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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I would also love to be a tester, Heidi... and thank you for including your 'public' - we, your Gentle Readers - in the meticulous and very personal process of transforming a private thought of yours into a tangible creation to share with us. And kudos on using your blog as a checkpoint, to gather your thoughts and evaluate your progress, so that we can also appreciate the care and thought you've put into it. The art of creating is a private heaven and hell, in my opinion, so I was most struck by the sentence "So many people involved!" I find myself wondering how many supporting roles your project has created, and hope that the next time you take a break to update us all, you may shed some light on this!

Primordial Soup

I'd come all the way from Houston to taste!!


Wow, a new cookbook! That's so exciting! I'm upp for testing. Nisrine

Nisrine@Dinners & Dreams

Wow, a new cookbook! That's so exciting! I'm upp for testing. Nisrine

Nisrine@Dinners & Dreams

OK, so I love 101 Cookbooks for the recipes, photos and personality, AND I love the readers who post here because you know how to write complete thoughts, spell correctly, and use punctuation! Hooray for good reading!


I admire your efforts. I have written several technical books (about electronics) in a past life and even owned a publishing company years ago. If you wish for an editor who is brutal about correct use of quotation marks, commas, semi-colons and other such pain-in-the neck fun things, I would be honored to assist. Oh, yes, I am a recent culinary school graduate waiting for my ACF certification to arrive. Send me an e-mail and I will supply contact numbers. Oh, yes, I used to be an attorney (and might be again if a good kitchen job doesn't develop).

Dr. Richard Bash

Thank you so much for sharing your creative process. A good roadmap for the rest of us, and a good lesson in how much work it takes to make it happen. Would love to be a recipe tester when the time comes that you need one.


Heidi: This is fascinating! Your organization is a model for anyone working on a book. I will definitely want a copy. And if you need a test kitchen, include me on your list. All best wishing moving forward. HH

Heidi Haaland

Fascinating! I love Super Natural Cooking, so I'm looking forward to your next book and it's so interesting to read about the process. x


Heidi, thank you for sharing your writing and thought processes. It was not only a generous gesture, but your missive captures the bountiful heart of a woman who prepares and plays with food in the same spirit. I always look forward to reading your blog and continually find inspiration for yet another good meal.

Eddie Leonard

Thanks for sharing, Heidi! I can't wait for your new book to come out. As an aspiring writer, I definitely appreciate you sharing your creative process and find your ideas so inspiring! And of course I'm always down for testing new recipes :)


Heidi...thank you for sharing this with us. I as a non=writer but avid reader appreciate the effort that goes into this or any writing project. Best of luck for the upcoming book.


Testing? I'm all for it - anything that's gluten-free of course. I wouldn't mind converting to GF too if you wish. I'm excited about your new book. I love SNC already, and your blog is always great. Your organization system seems daunting to me! I suppose we all have our ways - if I tried to explain my processes, I bet I'd lose a few people myself!


So excited to hear about upcoming new book! I bought both Cook 1.0 and Super Natural Cooking after discovering your blog. I am very much a novice cook but you have inspired me to venture outside of my comfort zone, learn about new ingredients and eat healthier! I had never cooked brussel sprouts before (bad associations from childhood) and now your caramelized tofu and brussel sprouts dish is one of my favorite staples. Your steelcut oatmeal entry in SNC has entirely changed my breakfast routine (and drastically reduced my Starbucks visits). I would have never thought of making oats for the week and all the variations. I love the idea of the "everyday" focus of your new book as the biggest obstacle for most of us is the misconception that cooking for yourself is going to be time-consuming and complicated. Thank you so much for sharing your recipes with us and I would love to help!


Thanks Heidi for letting us in on your process. As you know, I'm always up for testing! Be well.

jamie G. Dougherty

As an American living in the UK, I'd be happy to test any thing for you that has international weights and measures. They are VERY different from imperial as I'm sure you know - and a few grams either way can make a big difference to the outcome of a recipe. The ingredients can differ, too. For example "all purpose flour" (US) isn't really interchangeable with "plain flour" (UK); I always add a bit of extra strong bread flour to my plain flour to make it perform like all-purpose. Anyway, I'm here across the pond and will gladly help out.

Lisa R

i am very excited to hear about the progress. and if you are interested in a European tester (metric or cups, i can do both!), let me know! i have enjoyed many of your online recipes, as well as the ones in SNC. bought it in the States 2 years ago :D


Thanks for sharing your creative process with us. I make photographs and paint and build art pieces from the two processes. Your way of creating make me feel right at home with the book even before it's complete. I also cook as natural as I can afford, avoiding dairy and wheat as often as anticipating your brilliant and beautiful work of art anytime the birthing process is complete. Yvonne Charneskey


I have your 1st cookbook and rely on it and your blog for ideas! I would love to be a tester!


Would love to test, can't wait for the book!


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