SNE: The Manuscript Recipe

A few notes on the creative process related to the manuscript for my next book, Super Natural Every Day.

SNE: The Manuscript

I thought I'd take some time to write about Super Natural Every Day. The manuscript and photography are due this summer so why not wipe the spelt flour off my cheek, let the quinoa simmer on its own for a bit, and share a bit about how I'm working toward that not-so-far-off date?

I'll start by telling you about my creative process, which, in a broad sense, starts by collecting things that inspire me. I keep all sorts of scraps, notebooks, photos and random text files around. They live in drawers, on desktops, some are paper, others are digital. Thoughts and inspirations set aside for later, someday, next year. Occasionally, I'll cluster a few of these things together if there is some sort of connection that strikes me as interesting. If I'm really excited about something, that particular cluster might end up in an envelope or folder.


Many of the ideas, images, and thoughts related to this new book lived in a simple paper folder for a time. I'd add a copy of a recipe from one of my notebooks occasionally, or a photo of a place that evoked a certain feeling or sense of place. I might pull the folder down every few months, spread all the notes and elements across a table and think about what I was looking at. What could I add? What should be taken away?


There was a point when I thought it was time to get more serious. If I wanted to turn this into a cookbook what might it look like? Feel like? What would the themes be? How would it be structured? Which recipes? I started answering some of those questions and began to work on an outline.

My outlines usually start by organizing the book into sections, and then breaking those sections down into more detail (and recipes). As the project matures the outline turns into a 4-5 page road map/blueprint for the book. This document changes and evolves constantly based on what I feel is working and what isn't. But having a strong outline in place helps to let me know (at a glance) where I'm at in the overall process and where I'm headed. It's surprisingly easy to get lost.


I color code and mark up one version of my outline based on where I'm at. A plus mark following a recipe name means it is tested and has a head note. Two pluses means a photo is completed. A plus before the name means I've converted the recipe into international weights and measures. Highlighting the recipe name in green? That means it's in good shape and ready for some time in a kitchen other than my own.

Sorry, let me back up a bit. Around the time I've fleshed out an outline, I also set up a binder (see the first image). At this point it's pretty much a dummy book. I fill it with sheet protectors and section dividers. It helps me imagine the actual object I'm working on. It keeps me organized and enables me to actually see any progress I'm making. My outline corresponds with the pages in the binder, page by page. I assign one recipe per sheet protector, the most current version of the recipe is visible. If there is a photo to go with a recipe I have it in the same pocket visible through the back side. It makes it easy to move pages and recipes around, and keep track of versions of recipes (and related notes).


It would be disingenuous for me to tell you this process is all sunshine and flowers. Writing and photographing a book is hard for me. Aside from this (quite public) recipe journal, I'm a relatively private person. The book process takes me out of my comfort zone. Maybe because it's such a monumental effort to make it happen? So many people involved! It's just an entirely different world of expectations, with all hopes tied into a single grand gesture. I think to myself - I want this book to be good, I want it to find the slice of people who will find something special in it, I want it to find a home in welcoming kitchens. I want the recipes to work in your kitchens. And on and on and on. Just know, I spend a certain amount of time talking myself out of the trees.

So I'm here, chipping away at the book one word, one sentence, one head note, one photograph at a time. The binder is bulging, with only a few blank pages left to fill, but I suspect I'll be testing, tweaking, and revising down to the last minute...I know many of you would be amazing testers - I might need to enlist some of you for a bit of help, if you're game (more details on that in a future post)...

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Thanks for a glimpse into your world as cookbook author. Fascinating! I'll add my name to the long list of willing testers!

Susan Stone

Hi Heidi- Love reading your blog! It is very inspiring. I am working on my own family cookbook as well. Thanks for showing us your "process" on how to organize your cookbooks. That is really helpful in us novice writers. I would also LOVE to be involved as a tester or any other help you need.


I may be too late as well, but I have made so many of your recipes over the past few years, I would love to help test if needed. Congrats! Your work is inspiring. Thank you for recognizing your gift and for sharing it with me all the over here in Maine.


I know it's a bit late now, and I am sure you got lots of help from the fans! But in case you were still looking for testers...I would love to help!


Heidi - I know I'm a bit late, but I'm eagerly waiting for your beautiful book to come out. Hope you're enjoying the process, good luck and keep us posted. xx HS: Thanks Keiko! Hope our paths cross soon. -h


Hello there, Thanks for such an enjoyable read. I am also one of those who finds the photos and text of this post fascinating, maybe because getting somewhere is sometimes as interesting as the destination itself. I don't know whether it helps to add one more voice to the fray, especially as you are pretty far along in the process, but it enormously helpful for those of us who live overseas to have weight measurements and Celcius listed as well. I know this is easier said than done!


Hi, I have just come across the blog, and I LOVE the pictures in this post! I love to write, and I have found the pictures to be really inspirational; they excite me for some reason! So thanks for the buzz, will look forward to future posts. x

Zara Mohammed

i love it thanks Heidi


Good day! Have your other gorgeous book. A suggestion for the new one...1) Opinion list of the must have nutritionally dense foods, and recipes for them. 2) Quick Easy top fav 5 go to meals for breakfast lunch dinner. 3) Recipes sorted by seasons of harvest bounty. winter, spring summer fall 4) chapter on meals to prepare night b4 for working moms. thankkks much...would love to test as well. warmest regards, steph


Recipe testing? I am in! I am just a bored culinary student looking for something to do in her spare time!! =D xo K

Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble)

Hi, I only just found this website. I couldn't find my favorite brand of ricotta cheese and googled which brought up your website. I worried that I wouldn't be able to master making my own homemade ricotta, but it was just 2 ingredients and some time. My family is Italian so good ricotta is very important. I will be using it tomorrow for home made lasagne. I wonder what to do with all the whey left over. Any recipes using whey? If the ricotta comes out as good as it looks, I won't be buying any in the store from now on. Thanks so much. Jean


Iam interested in testing


I'm an experienced tester (we corresponded via e-mail a few weeks ago) and am still interested in testing!


Would love to test if you need people!


I can't tell you how much your blog has been inspirational. I cook for young children in a daycare in Montréal and the first thing I do when I get to work is to connect myself to your site. So needless to say that WE would be thrilled to help test your new recipes. I am very excited that you are writing a new cookbook.

Monique Léger

I'd be interested in being a tester. I'm also in Europe.


Wow, thank you so much for posting this. It's just fascinating to imagine putting a cookbook together and what all goes into it. Very interesting and a bit like a peek into a secret world. Thanks for sharing...and oh yeah sign me up for taste testing. I'm in Europe if you need to check your metric versions :)


would love to give input or test!


Very interesting to see into the cookbook creation process, even if it is somewhat different for everyone. It amazes me how much behind the scenes work is required before it goes to print. Definitely a labour of love :)


All your photos look so amazing. I love your page!


I really enjoyed reading this post! I always wondered what cookbook writing REALLY entailed. I'm no pro in the kitchen, but would love to volunteer to test recipes.


I couldn't be happier that you are sharing your journey of another cookbook with us. As an avid reader of your blog and a home cook, I also keep a notebook of favorite recipes, clippings, print outs, pictures, etc. Your process is demonstrative of how it can actually transform into something. Thank you for sharing something so special to you. I cannot wait until the book is on shelves. And if you need a tester....I am most certainly game.


Do you need an intern? I would love to help with your book!

Alice Louise

I hope you will consider publishing a Kindle edition for those of us so addicted to your recipes that we want to carry them around in our pockets on our iPhones. Thanks for inspiring all of us!

Cindy Ann

Thanks for sharing some details and photos of your process - also an intimate act for a private person, more intimate than recipes I'd say. It's inspiring and informative to see how you work, the similarities and differences as I develop my own work process are engaging to think about. I'm looking forward to your coming post to see how you'd like to be supported!


I just wrote my first cookbook and it's a very very tough process. Good job being so darn organized. I still struggle with that - but i guess to get it done you have to choice. -Anupy


I moved to Hong Kong a year ago and really struggled to keep up with healthy living - life here is very fast paced with little time to consider what you put into your body. That said, I have found your site a source of daily inspiration - something I use to keep me on track. I use your recipes for entertaining guests, feeding myself and my partner and just for sheer delicious pleasure! I would be so honoured to help with testing! x


Thank you so much for sharing your process with us! It's inspiring! I'm so excited about your new cookbook. Can't wait. Testing any time! Just say the word.

Michelle's Artistic Corner

I was so surprised to hear your method, I thought I was on my own with piles of inspiration both physical and digital around for that day, month, year when it will come in handy. It was uplifting to hear you share the same deep appreciation and willingness to devote so much thought to your craft. I'm a ready and waiting "guinea pig" for recipe testing.


Inspirational! THank you! Can't wait for it.


Thanks for sharing your process Heidi... Already looking forward to adding another Super Natural cookbook to my collection.


Heidi Ur recipes are great inspirations for my dinners Count me in for testing


Heidi, I'd be honored to be a tester. I adore your book as both a recipe book and a good read.


This sounds like such fun...a lot of work...but still great fun. I can't wait to see the finished product and enjoy all the recipes you share.


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