Recent laboratory evidence shows that compaction creep in porous rocks may develop through stages of acceleration, especially if the material is susceptible to strain localization. This paper provides a mechanical interpretation of compaction creep based on viscoplasticity and nonlinear dynamics. For this purpose, a constitutive operator describing the evolution of compaction creep is defined to evaluate the spontaneous accumulation of pore collapse within an active compaction band. This strategy enables the determination of eigenvalues associated with the stability of the response which is able to differentiate decelerating from accelerating strain. This mathematical formalism was linked to a constitutive law able to simulate compaction localization. Material point simulations were then used to identify the region of the stress space where unstable compaction creep is expected, showing that accelerating strains correspond to pulses of inelastic strain rate. Such pulses were also found in full-field numerical analyses of delayed compaction, revealing that they correspond to stages of inception and propagation of new bands across the volume of the simulated sample. These results illustrate the intimate relation between the spatial patterns of compaction and their temporal dynamics, showing that while homogeneous compaction develops with decaying rates of accumulation, localized compaction occurs through stages of accelerating deformation caused by the loss of strength taking place during the formation of a band. In addition, they provide a predictive modeling framework to simulate and explain the spatio-temporal dynamics of compaction in porous sedimentary formations.