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)...

101 Cookbooks Membership

Premium Ad-Free membership includes:
-Ad-free content
-Print-friendly recipes
-Spice / Herb / Flower / Zest recipe collection PDF
-Weeknight Express recipe collection PDF
-Surprise bonuses throughout the year

spice herb flower zest
weeknight express

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.


I love your last book and can't wait for this out to come out! I would love to be a tester as well... :)


Can I tell you, Heidi, how much I enjoyed this peek into what is surely such a private process? Thank you for taking the time to put this out there. I'm honored.


Heidi, I love that your world involves print, and paper, and lists, and all those little black notebooks filled with words and images and ideas, not so unlike my own (nice to have a friend in this) madness at work. It puts it all into perspective, for sure-as books don't just appear and producing them purely in a computer, is often far from what actually happens. What I admire about your first book is that it is so tactile, so inspired by what you do and not what you "should" do in publisher speak. it's not an easy world to navigate, and you are doing it so well. Thanks for sharing–Brava!

Romney Steele

I have been so excited since you first told us that you are making another cookbook! I have your first, and I feel so connected to it when I make a recipe from it because of all of the heart and advice you put in it in your words. Thanks! I can't wait to start bending the spine and bookmarking pages in the next one! Is there any way you might be adding an everyday, whole wheat bread recipe?? Good luck! You are such a wonderful inspiration!


Just found your first cookbook in Boulder while traveling and was delighted. Have had it on my list ever since I discovered your blog...worked behind the scenes on COOKING WITH SHELBURNE FARMS. Would love to test recipes for your new book!!--Hilary


Thanks for the insight into your process. What an enormous amount of work a book is - and so gratifying as you tick off the steps.

Cookin' Canuck

I think we would all love to test for you!!! I am very interested in hearing about your cookbook process... but at the same time I am also sad to wait the 5 days for a new post and see that it is not a recipe :( So maybe there is a way you could incorporate the two? Or just post more often!!! Please!!!


What I love best about your process is that it's so paper based. I've tried to convert the whole recipe/testing/tracking method to 100% digital and it just doesn't convert. I love having the messy paper right there on the counter! As a long time vegan, your site has been such a lifesaver. When I host dinner parties, I always end up directing people to 101cookbooks! Should you need a tester throughout this process, just email. I'm ready to go!


I really enjoyed a peek into your creative and organizational process, Heidi! Thank you for sharing it with us. All the best as you continue to work on this-I know how daunting huge projects can seem. I would be very honored to help you test recipes, and I know my fiance would be as thrilled as I am. Your recipes are in constant rotation in this little house and we would love to provide feedback for you!

Sarah (Braise and Butter)

Thanks for this glimpse into process. So many cookbooks hit the shelves without due testing and revision, so I heave a strange sigh of relief when I see so much thought and care. Though I'm sure you have a group of reliable stand-bys lined up for testing, there's a little Canadian kitchen that would treat your recipes well and provide honest, thorough feedback.


Very insightful into the process. Thanks!

Tonya @ What's On My Plate

I'd love to test a recipe too. Especially since I'll be moving to Europe in a few months, and I am particularly interested in how things here turn out there.


I too would like to thank you for sharing this process. One day I hope to be a cookbook author, I just enrolled in culinary school so it will be awhile, but it is inspirational to see all of the thought and hard work you are putting into this project. My kitchen is anticipating this book, and I would definitely love to help with recipe testing!


Thank you so much for sharing about your process! It sounds so simple, logical, and creative -- but I am sure there is so much more behind that happens to make it work and bring it all together. It is so interesting to learn about the process that you follow! And of course I would love to help test recipes! I hope everything continues to go well with the process!


:) congrats on the hard work and good luck in the finishing. I have started several books and...well...somewhere they don't get done, between the effort that it takes and the other bits of life and the fear of putting myself out there. That being said, someday they will. I get closer all the time. Hearing your organizational pattern is inspiring and helpful to that! And, if you need something tested...I've been reading your site for about two years now, using it as inspiration for my own increasingly adventurous cooking, for information on ingredients, and (Occasionally) for a recipe which I never actually have followed straight through, and yet there has never been one that came out let me know if I can take an opportunity to do something the *right* way to help you out.


Thanks for sharing your process with us! Sounds fascinating! I can't wait to see your new book-- your other one is such a gem.


Absolutely can't wait for the book, Heidi! So happy to hear that it's going so well and is so far along. We are always here, if you need help being talked down from the trees, or help testing, or anything else! Look forward to hearing more!


Definitely up for testing!


I would certainly be willing to test for you. This is going to be one amazing cookbook.


I'm always game Heidi. I love your recipes, your photographs and your stories. Bring them on! I can't wait for the next book... Michaela

Michaela @ The Gardener's Eden

Comments are closed.

Apologies, comments are closed.

More Recipes

101cookbooks social icon
Join my newsletter!
Weekly recipes and inspirations.

Popular Ingredients

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of its User Agreement and Privacy Policy.

101 Cookbooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Any clickable link to on the site is an affiliate link.