As far as “plot” goes, as I get older I more and more suspect that “plot” is really being used, in the many incarnations of this argument, as a placeholder for a whole cloud of qualities found (or not found) in certain narratives, some of which actually constitute “plot” and many of which do not. What first led me to suspect this is the fact that many of the sternest exponents of “I want novels to have plots, dammit” are also demonstrably fans of, for instance, quite a few Robert A. Heinlein novels whose plots can barely be detected even by advanced scientific equipment. (Not just later Heinlein, either; go back and look at Beyond This Horizon). As it happens, I like some of those books, too, and what I learn from them, and from thousands of other books, is that what matters isn’t the presence of a carefully-engineered, structurally sound “plot.” What matters is whether a book entrances us into reading it or forces us to decode it — and “plot” is just one of several methods of getting us into the reading trance. It’s a good method. It’s not the only one.
–Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light, 2009