Draft No. 4

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by John McPhee

The long-awaited guide to writing long-form nonfiction by the legendary author and teacher.

Draft No. 4 is an elucidation of the writer's craft by a master practitioner. In a series of playful but expertly wrought essays, John McPhee shares insights he's gathered over his career and refined during his long-running course at Princeton University, where he has launched some of the most esteemed writers of several generations. McPhee offers a definitive guide to the crucial decisions regarding structure, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces, and presents extracts from some of his best-loved work, subjecting them to wry scrutiny. The result is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from reporting to drafting to revising and revising, and revising.

More than a compendium of advice, Draft No. 4 is enriched by personal detail and charming reflections on the life of a writer. McPhee describes his enduring relationships with The New Yorker and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and recalls his early years at Time magazine. Enlivened by his keen sense of writing as a way of being in the world, Draft No. 4 is the long-awaited master class given by America's most renowned writing instructor.

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No one will ever write in just the way that you do, or in just the way that anyone else does. Because of this fact, there is no real competition between writers. What appears to be competition is actually nothing more than jealousy and gossip. Writing is a matter strictly of developing oneself. You compete only with yourself. You develop yourself by writing.

— John McPhee, Draft No. 4