I've mentioned in other posts that I've written more than a few books before my current WIP. There are many reasons why those failed as stories, but the biggest was that there was never a straightforward, pressing need that drove my protagonist forward.
Author Richard Scrimger worked with me on one of those and I remember him constantly saying that I needed to simplify these aspects, even to three words like Dorothy, wizard, home, or Frodo, ring, fire. These are not simple stories but the need of the main characters is so clear it acts like a wedge through the story. We get it. Even in a world as complex as Middle Earth, we get it.
Having a published author say to you, "Dude, I have no idea what's going in this scene or what this guy even wants," was soul-crushing but it forced me to really grapple with this problem in my stories in ways I never had.
What do they want overall? One or two words.
What are they going to do to get it? Scene goals.
Why now? The stakes. And they must be pressing.
(Questions also from David Mamet)