I have read enough to say:
This book is not wordy. A reviewer was complaining that David Howard used way too many words to make his points. In my opinion, every word counts. Screeenwriting is a tough craft, you don't need to go far to find huge mistakes in movies, in their storytelling. So excuse David Howard! But he is damn right to make some points very very clear!
-The author is the founding director of a screenwriting program. This is a heavy pro in my opinion. There are actually people out there paying big bucks to study screenwriting in fancy name universities. So, you get to learn from the source at a quite less expensive manner.
-There is a commercial approach in this book rather than an artisitic one. The so called "artists" are much more interested in self expression and don't really care about the audience (funnily and paradoxically enough they still can't get over critics and the cold reception for their "work"). In this book, David Howard wants you to write an exciting story, to express yourself BUT, at the same time he keeps telling you about how vital it is to make your story accessible and exciting to the audience. In fact, one of the most important aspect this book treats from cover to cover is that of audience connection, identification and satisfaction.
-The author knows pretty well that screenwriting is about making decision after decision, after decision. His whole book address hundred if not thousands of questions you should consider when writing your story.
-This book touches on some more "secret" or "esoteric" subjects that many books don't. Like the secuencing method used by some of the finest film schools. Also, if you are looking for the single most important aspect in storytelling you need to master to be extremelly successfull. Well, I'm glad to tell you the author writes about it.
-Although this book has been described "as close to an entire writing program" and others have said that the book feels like a textbook, the reallity is that this is far from being a textbook. The information compares to a master class in the sense that it is indeed encyclopedic and thorough. But the way it is presented is far from a live class or a master program.
I would highly suggest the author to read one very impressive how-to book that could immensely improve his book and turn it into a master CLASS. I'm talking about "The Natural Way to Draw" -which has been reviewed as the best how to book written not just in drawing but in any subject.
Basically the approach in that book is a bit opposite to "How to build a screenplay". In that book you actually have to complete countles after countless excercises. David Howard's book is lacking in that: EXCERCISES. Excercises that show the student how and when to work, how and when to build, how to learn to build stories!
He does say you need to find out this or that about protagonist, world, antagonist, etc. But I think he needs to make more emphasis on the creativity aspect of how you actually get to that point of answering and finding more and more and more about the story!
Imagine you go to film school, in your screenwriting class -if you are lucky- you would learn about all the things David Howard teaches. BUT at the end of each class I'm darn shure there must be some specific homeworks to complete. Like, bring for the next class a draft of the protagonist or antagonist. That way, class after class as a student you must deliver specific aspect of the story you intend to write. That's what would take this book a step beyond: giving you the complete approach you would receive in film school. The deadlines, the specific goals to achieve week after week. Not just the theory of how it all works.
The way this book is written it does seem things could turn into a mess without more specific guidelines. Funnily enough I'm not saying this to trash the book, I'm saying it because I actually like it very much and would love to see it evolve. Believe me, if the author makes the improvement I'm talking about, I will be very glad to buy it again, because I would love to have that improved edition.
Overall I think this book is a winner! You can't but learn a great deal about storytelling. One of the things I like most about it is that from time to time, when I'm watching a movie I remember this book. I remember "oh, yes they are doing what I read in my book" oh "the screenwriter is using a technique described in the book by David Howard. That's when you confirm you have a winner in your hands.