Reverse Engineering is how I give my plots structure. If you're like me, even if you outline a bit and have a sense of where you're going, your first draft is feeling around in the dark a lot. Nothing wrong with that. But it does make for plots with lots of holes. So on my first revision I start thinking about the different plots and where they ended up. Maybe I have a mystery plot and a relationship plot and a wonder plot (which would probably link up with setting since I write mostly SFF).
What I have to do is think about how I got to my endings. I reverse engineer so that I have steps of progress throughout the manuscript. I want to make these the best I can because the quality of my plots will rely on believable important steps. That’s how I shape the story. That’s the kind of revision that can really improve a manuscript. You can’t come up with everything all at once in a first draft but you can, in revision, go back and build a plot.
Here's the funny thing. I begin with character. I think of character as being the most important of all fiction (novel in particular) skills. But you need plot, too. Good plot. Not just something for the characters to talk about or move through. Plots that contribute and really matter. Create characters that people care about working through interesting plots and you've got something.