Guest Blogger: Ann Videan – Four Favorite Writing Influences

I started my first novel while in elementary school. But, by the time I’d written a handful of pages, I realized I couldn’t finish it. My hero and heroine’s plot unfolded in a college setting and, as a 6th grader, I didn’t know one thing about college. I had no frame of reference and put it aside. Yet, the desire to write a novel never disappeared.

By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I’d racked up some solid corporate writing experience, and also experienced enough of life to feel like I could actually write the women’s fiction story line percolating around in my mind. But, while busily focused on career building, and falling in love and getting married, I never came up with an ending. The perfect ending appeared to me one night in a dream, inspiring me to sit down and actually put words on paper.

I quickly discovered fiction was nothing like corporate writing, and I needed to learn how to create it well. I joined a few writers’ groups, attended conferences and training sessions, and practiced my writing whenever I could sneak it in.

Within a couple of years, I started a family and a home-based marketing business, and became seriously busy. [sigh] This forced me to put the novel aside again – for close to 11 years, although I did continue to build my fiction-writing knowledge.

In my forties, I dedicated myself to finishing what I’d started, and actively searched out a critique partner. She and I had worked together in a corporate marketing department, and I’d heard her mention she, too, wanted to write a novel. We discussed our books, and agreed to start meeting every week to support each other’s writing. This brings me to my first favorite writing influence. . .

The Critique Process

I’ve been meeting with my critique partner now for more than 10 years, often twice a week. She is a prolific reader, an excellent writer, a savvy marketer, and often serves as the writing yin to my yang. She brought a unique perspective to my women’s fiction because she writes in a different genre: science fiction. (I expect to write in the sci-fi genre, prolifically, once this first “book of my heart” is published.)

Another yin yang aspect to our partnership involves her ease with descriptive writing, as opposed to my focus on dialogue and more dialogue. Our polar perspectives helped each of us see how to enhance and flesh out our writing style. We absorbed and critiqued every line the other wrote, applying concepts learned by jointly attending many writing seminars.

We also spent (what certainly amounts to) months of time eating in restaurants, and sipping delicious beverages from my beloved Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Which leads to another favorite writing influence. . .

The Coffee Shop

I wrote most of my novel in a coffee shop sipping chocolate cherry tea lattes. Something about being away from my home and home-based business responsibilities, allowed ideas to flow more effortlessly. Plus, the activity of a retail establishment energized my story. People coming and going. Music playing. Easy access to real conversations offering tidbits of dialog. I just love the hustle and bustle, even if I do miss most of what’s happening around me while “in the zone.” (Now that I think about it, that’s kind of ironic. I like the activity but I mostly ignore it. Hmmmm. . .) Still, it’s all part of bringing the subconscious forward. And, I do so love how intuition influences. . .

The Writing Process

Many times, I found myself taking a sip from my tea latte, looking at the words I’d written, and saying to my critique partner, “I don’t even know why I wrote that.” She’d just look at me and smile knowingly. Six weeks later I’d be back across the table from her saying, “You would not believe how well that crazy part I wrote fits into this new scene!” We’d shake our heads at the mystery and wonder of the mind.

When I first started attending seminars, I’d hear writers talk about another amazing process in which their characters told them what to write. What?! I suppose I could sort of see what they meant back then, but the truth and value of this idea did not become crystal clear to me until I’d written my characters through a significant number of chapters. You create your character’s personality, and when you put them into certain settings with certain people, they simply must react in a certain way to remain true and believable. I may want a story line to go one way, but simply can’t take it in that direction — given where the plot currently sits and how my character would believably react. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s really my own thought process, but I swear my characters are in control.

Another wonderful aspect to the writing process is the sheer escapist value of giving in totally to creativity. Lost in the zone, your subconscious mind can take you to the most unexpected places. One of my favorite examples involves several stanzas of lyrics my composer hero wrote while inspired by his muse. Lost in the story and inside my character’s head I wrote:

She draws him, like the moon pulls the tide,

Into the depths of the most beautiful creation.

A place where music plays when flowers grow,

Where love hangs like dew in the air,

Where energy illumines darkness.

And scents of joy fill warm breezes.

I eventually took these inspired words and wrote a song. I listen to this song on the CD of works I’ve now created to complement my music-laden book and I wonder at the creativity that came right through “the zone” to me and into fruition. Plus, the process involved another favorite writing influence. . .

Music

Ever since I was seven years old when my Dad taught me to play Tom Dooley on a little four-string Martin guitar, I’ve loved music. Especially, if the lyrics tell a story. As a kid, I sat around for hours listening to My Fair Lady, The Music Man, and Camelot soundtracks. Bliss!

Drawn to stories and loving music my entire life, I just can’t help but include them in my writing now. The heroine in my novel is an unfulfilled female vocalist. And, in the young-adult trilogy I’ve fully plotted and will write next, natural music plays a huge role, too.

As I write this, I am waiting for approvals from the two big music-licensing companies allowing me to use select song titles, artist names, and lyrics in my novel. Once I receive those permissions, I’ll be self-publishing Rhythms & Muse and, hopefully, heft my long-overdue published work in my hand by summertime. At that point, I will happily move forward on my fantasy/adventure faerie trilogy.

So, next time you’re at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, look around. I might just be sitting there with my critique partner. Or, I might be bent over my computer, completely lost in the writing process while loving (but mostly ignoring) the buzz of activity and background music. If you see me, be sure to pull me out of the zone to share a tea and to discuss your favorite writing influences. I’d love it!

On second thought, don’t wait to share. Jot us a comment so we can hear about positive influences your writing.

Ann N. Videan, APR, is a writer, musician and marketer who leads a Phoenix-area writers’ group: the Alliance for Literary Writers, Authors and Yabbering Scribes (ALWAYS) at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=130480241416. Fourteen years ago, she also founded vIDEAn Unlimited, a Mesa, Ariz.-based, award-winning, home-based firm. She specializes in word-of-mouth marketing and business-tribe development for visionary entrepreneurs (including dedicated writers). Visit Ann at www.videanunlimited.com.

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3 Responses to “Guest Blogger: Ann Videan – Four Favorite Writing Influences”


  1. 1 Andrea 03/19/2010 at 3:12 PM

    Hi Ann. I facebooked you, but I couldn’t resist your plea for a comment! I especially like your poetry — very beautiful.

  2. 2 Paula Graves 03/19/2010 at 6:07 PM

    wonderful article from Ann videan.

  3. 3 Laurie 03/20/2010 at 11:37 AM

    also couldn’t resist the plea — is Andrea correct in saying people may be reading, they just don’t comment? Or how do you get people there to read with SO MUCH stuff out there????? I know it’s gotta be really good … or something they need … ????


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