Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
That's a really harsh edict, isn't it? As a reader who tends to skip most descriptive passages, I find myself wanting to skip writing the whole look/sound/taste/smell part of the narrative. But it's so boooooring, I say! I hate describing! I don't see the point!!!
Much of this resistance is me being lazy. But then again, the point is... what's the point? If we don't like writing description, and if after hours of labor we present this paragraph or passage that the reader is just going to skip.... what is the point?
Exactly. What is the point? We're not just writing to fill up pages. So... what's that descriptive passage there for?
Actually, sometimes a description of the setting is needed,
to set the stage for action, to outline the context of the conflict, to
reflect some aspect of the character. And I think if before I start, I can figure out my purpose here, why I'm describing this, maybe I won't hate writing it, and the reader won't want to skip it.
In deep POV, or in first-person, the essential purpose of description is to show something about what the POV character perceives... and maybe to show what's changing in the character-- what this all means to him/her, how he or she interprets this.
Here's a short passage (end of chapter) in Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris. (Very good book, "boarding school thriller," I'll call the genre.) It's in dual first-person (the good guy and the bad guy). This is the good guy, an old Latin teacher at the boarding school. He's been there forever, and at this point, things are starting to change in ways he doesn't like. So the author uses this "change" to provide an opportunity to describe the place:
As I said, it's hard to explain St. Oswald's: the sound of the place in the mornings; the flat echo of boys' feet against the stone steps; the smell of burning toast from the Refrectory; the peculiar sliding sound of overfilled sports bags being dragged along the newly polished floor. The Honors Board, with gold-painted names dating back from before my great-grandfather; the war memorial; the team photographs; the brash young faces, tinted sepia with the passing of time.
Okay, notice how very much this is in HIS viewpoint-- the description is filtered through his memories, his values, his affection for the place. And notice how the beginning perceptions are very sensual, very focused on the experience of the senses in this place. But then, the 'summary" becomes something more personal (my great-grandfather) and poignant (the brash young faces). The nostalgia and sadness of that last (this is in Britain, so the names of many of those "brash youngsters" probably are etched onto the war memorial) leads into the deep feeling of the POV character. This is the paragraph that ends the chapter:
Gods, I'm getting sentimental. Age does that; a moment ago I was bemoaning my lot, and now here I am getting all misty-eyed. It must be the weather. And yet, Camus says, we must imagine Sisyphus happy. Am I unhappy? All I know is that something has shaken us; shaken us to the foundations. It's in the air, a breath of revolt, and somehow I know it goes deeper than the Fallow affair. Whatever it may be, it is not over. And it's still only September.
Notice that he is commenting on his own description, analyzing what his own choices of perceptions mean. The movement in the first paragraph from pure sensual description to nostalgia and sadness creates a slow accumulation of emotion. And the POV character is the one who, without using the word, identifies that emotion-- dread. Something wicked this way comes.
Description should never just be description. It should be there for some purpose. It should somehow advance the plot, or develop the character-- something that deepens our experience not just of the setting but of the story as a whole.
Why not look at some descriptive passage you have in the last scene you wrote, and tell what the purpose is, and how you furthered that purpose with the sensory description?