Deborah Pike masters her storytelling skills in her novel ‘The Players’

With the story in her draft manuscript spanning ten years, set across six continents and featuring eight points of view, Deborah Pike knew she needed to get the pacing of her story exactly right. She enrolled in FOCUS ON… Pace at the Australian Writers' Centre and got the insight she needed.

“I thought it was crucial to get the pacing right, for it to be plausible, possible, and yet pacy,” Deborah told us.

With the knowledge gained from her courses, which also included Fiction Essentials: Scenes and Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers, Deborah tightened her manuscript and sent it out into the world. She is delighted that her debut novel The Players is out now with Fremantle Press.

“I had always imagined being published. I just didn’t know if it would ever come true. So, yes, it feels somewhat miraculous.”

Understanding the power of pace

Deborah knew that the success of her manuscript would come down to pace.

“Half the novel takes place in mostly one location over about five or six weeks. The rest of the novel straddles eight years. It was important that things neither moved too fast nor dragged. And the FOCUS ON… Pace seminar gave me insight into that.”

Deborah also completed Fiction Essentials: Scenes to reinforce what she already knew about scene-building.

“I wanted to check that each of my scenes had the right ingredients and weren’t missing anything. I gained a greater awareness of technical elements and the nuts and bolts of scenes and how narrative action should unfurl.”

With a finished manuscript in hand, Deborah began pitching her novel to agents and publishers, armed with the knowledge from the Pitch Your Novel course. After two positive rejections, Deborah sent her novel to Fremantle Press who accepted it.

“I was over the moon. I danced around the living room. A friend was with me. She was visiting from London and we’d just gone on a lovely walk when I received the call.”

Deborah’s novel, The Players, is about a group of young amateur actors who come together to rehearse a play in an orchard one summer.

“They stage The Marriage of Figaro with huge success. It then traces their afterlives across the globe over the years following as they pursue their dreams in the realms of love, work and artistic endeavour. It is a coming-of-age-tale. Their experience in the play is refracting, and affects them for the rest of their lives.”

The writing process

Deborah admits the process of writing the novel was messy and painful, but also exhilarating.

“The characters’ voices just kept talking to me, pretty much everywhere I went. I needed to release them somehow. They wouldn’t stop talking until I pinned them to the page. So in my rare spare time, I found that I was writing a lot of scenes. Starting with childhood scenes, which I later worked in as flashbacks in another draft. I wrote the rehearsals scenes and then the rest of the novel which is set all over the world. I sought an edit, developed more scenes, and then another draft until it felt polished.”

With a full time job teaching at university, Deborah says that finding time to write is her biggest challenge.

“To write, I need to take leave or use holidays and weekends. I cannot and do not write every day. I have to be sequestered away somewhere where nobody can interrupt me. It’s not very practical. In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport would classify mine as ‘the monastic approach.’”

Despite having a monastic approach to her writing, Deborah knows that community and continued learning are key for writers.

“No matter how many years you’ve been writing, you never really master it; it’s a lifelong craft. There will always be more to learn about the written word and about the art of narrative,” Deborah says. “I like to explore every angle on something. And learn from as many people as possible. Writing isn’t something you can ever really perfect, I don’t think. You keep learning how to do it. Probably until you die. Why not learn from as many accomplished writers as possible?”

Courses completed at AWC:

Browse posts by category
Browse posts by category

Courses starting soon


Nice one! You've added this to your cart