When I was writing screenplays in L.A. (a long time ago), I learned about Syd Field's method for designing plots. It's basically a 9-act structure. Although it was intended for screenplays (thus the title of his pivotal work, Screenplay), it is also excellent for novels. I try to use it with my books, with mixed success simply because of my sub-genre. Occasionally one of the plot points in his method comes out to be a single paragraph worth of dialog or action. I get it in there, but not always at length. I highly recommend his books as tools for fiction writers of all stripes.