So here's what I know:
- Pay attention.
- Don't waste the reader's time.
- The breath of the story is the conflict.
- Everything means something.
When I think about those four things above, it's kind of weird. They don't make sense, not really. But there's a whole discussion behind all of them. "What about plot?" "The breath of the story is the conflict, which, with regards to plot, means the beginning of the plot should be a kind of question: what happens when the two ideas at the center of the conflict come into contact? The beginning should not answer the question, but only arrange that it come to life. The middle is the answer of that question--some good things happen, some bad things happen, some unexpected things happen. The end is the resolution of the question: how do these things come to grips with each other? Does good defeat evil? Does stability adjust to change? Does honor, ruined by lust, throw itself under a train?" "And yet, doesn't it become tiresome, writing about grand ideas?" "Yes, but pay attention. All grand ideas are clothed in details. And the details are just as important as the grand ideas, because everything means something."
I'm not saying I do these things well, mind you. Just that I know them.