Cooking, Writing, Scribbling–It’s all good

Hi, SEers! Mae here to talk about cooking and writing. At first glance these two things may seem to have little in common, but after applying some thought, I began to recognize a pattern. The again, it may have nothing to do with the practice itself, and everything thing to do with the cook/author.

I’m not a great cook. I get by and have a few dishes that I prepare very well. I am also a sloppy cook. When I’m working in the kitchen, it’s a fallout zone of cutting boards, pots, pans, measuring cups, and food items. Alexa is usually streaming my favorite music in the background and my cat and husband steer clear. I measure “close enough” and am not above improvising if I don’t have a certain ingredient or think the recipe would be better without. This is why I will never be a good baker. Baking is a science, but cooking allows room for experimentation.

Now, let’s hop over to writing. I’ve recently made a vow to become better at plotting my novels. Even with that, I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my beloved Scribble Book. My normal practice of writing is to make story notes on my computer and write research notes longhand in a spiral bound tablet. Someday, I may learn to do all of that in Scrivener, but until then, my patchwork pot-and-pan system works for me.

My Scribble Book is a fallout zone and catch-all for anything that didn’t make it onto the computer or into the tablet. It keeps me up to date with developing plots and character references in my story. Things get cut, other ingredients get tossed in. I track timelines, days of the week, chapter starts and even directions.

Yes, I get sloppy. Things get crossed out, switched around and deleted altogether, but my Scribble Book helps me corral stray thoughts and ensures I end with a concise story. As with cooking, it’s not how you get there, but the result that counts.

Do you scribble when you write, or do you have something else that helps you sort minor details? Do you track timelines and chapter start/stops? We all work a little differently but it’s fun to share. I’m on vacation this week but my SE co-authors are stepping in to reply to comments.  We’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Ready, set, go!

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92 thoughts on “Cooking, Writing, Scribbling–It’s all good

  1. Pingback: Back in the Groove and the Week in Review – Joan Hall

  2. Well, not just shoppers and empaths Mae, but it seems we have similar cooking habits, we both suck at baking and my notebooks work similar to yours with lots of chicken scratch. arrows and crossouts. Nice to know we are not alone. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just wanted to send out a huge thanks to my wonderful SE co-bloggers who stepped up and fielded comments while I was away on vacation. You’re the best! 🙂

    I’m back now, and trying to catch-up, though it will likely take a while. Thanks also, to everyone who dropped by to comment on this post. I loved hearing all the different ways everyone works as authors. Whether you make a mess or are neat and organized, the best system is the one that works for you.


  4. Pingback: Author Inspiration and Two Weeks of Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  5. Great comparison between cooking and writing. Sounds like we may be very similar in the kitchen. I make my mark when I cook…lol I’m a huge notetaker, I’m working my way up to getting it in the same place or a notebook!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I have yet to dive into the world of Scrivener even though I hear wonderful things about it. I love your notes, Mae. And while they may look like gibberish to anyone else, you know exactly what they mean. I too am an improviser when it comes to cooking. I hardly ever measure anything. Writing is much the same, except that I always know where I’m headed. The recipe for getting there may change a few times along the way, but I always arrive. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jan, I love Scrivener. I’ve used it a few years now and although there is a learning curve, I can’t see myself not using it. As far as cooking, “when” I cook, I rarely measure things. With writing, I have a general idea where I’m headed, but I let the story take on a life of its own.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about that gibberish. I can actually make sense of it, LOL.
      I like the way you look at writing (and cooking), Jan 🙂
      Reaching the final result is what it’s about, even if there are multiple detours along the way!


  7. I’m a huge OneNote fan. I have folders for each book and then files inside there for research, background info, excerpts, blurbs, and timelines. It works especially well for series books.
    As for cooking, I owned a restaurant so I learned to clean as I made my messes, lol.
    Hope you’re enjoying your vacation, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I jot notes down on pad of paper, Mae. I am a bit untidy about it but I can usually find them when I want them. I have discovered that for a longer book I do a basic outline of the story. As I write new ideas come and it veers off a bit but I seem to be sticking to my basic outline.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve tried a lot of things, but most of my mess is electronic these days. My notes app, leads to a storyboard app, leads to a cast of characters, and ultimately a manuscript. Keeps my work area tidy, but for a cup of coffee and my phone. (And any bulldog help I might need.)

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Great blog idea. Nuts! Why didn’t I think of this? 🙂

    I am organized on a sick level. I am pointing to the heavens and blaming Grandma. We’re going to have a long talk, Grandma!!!

    As with my writing everything has to be in order. Things have to be laid out properly. No messes to be seen. Pens in order. Spatulas, pots and pans in their proper place. Yes, it’s a sick adventure. I wish I could be you. It looks like a lot more fun.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Sounds like you cook like I do, Mae! I figure, if I don’t make a mess, I’m not doing it right 🙂 I use a couple different methods when plotting-ish (more plot than pants, but sometimes pantsing works). I’ve learned writing notes (brief scene notes) in a notebook is useful in working through plotlines, and I like to do a sort-of timeline as well by hand. I use a mockup of Karen Wiesner’s “First Draft in 30 Days” workbook I cobbled together in OneNote, which helps when I create characters and collect research. But as Harmony said, whatever works! I’m finding that what used to work well for me isn’t necessarily what works now. I think we try things out and refine them as we go. Hope you have a great vaca!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I have Karen Wiesner’s book, too, Julie. Some of her ideas were really helpful to me. Others, not as much. (Some of her elements have too many days assigned to them, IMHO.) I do think our methods will change as we evolve as writers. We get better and can skip steps or refine things. To echo you and Harmony: whatever works.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I’ve changed over time too. Most of my mess is electronic, so my work area looks pretty fair. There is an app for my storyboard, a page for my cast of characters with a bit of description, and my manuscript. On occasion there is a scene where a lot has to happen, so I’ll make some notes on actual paper for that day of writing.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I do agree we tend to refine as we go, Julie. I think I’m to the point now where I actually have a system, although it may be a chaotic system. The scribble tablet I keep by my desk has been a Godsend in tracking timelines and odd little quibbles I toss in as I write. Important references that will be reoccurring (i.e. the color and make of a car someone drives, the name of a street or cafe, etc), go in the notebook or folder I have for each book. It would probably make better sense to keep it altogether, but well….I haven’t mastered that skill set yet, LOL.

      I’m not familiar with Karen Wiesner’s book, but I may have to look that one up. It could defiantly prove helpful in moving ahead. I like anything with worksheets. 🙂

      And thanks–vacation was great!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you make that correlation about neatness when cooking. I clean as I cook so there isn’t a lot to do after a meal. And I edit as I write, so there isn’t a lot to do when I complete my draft. Interesting.

      Love what you said about begging for reviews.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Better add that to your shopping list. It depends on my story. When I worked with a timeline on Will O’ the Wisp, I did a lot of back and forth to make sure specific thing happened on the right day of the week. I’d do research, like on Patty’s bus ride where everyone was talking about the World Series. Then a couple of days later, I’d have to search back to find out it would now be wednesday for the week I was writing. Things like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • With Legends of Windemere, I began making detail notes between books. This helped me carry over location, character, and monster descriptions of those that appeared more than once. My goal was always to maintain tight continuity, which gets harder with every volume of a long series.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha! I love the comparison between asking how the food was and begging for reviews. It’s far easier to get a response from the first one though!
      It sounds like you have writing well in hand, Charles!


  12. I enjoy the feel of writing it out, so I use a journal. I use a page per character to flush out everything I know about my character, and then I add to it as I discover more about him/her. This is especially helpful when I’m writing a series. I then create a timeline of important events to make sure I keep on track as I’m adding in my plot and subplots. I sometimes will draw out a location if I know I’ll be describing it (though, my art skills are worse than my cooking skils…lol!) And then I roughly create my chapters through dialogue. My characters’ dialogue has always driven me, and so far, it’s worked for me, so I go with it. Lol! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

      • Me, too, Staci. Although my scribble book is just to keep track of things as I write. Timelines especially, and then minor details that might crop up again later (i.e, the Arch Street Cafe is on the east end of town, Dante’s SUV is black, etc.). May actual plotting (loose as it is) and notes go in a separate notebook, with a folder in Word, too. See? Scattered all over the place, LOL!


  13. I don’t have a set method. I’ve scribbled notes on my phone, in Scrivener, brainstormed on paper and in a Word document. Read a blog post a few months ago from an author that keeps a notebook for each of his novels. He jots ideas, brainstorms, etc. by longhand. Says it helps him get over “writer’s block.” Thought I’d give it a try when I start my next one. I too have vowed to do more of an outline next time!

    Liked by 7 people

      • Wow! Julie, thank you so much for remembering! You’re right–that is exactly what I do, and it’s worked out really well for me. It’s how I was able to produce so many blog posts for Cusp of Night when it released.

        In my reply to Joan I also mentioned that I break my notebooks down into a system—the front of each page is for research (odd numbers 1, 3, 5, etc) and the back of each page is for story development and character notes (2,4,6 etc). Whatever works, Right?

        Thanks so much again for remembering. I’m honored!


    • I think Charles is a great keeper of notebooks. I don’t have any hard rules, but settled into what seems to work for me. Notes on my phone, then a storyboard, when I feel the storyboard is ready I open a manuscript and cast of characters and start writing.

      Liked by 2 people

    • That’s exactly what I do. A notebook for each novel. There’s also something about writing all those notes and research out longhand that helps them lodge in my head better.

      I also break my notebooks down into a system—the front of each page is for research (odd numbers 1, 3, 5, etc) and the back of each page is for story development and character notes (2,4,6 etc).


  14. I’m like you in that I improvise, Mae. However, I’m a tad neater, lmao! I use the card index to the right of each page to make character and chapter notes that I can see at a glance while writing. Sometimes, that means having to go back to another chapter to see that note, lol. So, a work in progress … if you’ll pardon the pun! Happy cooking, scribbling, writing, and vacationing, Mae! 🙂

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