In 9th grade I almost flunked Home Economics. For our semester exam, we were divided into groups and given a recipe to create without supervision. My group received a recipe for No-Bake Cookies.
Not having a clue has never stopped me from taking charge of a situation and this time was no exception. I appointed myself the leader and ordered everyone to follow my instructions to the letter.
We threw all the necessary ingredients into a large bowl. Then I read the fine print that stated we were supposed to boil it part way through. It was too late to fix so we decided to wing it and attempted to freeze them solid (my idea). Our No-Bake Cookies came out a lumpy mass of sugary chocolate goo.
We (me again) tried to save the day by forcing all of our classmates, using alternate methods of threats and begging, to eat our goo and say it was the best thing they ever tasted.
Our teacher didn’t buy it.
Neither will your readers.
You can have all the right ingredients for a bestseller but if you don’t use them properly…your novel may end up a big lumpy mass of goo. I’m not saying you have to follow a set of instructions to the letter; there is always room for originality. Throw some nuts in if you want, and don’t be afraid to give us a surprise or twisted ending. But plot, pacing, and believable characters remain the foundation of any great book recipe.
Just be careful…this isn’t 9th grade and you can’t threaten to beat up all your readers if they don’t love it.