A couple take the train home. (File photo/Xinhua)
A young novelist in China wrote an article about how he grew from a farm village boy — dumped by his girlfriend because he was too poor to afford a train ticket — to eventually becoming a wealthy novelist able to buy a house with the royalties from his works.
The article, written by Datou Maoshen ("Big-headed Cat God"), has been viewed by over 600,000 internet users and reposted on several microblogs and forums within days after it appeared online on Jan. 21, according to Hunan-based news website Voice of China (voc.com.cn).
The writer claimed he was born in a poor farm village in Dehua county in southeastern China's Fujian province. He made it to college and began looking for jobs half a year before graduation because he did not want to rely on his parents. Many employers, however, would not even give him an interview because he was not from a top-rated university.
"I felt like I only learned how to take tests at university and had no idea what I could do for a living after graduation," the writer recalled. Without other options, he took odd jobs as a waiter, warehouse supervisor and salesperson.
He did not want to waste his youth on jobs he did not like but the work he found was far from ideal. His girlfriend began complaining and "made me look really bad a couple times publicly and we fought frequently," he said, according to the website.
The train ticket affair put an end to their relationship. With only 200 yuan (US$32) in his pocket, just enough for a single train ticket in the soft-seat class, he asked the girlfriend whether she would accept a hard seat, the cheapest class of train travel without having to stand. "Are you a man? You cannot even afford a 200-yuan ticket," his girlfriend said, and left. The young man told himself that he was unable to provide the life she wanted and he should not make her suffer with him.
The writer tried to win the young woman back and called her to meet up again. However, she brought another man to their meeting, whom she introduced as her boyfriend. The heartbroken writer quit his job and stayed at home for a month, unwilling to do anything.
Reality kicked in. If he wanted to do part-time jobs again, he needed at least 1,000 yuan (US$160) to go looking, which his parents, both farmers, could not afford, but he would still be a burden on them if he remained at home.
He sought inspiration from online writing he read and a popular television drama about the "ant tribe" — a term referring to young people born in the 80s who left their hometowns in rural areas for big cities to work or study but found themselves stuck in poor jobs with meager income — and wrote a comedy novel about a landlord and his tenants.
The novel was an instant hit and he received 7,000 yuan (US$1,120) from a publisher a month after he began writing it in May 2011. He gave some of the payment to his parents and bought a camera and meals for his relatives and friends.
Publishers signed a contract bringing his income to between 1,000 to 10,000 yuan (US$1,120-$1,600) a month, a sharp contrast to his previous jobs in which he toiled for a couple of hundred yuan a month.
Since then, the young man has spent all his energy writing and adding more details to his stories. He writes for about three to five hours a day and spends the rest seeking inspiration on the internet. Publishers have renewed his contract with higher royalties. His income increased and was once as high as as 80,000 yuan (US$10,280) in a single month, according to Voice of China.
"I bought a house with the money I earned from the novels, have a new girlfriend and see my parents very often now," the writer says. "I want to tell young people, especially women, not to look down on young men because you never know what they might become."
The author admits that online novels are like fast food which entertain but have little in the way of deeper meaning. He, along with other such online novelists, writes primarily for money.
He attributes the success of writers such as himself to taking advantage popular motifs of metropolitan life, time travel and fantasy. The novelist said he would try to write "pure literature" when he reaches a point when he has the money to withstand failure.