Recently I have been reading books about writing fiction (this fit takes me every so often, usually when I'm about to teach a workshop). Two that I perused are by Lawrence Block and John Gardner. They could not be more different.
Gardner (the author of Grendel and October Light, not the British thriller writer) is often dismissive of plot. He considers both The Grapes of Wrath and All The King's Men to be bad books because of plotting that either sets up "unrealistic" villains or has characters behave in "unrealistic" ways. He has a low opinion of writers (and readers) who are mostly interested in "what happens next" (in this he echoes Delany), being far more interested in how it happens.
Block, on the other hand, is all about plot. He says frankly that complex characters are good but, in much fiction, not essential to sales. What readers want is surprises in "what happens next."
I have oversimplified these two authors' positions, but not by much. Reading the books in tandem, I wonder: What does a beginning writer make of all this? It has to be confusing. However, in another sense it should be liberating -- it underlines, yet again, the basic fact that there are no hard-and-fast rules in writing. What works for Block, with his particular books, works. What worked for Gardner's, with his (more literary) approach, also worked. Ergo, you have a lot of latitude in finding what works for you.
But one thing both writers agree on, fervently: You won't find out what works for you unless you put in the time writing. Practicing. Doing it.