I'm no expert, but I always thought all you need in a story is a beginning, a middle and an end. My creative writing teacher, Josh, would draw a mountain on the board, like the one above, and talk about things like rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. He'd tell us to avoid exposition as much as possible. He'd talk about best practices for dialogue, character building, setting the stage, and using "specific concrete details."
After reading the blog posts above, though, I've decided that there's still a lot for me to learn. I've signed up for a couple creative writing classes. (One is actually called "Planning and Structuring the Novel.") In the meantime, though, I'm giving myself some homework.
I've decided to take the challenges in the 2nd blog post, "How to Study Plot and Character," and measure out the important plot points in books and movies I enjoy. I'll write about my experiences in the blog posts to follow.
I always tell my students: In order to do good writing, you need to see good writing. I help them break apart essays: find the thesis, each topic sentence.... the hook, etc. Why not do the same for my writing?