you ready to dedicate years of your life to translating a novel? This isn’t crazy talk, truly. Remember the commitment one makes at the start of picking up a novel.

And what if your novel doesn’t take off? What if…

etvo! I’m just in it because I like the novels! I don’t want to do anything crazy like dedicate six hours a day, seven days a week of my life to it! (and earning some pocket money while I’m at it is also nice)

Sure thing, so three chapters a week AKA nine hours a week sound much better, right?

Are you ready to have no readers? Because that’s what will happen. (‘course there are always exceptions, but… please don’t go into this betting on that.)

Almost double digit hours worth of work a week for a few hundred pageviews, if even that. I’ve seen translators put out 5x a week and get less than a hundred pageviews per chapter. In fact, there was a period of time when one of my novels got ~400 views a month for each chapter.

There were 300+ chapters already translated in that novel, meaning a year’s worth of work.

In ad rev terms, that’s less than $100 a month. So after a year, I had barely any readers and sure as heck wasn’t earning much pocket money. Honestly, getting good at League of Legends and becoming a paid booster would be much more fun and pay better.

Slow release schedule = no readers = low motivation = fewer chapters translated = slower releases = a fantastic negative feedback cycle.

This is the sad barrel a translator will be staring down at if the novel flops. A lock into years of hole digging and no audience. It goes without saying how incredibly demoralizing and depressing that prospect is.

…because you hate your future career path/current job.

Sitting at home and earning money banging on a keyboard sounds great, and it is! But… significant sacrifices are made in the form of employee benefits and relating to others if you hop into full-time web novel translating.

Remember the current standard of 14x a week? Let’s go with that, since one needs to maintain that schedule to even have a hope of making this a full-time job. As a general rule, slow releases = no readers.

Two chapters a day, all day, everyday. Whether rain or shine, sickness or good health, vacation or getting stood up on a Friday date.

You could take the weekends off or go on a break for vacation. You just have to dig more holes on remaining time or forgo the earnings. No work = no pay.

Just opting out of pay is kind of not an option when it pertains to a job, so on a recent family vacation, I booted up the laptop every night when we got back to the hotel. I was translating on the plane and during trip downtimes. The alternative was to dig even more holes beforehand so I could vacation without work.

Incidentally, this standard was 5x a week a few years ago, then 7x a week. It was a definite struggle to scale upwards when the standard progressed beyond a chapter a day. Ideally, it’s good practice to translate more than one’s daily releases, for those inevitable sick days, off days, and vacation time. So when the standard is 2x a day, I should at least be doing 2.5x a day. Thankfully, translation speeds eventually improve so that I’m not locked behind a laptop 8 hours a day for 2.5 chapters.

That’s just time, let’s also talk compensation and the whole package.

In web novel translations, there’s no such thing as annual reviews, raises, promotions, or a career path. You, your novels, and you. That’s it.

In most jobs, employees get 401(k) matches, annual bonuses, health insurance, vacation days, and sick days. Jobs can also offer some sort of pension/portfolio advantage/ESOP/related, employee discounts at affiliated brands, points for usage of company credit card, company parties/retreats, and others.

Fully loaded, the entire package is a lot more than just the salary figure, and all of that goes away when becoming a full-time web novel translator.

There’s also the intangibles that I feel are a very important part to consider. Like it or not, we function in a society. Being a translator usually means working alone, and becoming disassociated from society is an entirely real thing. That can do a number on one’s mood and self-worth as an individual.

For example, the translator schedule is completely different from a typical working professional’s. One can easily go an entire day without human contact. There are numerous topics that translators no longer have in common with their social circle (crappy boss, annoying clients, inclement weather affecting commute, etc).

When peers are making senior manager or vice-president later in life, the translator will forever be ‘just’ a translator. I’ve come to expect comments such as, “Wow, it’s such a shame you gave up your former career,” or “Don’t you feel like you wasted your education and work experience”?

…because you want to make the big bucks.

Wot, did that earlier section not scare you off yet? Alright, alright. TL;DR: web novel translating isn’t the key to striking it rich.

Let’s look at some numbers.

Whether you already have a job or are looking to enter the workforce for the first time, 99.9% of web novel translators are contractors, meaning that monthly expenses look different from a 9-5’er.

Taking the wildly successful novel figure from WW’s future monetization post, a translator can bring in $5,000 a month for luckily having their novel take off. This is not the norm, at all. Given the type of person who can translate Chinese into English (please refer to the translator section below), it’s likely they live in a first world country.

Federal tax @ 22% (singles rate) = $1,100
State tax @ 9.3% (California) = $465
Health insurance (21 yr old @ ValuePenguin): $221
Car insurance (@ The Zebra): $143
Rent (SoCal @ Rentcafe) = $1,469
Utilities + internet (Daily Press): $150

Income left after monthly recurring expenses: $1,452

Gas isn’t included in this rough estimate. And please note, taxes simplified for simplicity’s sake. I thought that was reasonable enough to do since I exclude 401(k) and IRA contributions as well.

This is it. For food. Clothes. The pair of glasses accidentally crushed one night which the catastrophic insurance plan doesn’t cover. Anything for entertainment and fun. Christmas presents for family. Charity and contributing to the local community. Saving for retirement. As this was for a young, healthy single, it can easily go into the red when kids and elderly parents are thrown into the mix.

The monthly paycheck is always an unknown in web novel translations.

My numbers are a daily obsession for a gauge of the current month’s take-home. Are they cratering because of a slow arc? Are they shooting back up because it’s a holiday? Every month is a surprise, and it can be quite frustrating to have results be wholly irrelevant to effort.

In my previous 9-5’s, health insurance, retirement savings, on-site daycare, mileage reimbursement, plenty of discounts and tuition subsidies were included. There were raises and annual bonuses. The neighborhood web novel translator has to pay for everything out of pocket, from a pot that we’re never really certain of how it’ll shake out.

What about other compensation methods?

Some platforms take the uncertainty out of the equation and offer flat pay for chapters. Sounds wonderful, until you realize this also places a cap on your earnings when royalties are taken out of the picture.

For a while, there was an influx of new translators in the scene because some platforms offered ~$40 a chapter. Folks saw that as an opportunity to run chapters through Google translate, edit it up some, and collect easy money for quick work.

That’s absolute bollocks for long term career stability. It’s how one’s reputation gets trashed, readers not touching anything the translator puts out because it’s frankly awful, and that $40/chapter quickly dries up when the platform realizes the novel isn’t bringing any readership/money in.

Some translators join teams and turn in work to a head translator. That can go hand-in-hand with a lighter schedule and fewer holes to dig. It’s sometimes viewed as all of the payoff with none of the responsibility, as someone else is on the hook for mistakes. However, this also doesn’t get one far in this scene as it’ll be the head translator associated with the novel, and pay going through one more middleman.

Web novel translating isn’t the path to big bucks, it really isn’t.

…because you’re already a translator.

If all the uncertainty hasn’t deterred the translators reading this write-up, the actual skillset required might. Reality is rarely what’s imagined, even for those with experience in the field.

Being part of the largest translator groups in Taiwan, I’ve had the opportunity to take a close look at the lives of professional translators. I field a lot of questions from interested hopefuls, so I get this, I really do.

Aside from those who have consistent, long term cases (such unicorns), the downsides of being a translator include dealing with horrific clients, shifting deadlines, subpar source material, and constant uncertainty with not knowing where the next case will come from.

Thus, peers are always curious about this different world, interesting subject material that bring up childhood nostalgia, or something that’s simply a different pace from their usual.

As we’ve established already, unpredictability is such a huge thing in this field. It can be exceedingly stressful to not know how well your novel will do, how much you’ll earn this month, and having to keep digging the holes despite all that. Incidentally, the skillset needed here is different.

You don’t need a PhD in Chinese literature. You don’t need decades of experience teaching Chinese. In fact, classically trained translators don’t have an automatic edge over everyone. The first two were once two separate applicants to volare, and I failed applicants with translation degrees all the time because:

English writing ability is crucial.

This may come across as nonsensical, because right, we’re translating from Chinese into English. Of course we need to know how to write in English.

But do you know how to write a novel in English?

Or let’s take a step back, because original writing isn’t on the line here. How are your creative writing skills? This is the requirement for a good end result, not straight 1:1 literal translation into English.

In my view, readers need to get lost in the story, not the foreign-ness of the written word and how weird it reads. They should experience the same emotions we did when reading the Chinese, and feel just the same sense of wonder, curiosity, or fury. For more on translating web novels, please click here (write-up is in Chinese).

I am firmly of the belief that it is sufficient to master just enough Chinese to understand the original text. More of the focus should be on how to recreate that literary world in English. To this regard, widely read English writers tend to end up wielding significant advantage over classically trained or highly experienced translators who haven’t touched web novels before.

Okay all of this is depressing and sounds like a shitty job, why did you quit finance for it?

Haha alright, despite the absolute wall of text up to here, here I am, four years into the scene. Even with all the drawbacks, I chose this path and stuck with it.

I’m absolutely blessed and lucky that my passion puts food on the table.

That’s the long and short of it. Having seen some pretty impressive stuff in my past life as a M&A consultant and corporate banker, it was definitely a gamble to distill that experience and move into another field with it. Thankfully, the bet paid off, even though I still have close family members who scoff at what I do and mutter about getting a ‘real job’.

It absolutely is a gamble. You never know if your novel will find mainstream popularity, or if an arc will be so boring it craters your monthly earnings into nonexistence. Maybe a new novel will launch on your publishing platform and it’ll distract your readers for a while. Or maybe another novel will host a huge event that draws all the eyeballs for a good couple of weeks. Even I find digging holes tedious at times.

However, every reader comment, breathless theories of things to come, fan art, and tricky passage that I get to sound just right brings a smile to my face. To be able to share these stories with a receptive and enthusiastic audience is this bookworm’s dream come true. I love what I do, and have found living through a developing industry very interesting. And that’s probably my ultimate answer to “so you want to be a (full-time) web novel translator”?

Make sure it’s passion that drives you, and make sure you’re able to put food on the table until it can sustain you.

Derp. I’d actually wanted to make this post about monetization in the scene. XD