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The long-awaited guide to writing long-form nonfiction by the legendary author and teacher.
Draft No. 4 is a master class on the writer’s craft. John McPhee shares insights he has gathered over his long career, and has refined while teaching at Princeton University, where he has nurtured some of the most highly regarded writers of our time. He discusses structure, diction and tone, observing that ‘readers are not supposed to notice the structure. It is meant to be about as visible as someone’s bones’. This book is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from reporting to drafting to revising—and revising and revising.
Draft No. 4 is enriched by personal reflections on the life of a writer. McPhee recalls his early years at Time magazine, and describes his enduring relationships with the New Yorker and with his publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Everything in this luminous book is enlivened by his keen sense of writing as a way of being in the world.
‘Draft No. 4 belongs on the short shelf of essential books about the craft.’
‘Matchless teaching from a master of the form—seductive, trustworthy and endearingly modest.’
‘A master class in writing … Almost every sentence sparkles … A superb book.’
‘Eight crisply instructive and drolly self-deprecating essays [are] gathered here in this exceptionally entertaining and illuminating book … [Draft No. 4] is expert, charming, and invigorating.’
‘McPhee has set the standard for the genre of creative nonfiction … With humor and aplomb, he recalls anecdotes about how he approached a story: from interviewing and reporting to drafting and revising, to working with editors and publishers … A well-wrought road map to navigating the twists and turns, thrills and pitfalls, and joys and sorrows of the writer’s journey.’
‘[Draft No. 4 is] not a general how-to-do-it manual but a personal how-I-did-it of richer depth—not bouillon cubes, but rich stock … McPhee lays it all out with the wit of one who believes that ‘writing has to be fun at least once in a pale blue moon.’
‘A marvellous new book…A fascinating book for anyone interested in writing.’
‘Anyone aspiring to make a living from writing long-form journalism or literary non-fiction should read this book, absorb its lessons on the art of crafting clear and compelling prose, and then accept that the professional world McPhee was lucky enough to inhabit is now gone.’