To plot or not to plot, that is the question.
Not really. You need a plot.
What is a plot you ask?
Nathan Bransford does a good job giving a brief explanation. Do You Have a Plot?
and then there’s this,
25 Ways to Plot, Plan, and Prep Your Story by the adored, but NSFW Chuck Wendig
Need to know if you’re overdoing your plotting?
Janice Hardy’s Fiction University is a wealth of helpful tips such as Too Much of a Good Thing: Over Plotting Your Novel
There are many methods you can utilize to help you plot.
Joanna Penn’s Mindmapping
Sara Toole Miller’s Mindmapping
Novel Outlining 101
Character Driven Plotting
Whether you are in the plotting stage, or revision phase many of us are searching for ideas on how to structure our stories. I don’t think there is one way, or a right way to address structure other than it has to move the reader through your story so that they are compelled to keep reading.
You needn’t stringently follow prescribed structures but there are tradition among genre to adhere to certain formulas so particular attention should be paid as to whether your story is good enough to break those norms. And you need to have a grasp on the expectation of your readers. Being well read in the genre you are writing for helps with that.
Here’s a little cheat sheet on the questions you should be asking yourself about how your novel is structured. Dummies Guide to Writing a Novel: The Structure of Your Novel.
The structure of a story depends on who is telling the story, what type of story it is, and whether it is character or plot driven. This Writer’s Digest post can help you think about choosing a structure.
I think beginning writers sometimes fear being hemmed in by rules but these guides are meant to help you manage the unwieldiness of a novel not curtail your creative process. Think of structure guidelines as the framework that supports your creativity.
This is a basic look at structure that can serve the needs of both first time and seasoned writers. Daily Writing Tips: How to Structure a Story.
A couple more of my favorite takes on structure:
Chuck Wendig: 25 Things You Should Know About Structure
Kristen Lamb: Structure Part 1-Anatomy of a Bestselling Novel–Structure Matters
A few specific to genre: