What comes first? Story or Structure?

I have been fascinated by both the species of writers – plotters and pantsers. Plotters are those who plan and outline their story before beginning. Pantsers are those who write what comes to their mind and discover their story as they write. While Jeffrey Archer says that he never writes an opening scene till he knows the closing scene, Stephen King says he just puts his characters in trouble and watches how they get out of it. Both their methods seemed to have worked out perfectly for them. So, there doesn’t seem to be any one right way to do this.

I pantsed my way through my first book. Now, when I am working on my second, I wonder whether I should plot the second before beginning.

My first novel roughly took me 18 months to complete –

Research – 1 month

Writing – 2 months

Structuring – 2 months

Rewriting – 10 months

Editing – 3 months

So, it took me nearly a year to structure and rewrite the book because the first draft was all over the place. It was a disaster. The first draft only helped me understand the story. I had to do significant rewriting to shape it into something presentable.


If I can work as a plotter, and bring down this rewriting phase by half, it would save me a significant amount of time. After all, can we not discover the story in our head? Do we need to discover it only on paper, as Stephen King says?

What do you think? How do you work? Are you a plotter or pantser? Do you think the method of writing makes a difference to the quality of writing? Are there specific genres that suit plotters/ pantsers? Would love to hear your thoughts…

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