When you’re thinking about structure, when you’ve written your first drafts and you’re revising and trying to figure out the structure of your novel, I think you have to look at each chapter and ask yourself how it advances the story or develops the character.
Sure we can all find ways to convince ourselves to keep scenes or even chapters that we think are cool or have good writing in them even when we know, deep down, they don’t fit. I think, in fact, keeping these can sometimes even take writers down the wrong path, the one away from where their novel is going or should be going. The writer loses his sense of direction and the reader starts to feel less confident the writer knows where he or she is going. This can be fatal.
Everything is important: language, characterization, voice and so on, but a weakness in terms of structure has got to be one of the major problems. Be critical of your scenes and chapters. Be analytical at some point—really look to make sure every scene fits.