Yesterday was all about anticipation at our house. We sent the kids to school knowing they'd be let out early for the big snow storm. 5-6 inches possible, icy roads, and emergency snacks in their backpacks, just in case they ran into trouble on the way home.
And nothing happened. No snow. Big disappointment. Then we waited, and waited for the ice storm to begin. The kids went to bed without knowing if school would be canceled tomorrow or not. Finally the storm hit, and we listened to the plink of ice on the windows and planned a day at home with the whole family. It's been nice.
But I'm relating this to writing. Anticipation is almost everything. In a story the moment leading up to the big revelation, the first kiss, or that declaration of undying love are just as important as the event itself. The moments that build the tension, really take it up higher on the almost moments--where they almost kiss, he almost confesses his love, but gets interrupted are the ones that make that big event so awesome.
Building tension is an important part of every novel. It makes you care. Lately i've been reading several novels that don't have the right balance between the anticipation/tension and the actual event. Even if I like the characters I'm left wondering so what? When this happens I may skip to the end of the book (I'm notoriously bad about doing this) and if I don't like the end, or if I'm not getting a feeling of excitement along the way, then I just stop reading.
Another side of the same problem is when the event doesn't happen. Like the snowstorm that didn't happen yesterday, you are left feeling disappointed, and wondering why the author chose to end it the way she did. I can think of some very prominent books I would have ended differently, especially since the tension was built up to the event, and then nothing happened. Very disappointing.
As a writer, I really try to build the tension up in a plot. Those almost moments are so key for the stories to work out. For me the idea is to keep the reader wanting to turn pages. When that doesn't happen, then your books isn't working.