There are two choices with a slow scene: delete it or increase the tension to make the scene stronger.
Let’s say that you have a painfully slow scene in your novel:
I took out a knife, bread, peanut butter, and strawberry jam. I unscrewed the cap on the peanut butter, scooped a glob onto the bread, and spread it with the knife. I cleaned the knife using the other piece of bread, then scooped out some jam and spread it on the other side. The red jam glooped out the sides when I put the pieces of bread together, but I didn’t really care.
How boring is that? Pretty much everyone has made a sandwich before. Unless it’s vitally important that the character makes a sandwich, I’d normally recommend cutting this section. I’ve read entire scenes where characters cook a meal or go through some other everyday routine. Most of the time, it simply bores the reader.
But wait: there are two choices with a slow scene, right? Delete it, or increase the tension. Deleting is easy. Increasing the tension requires more skill.
There’s a trick to increase tension in a routine: make the story about something other than the routine. Consider this instead:
Peanut butter and jelly, I thought. That will get my mind off her. Off them.
I took out a knife, bread, peanut butter, and strawberry jam.
As I unscrewed the cap on the peanut butter, I thought about how Sarah had screwed me over. How could my best friend betray me?
Imagining I was clawing out Sarah’s eyes, I stabbed the knife into the peanut butter. I carved a glob onto the bread. And Jake. How could he have kissed her? He was my boyfriend. Why would Sarah try to take him from me?
I sighed, wiped my eyes, and cleaned the knife using the other piece of bread. Get ahold of yourself, Alice. You’re not going to think about them anymore. It’s over.
The lid stuck on the jar of strawberry jam. I thought about how I’d come around the corner after school to catch Jake pressing Sarah against the side of the building. Their lips locked together like this stupid lid stuck on the jar.
I ran the lid under some hot water and finally popped it off. I scooped out the jam and spread it on the other piece of bread. The red jam glooped out the sides when I put the pieces of bread together, but I didn’t really care. It’s just the remnants of my heart seeping onto the floor.
In this case, the scene isn’t really about a girl making a sandwich. It’s about Alice’s recent heartbreak and the betrayal of her boyfriend and best friend. The routine amplifies the intensity and feeds into her thought process. You can do the same thing in your stories.