Bring the Pain
There is, really, only one plot in all of fiction. Your character wants something. Stuff gets in the way, preventing the character from getting it. The protagonist tries and fails, tries and fails, tries and fails. Eventually, having learned from previous failures, the character tries and succeeds. The end. Everything else is variation of detail.
The failure of the character is essential to the success of the story. The reader otherwise has no way of knowing how hard the character has it, no way to know whether or not the ultimate prize is really worth getting worked up over. If it's easy for your character to get, it's cheap, no matter how much the narrator says it costs.
Beyond that, the failure has to hurt. Pain, physical or emotional, is the set-up for later joy. Your reader has no idea how good the triumph feels, without some tragedy for comparison. So hit your character, again and again, and describe their pain in the same detail you describe their joy.
It's a literary Skinner Box. When you hurt the character, the reader turns the page to see how the character escapes or overcomes the pain. When you promise something good, the reader turns the page, hoping to see the good thing through the caracter's eyes. That's the goal, isn't it, keeping your reader turning pages?
Here's the trick to the Skinner Box, though: You don't always get the good thing, but you always, always get the bad thing. Rewards can be erratic, but the pain has to keep coming. It's a quirk of the nervous system, the hard evolutionary fact that it's safe to go without fruit that tastes good, but it's death to eat the stuff that tastes bad. Hope motivates almost as well as reward, but nothing motivates like real pain.
The pain, the loss, that's what keeps the character moving forward; it's what keeps the character from settling down with the next good thing and calling it a day. Likewise, it's what keeps the reader moving forward. No one likes to leave the character in a bad place, and even if it's been ten thousand words since the last good thing happened, they'll turn one more page just to see your character escape the bad. You can promise good things, and not deliver, the reader will forgive you so long as you do deliver every once in a while. The pain has to keep coming, though.
Hit your character, again and again. Give them good things, then take them away in hard, nasty ways. That lovely house you spent a thousand words describing? Burn it down. Your character's true love? Dead or missing, maimed or turned traitor. The wonderful gift has a terrible hidden price. Make the good things that are pure good few and far between, and save the really big good thing for the end of the story.
It's the pain that makes it worthwhile. So bring the pain.