One of the things I love about a good adventure novel or thriller is the escalation.
The story starts with a problem. The characters must solve the problem. As they work to solve the problem, it evolves and builds into a bigger and bigger dilemma through a series of new developments, failures, mistakes, and sabotage. Like a snowball careening down a hill, the action and suspense grow and grow until finally, a mere chapter from the end of the book, the hero(s) avert the ultimate disaster that threatens to annihilate them all. And when the story ends you realize you've been holding your breath the entire time.
That's the kind of fiction I like to write. But I've learned it's so much work. The original idea usually isn't good enough, so when you finish the first draft you have to go back, add scenes and thread and storylines, remove others, and make all sorts of things introduce themselves at the beginning and add together by the end to create a "wow" ending.
When I write stuff like that, I develop even more respect for authors such as Michael Crichton. Man, that guy could put a person on the edge of their seat and keep them teetering there. When I think of writing thrillers and adventure novels, that's the guy I point to and say, "I wanna be like him."
Usually, it involves putting the protagonist in a harrowing situation, then sitting back and wondering, "Hmm . . . how can I make the dilemma even worse?"
Reference my previous posting. I am very cruel to my characters. But that's the nature of the beast.
And the cool part is, once it's finished and all the strings come together, the author experiences quite the feeling of accomplishment.
Now to work on some pesky story threads . . . .