Remember the day of the literary classic? Endless pages describing a sunset, a summer breeze, or the touch of silk. At some point, those days disappeared making room for action only. Mostly.
If your novel's not high concept, you're going to run into trouble finding a publisher.
Blame this on our inundation of visual images - television, Internet, you name it. Mix this with short attention spans due to those 140 character stories, instathis and instathat, snapthis and snapthat, and you have an audience of readers who demand you get to the good part immediately. Whether you write for the young adult audience or not, you can't spend a lot of time detailing the folds and curves of the luxurious satin sheet draped across your MC. Mention it. Share a detail or two. Then switch attention to action.
Once you've set up your story and introduced the plot that will drive it, how can a writer sneak in some, uh, writing?
Wrap detail around the action like a satin sheet. Satin has a feel of being there but not. You feel it, but you aren't distracted by it. It covers you, but it doesn't suffocate you. It decorates you, and you feel beautiful.
Your story needs tension. Friction between characters and events adds depth to your story, provides sign posts to where we're headed, and leads to resolutions, You need tension on every page. However, don't forsake the beauty of the written word for pages and pages of action.
Consider moving your story along like a wave. It rises and falls, rolls and tumbles. Gentle crests can precede rogue waves. Tidal waves can emerge out of the blue. Remember that cliche about the 'calm before the storm'. This is natural tension.
Several models exist for constructing scenes and chapters that aim to keep your reader's attention.
Here are a few.
1. Start with action, end with foreshadowing. (Find it in Shakespeare.)
2. Start with the calm, end with the storm. (Find it in Poe.)
3. Ebb and flow throughout the chapter, decreasing distance between each push and pull to create a more climactic ending. (Find it in McCullers.)
4. Create a high tide that puts the reader at the edge of his seat. What lurks beneath the surface? (Find it in King.)
As you work on your manuscript, short story, or poetry, pay attention to how you build tension. Just don't forget to wrap it within some beautiful prose.