Cover image for Draft No. 4 : on the writing process / John McPhee.
Draft No. 4 : on the writing process / John McPhee.
Title Variants:
Draft Number Four
First paperback edition, 2018.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, [2018]

Physical Description:
192 pages ; 21 cm
Progression -- Structure -- Editors & publisher -- Elicitation -- Frame of reference -- Checkpoints -- Draft No. 4 -- Omission.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
808.02 MCP Book Adult General Collection

On Order



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. In a series of playful, expertly wrought essays, John McPhee shares insights he has gathered over his career and has refined while teaching at Princeton University, where he has nurtured some of the most esteemed writers of recent decades. McPhee offers definitive guidance in the decisions regarding arrangement, diction, and tone that shape nonfiction pieces, and he presents extracts from his work, subjecting them to wry scrutiny. In one essay, heconsiders the delicate art of getting sources to tell you what they might not otherwise reveal. In another, he discusses how to use flashback to place a bear encounter in a travel narrative while observing that "readers are not supposed to notice the structure. It is meant to be about as visible as someone's bones." The result is a vivid depiction of the writing process, from reporting to drafting to revising--and revising, and revising.

Draft No. 4 is enriched by multiple diagrams and by personal anecdotes 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. Throughout, Draft No. 4 is enlivened by his keen sense of writing as a way of being in the world.

Author Notes

John McPhee was born in Princeton, New Jersey, and was educated at Princeton University and Cambridge University. His writing career began at Time magazine and led to his long association with The New Yorker , where he has been a staff writer since 1965. Also in 1965, he published his first book, A Sense of Where You Are , and in the years since, he has written over 30 books, including Oranges , Coming into the Country , The Control of Nature , The Founding Fish , Uncommon Carriers , and Silk Parachute . Encounters with the Archdruid and The Curve of Binding Energy were nominated for National Book Awards in the category of science. McPhee received the Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters in 1977. In 1999, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Annals of the Former World. McPhee lives in Princeton, New Jersey.