Here are my two most memorable writing guidelines.
"What does your character do at the end of the story that he or she would never do at the beginning?"
There's the climax to your novel, folks - as well as giving you a way to show how much your character has changed over the course of the story.
The second memorable lesson:
"The beginning of your story should ask questions, not give answers."
That's not only a great guide to what the opening of your story should do, but it also tells you what it shouldn't do. If you follow this piece of advice, you'll likely avoid the dreaded info dump.
I believe I heard the first guideline from Gayle Wilson. It's been years since I first heard it, though, so I could be wrong.
The second came from Molly O'Keefe. She may have been quoting someone, though.
Whatever the original source of these pithy statements, they are both well worth remembering when it's time to plot and write a novel.