Are you a reader? I am. I don't think there are many writers who weren't readers first. I read about a book a week and keep a list from year to year because, let's face it age aside, I never can remember all the books I"ve read except for the ones that really stood out like Gone With The Wind.
An interesting thing happened to me as I was reading John Grisham's Sycamore Row last week. I was reading more for pleasure than anything else but suddenly something got my attention. I think I actually heard a click in my head. It was when Grisham moved his story from one scene to another. There was hazy light filtering through blinds and with the obvious break from one scene to another, my brain decided it was morning and I was expecting the characters to be rising from their bed. But then he hit me with something that made me realize it was afternoon. I can't remember what right now--should have marked it. In my head the picture he had painted with words suddenly shifted. I adjusted but it did something to the continuity of my read.
It reminded me that I need to go back and see if my shifts from one scene to another are such that there is continuity. That my reader can easily place herself there not only in physical surroundings but in time. What sounds, sights, smells will lead her to picture in her mind the scene I'm creating without drawing it specifically in words. My job is not to confuse but to allow my reader to intuit the scene in her head, to create a picture that my words have painted.
How about you? What kind of tools do you use to produce scenes? How do you keep those descriptions from detracting from the story? Does your reading of others' books improve your writing?