Backwards and Forwards by David Ball has probably been the most helpful and significant book that I have read in my career as a writer. This book takes you through the elements of a narrative (though it refers to plays specifically), as well as what you can gain from studying a plot from the ending to the beginning, backwards.
Triggers and heaps, or cause and effect as they are more commonly referred to, was probably the lesson in the book that helped me the most as a writer. Even though plot is something that we may not think too much about, it is one of the most essential parts of our narratives. It is what we build characters around and it is what changes our characters, the thing that makes other things happen.
I get stuck in my writing a lot. Whether or not I believe in writer's block is still in question. However, having the concept of triggers and heaps has helped me to break through most of my problems in writing. (Not all, unfortunately).
Ball's book inspired me to start thinking about my own novel in terms of cause and effect, one thing happens and triggers another. I took this idea and created a timeline on the wall above my writing desk of all the main events in my book. (There's a huge gap in the middle, but I'm not dwelling on that until after midterms). Underneath these index cards, I intend to put post its that are the biggest triggers and heaps. There is also a trigger that happens at the beginning of the narrative that doesn't have a heap until the end of the book.
Ball's book helped me realize that while form is something that can be broken, and maybe you do need to understand it first, but its helpful to structure yourself as a writer. Books and stories have this ability to escape from us as writers, we are in our heads, usually solitary, and there's no one to reign us in but ourselves, and a strict form can help you do that. (if you're the type of person that needs that, and I am).
But, honestly, if you're a writer, or want to be a writer, read this book.