Draft No. 4 : On the Writing Process
by John McPhee
Editor: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc
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The long-awaited guide to long-form non-fiction writing by the legendary author and professor of Project No. 4 is a master class on the writer’s craft.In a series of playful, skillfully crafted essays, John McPhee shares ideas he collected during his career and refined while teaching at Princeton University, where he produced some of the most important writers of recent decades.McPhee offers definitive guidance in decisions regarding arrangement, diction, and tone as the form of non-fiction in pieces, and he presents excerpts of his work, subjecting them to the deflection of examination.In an essay, he considers the delicate art of getting the sources to tell you what they might not otherwise reveal.In another, he explains how to use flashback instead of a bear in a travel story, while observing that “readers are not supposed to notice the structure’s opinionIt’s intended to be about as visible as someone’s bone.”The result is a very precise description of the drafting, from the statement to the drafting for revision–and revision, and revision.Project No. 4 is enriched by multiple diagrams and personal anecdotes and charming reflections on the life of a writer.McPhee describes his enduring relationship with Le New Yorker and Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and recalls his early years at Time magazine.Overall, Project No. 4 is animated by its acute sense of writing as a way of being in the world.
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