What Ingredients Should Go Into Your Novel?

I once made the above pie chart after seeing a humorous pie chart on Haruki Murakami's novels.  And to be sure, many the above ingredients are clear and present in many of my books. So there is some truth there.  In the end, the "brand" of your writing appeals or doesn't appeal to a reader because of the ingredients in the cake you're baking.

Some people like very sweet cakes (German Chocolate is one of my favorite). They expect the coconut, the pecans, the frosting, the simple chocolate cake layers.  Leave out an ingredient and the eater is disappointed, just as a reader who likes a certain genre is disappointed if some trademark elements are left out of the story.

One reason I bring up this subject is because I'm starting to work on a new novel.  Some of the ingredients include:  sleep, slumber parties, Japanese fables about dream monsters, the purpose of insomnia.  Well one of my favorite writers is about to release a speculative novel which has some overlapping ingredients.  My sense is that our essential books will have very different focuses.  Her book seems to once again to be a nod toward a dystopian future.  My book feels more like a modern, magic realist fable.  But before I go too far in my novel, I want to read the new book by one of my favorite authors -- to make sure I'm not covering similar territory.

QUESTION TO FELLOW AUTHORS:  Have you ever found yourself in this predicament -- where you find the book you are developing is similar to either a book coming out, or a book already published?  If so, how do you handle the dilemma?


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