Where is your story going?
I've written a lot about structure and how important it is for writers, whether they are just beginning to learn the craft or have quite a few years under their belts. Structure is the road map you can diverge from that tells you ultimately where you are going. It gives you something to hang your writer's hat on and a way to reintegrate to the writing if you've been away from it for a while.
But what is structure?
To start, it's the five act outline that you use as scaffolding to hang all the disparate parts of your story as you create it. It is also the plot points that act as stepping stones moving the story forward. These can be scenes or even minor interactions or a bit of dialogue thrown into a scene. No matter what they are, they impel the story forward toward something. They create tension and drama and mystery and the desire in the reader to want to know what happens next.
And then these plot points lead to set-pieces. Think of an action movie (I'm not a big action movie fan, but they follow a rigid five act outline with plot points leading to huge, dramatic set-pieces). The hero goes through the inciting incident that pulls him/her into the story, as well as the viewer. There are scenes where plot points are used to up the tension, create setbacks and reversals, add mystery, create cliffhangers, twists, and so on. Then there is the payoff. This is where all of the tension and mystery and drama, etc. comes to a head and the hero engages in some significant conflict or fight. The death star blows up. All of the Nazis are melted by the Ark of the Covenant, the neighborhood dads discover that the weird family down the block really are murderers, etc.
Set-pieces can be the climactic scene of the story and they can occur at certain places through the story. J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling are masters of using plot points to lead to set-pieces that dissolve into more plot points and another set-piece and so on until the armies of dark and light face off in the climactic battle.
Another master of this is Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. She interweaves the building tension of the court case with the children's fascination with Boo Radley so that the court proceedings are a magnificent set-piece followed by increasing tension over Boo Radley and between Atticus and Bob Ewell until the set-piece where all four--Radley, Ewell, the kids and Atticus--come into conflict in the climactic end set-piece.
The set-piece doesn't have to be a violent confrontation or even a confrontation at all. It can be the moment where the main character goes from insight and implication to transformative change either through healing or falling apart. Think of the book or movie Wild. Cheryl Strayed does not have a big battle with an external antagonist. She is her own antagonist as she looks for a sense of peace and healing after divorce, addiction and the death of her mother. There are set-pieces throughout her story, but they are moments where she learns or experiences a setback. The end set-piece is where she emerges as a more whole person capable of moving her life forward.
You will see this structure of plot points leading to set-pieces in one form or another in every book, movie and play ever written. That is, if you look for it.
It is the basis of good writing.