I've been thinking lately about detail. How much of it to put into a story, at what point does it bog things down, does a sparse story work? A lot of the writing instruction books I've read most recently enjoin the reader to write clean. That doesn't mean to leave out details, though. It just means to convey those details in sentences that don't have extraneous appendages.
As an example, as part of my day job, I see a lot of the free books that are released for the kindle. Most of the recent ones are self-published (and self-edited, it seems). I have seen some horrendous sentences that wander all over the place and don't so much end, as escape. And this is on the first page of a book that I KNOW someone has sweated blood to write.
In contrast, in A Dance with Dragons, George Martin will spend several paragraphs describing setting or character details. The first example jars, the second example pulls you into the world. (Though some people are pulled out of the story by paragraphs of description, just to play devil's advocate)
One editor and Clarion West grad I talked to in April told me how much she loves specific details. Specific is good. I'm a fan of it. Our characters should drink Coors, not just 'a beer', they should carry a Glock, not 'a pistol', they should drive a Honda Accord not just 'a car'. But do we need to know the color of the car? The weight of the gun? The smell of the beer? Sometimes, but I think you can get away with not filling in those details when you're writing something with a contemporary setting.
I think for sci-fi and fantasy especially, we need lots of descriptions. We need to see the world, especially when it is so different from our own. Another writer in my critique group does this particularly well. Her details really bring the world to life and when the details stop appearing, you feel their lack.
The same is true in my own work. Lately, I've been writing fast and lean or trying to at least. But I want to try the opposite as a writing exercise. I'm going to work on a fantasy short story with the details intact. Hopefully it won't slow the story down but that is what other readers are for, to tell me if I'm on the right track. The devil, after all, is in the details.