The first half of the books is memoir. If you're a Stephen King fan, it'll be interesting. I think it does a good job of explaining one of the big mysteries of Stephen King's career: why he writes the stuff he does. As far as sheer writing skill, Stephen King is amazing. I think people will be assigned his books to study a century from now. If he chose to write Fantasy, he'd be another Robert Jordan. If he he chose to write straight fiction, he'd be up there with John Irving, nudging Tom Wolfe's chair from just below. But he likes cheesy monsters, dark basements, chills up the spine. But forget all that, when Stephen King is writing about people, he is at his most engrossing and truthful.
The second half, though for me, is the meat of the book. I could go on at length about all the useful stuff in there but I'd practically have to transcribe half the book. Instead, I'll call out one thing that's valuable and one that's misleading, I think.
First the good stuff. One of my real struggles as a writer is knowing what to take out. I'm terrible at cutting my own work. I know no one else can do it, only I know what's important to the plot but I get lost staring at a 174k novel and trying to figure out how to cut out 34k of words I literally sweated out sometimes. King doesn't make it easy but he lit a light. I can see it, it doesn't illuminate everything but it gives me something to work towards. It's all about taking out unnecessary words. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So is his 'magic formula', I think he'd be ok with me sharing it with you here: The magic formula is First Draft - 10% = Second Draft.
Sounds too simple, maybe. And it doesn't tell enough but then it's a magic formula, you have to figure out how the trick works for yourself but King has several great chapters showing how and what he cuts. That's the most valuable thing I learned from this book. Now I just need to find a way to apply it to Angel Odyssey.
That was the sweet, now for the sour. One of the misleading, maybe even destructive pieces of advice is to not outline. He advocates just writing, pure right-brain, id-spewing writing. He doesn't worry about his endings and, I hate to say it, that's a big flaw in his writing. If you've read enough of his books you'll maybe agree with me that Stephen King writes terrible endings. He writes great climaxes but after that...pppffft. Limp. Listen, every writer is different. Let me emphasize that: EVERY WRITER IS DIFFERENT. What works for one won't work for another. That's the agony and art of writing, discovering what works for you. There is a lot of good that comes out of that trance-like writing you get when you're in the zone, when your subconscious comes out, (or your Muse or whatever you want to call it) and the words flow. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, follow that feeling. Don't break it for anything that doesn't involve blood or fire. But for many writers, structure is important. Knowing your ending is important. Outlining your novel can solve a heck of a lot of plot problems and I speak from experience there.
But that's just me. The book is wonderful, it belongs on your bookshelf. In fact, a 10th anniversary edition was just released. Buy it.
Tonight is IM gaming night, so little work will get done but I am fiddling with some ideas for short stories and my next novel. I just need to start outlining.