There is a moment, sometimes a recurring moment, in every unpublished author's life when it's time to stop revising and querying a project, put in on the shelf and start over. It's a heavy moment but also a freeing one.
My daughter and I often work on small picture books and write stories together in Google Docs. Sometimes we'll take turns, she writes three sentences, then I write three sentences. She's only eight and her writing and drawing skills are astounding and so fun to watch. I legit tell her we should query some of her picture books. She will probably get published before I do. I would not be surprised at all.
While we were working on a book about a boy and who meets a magical wolf, I got a kick out of some of the scenes. She moved on to another project but I enjoyed this one enough to play with it a while longer. Purely as a writing exercise I moved it over from Google Docs into Scrivener and wrote a few chapters. That's when I had the moment. I wanted to see where this goes. It was time to drop the current project and make this the new one.
I have been revising and querying what is now called The Opening Move for about a year now. I think, generally, there are two reasons why it hasn't been picked up. Three.
First, the beginning. It's ambitious, content-wise and literary-wise. Half of it is written in second-person future-tense, which I haven't seen anyone do ever, and it switches to second-person present-tense, using the switch as part of the story device. It's easy to follow, but probably a bit much for a debut author.
Content-wise, the reader gets hit with steady stream of concepts, starting with an MC who repeatedly leaps forward in time, has the ability to slow time, and the ability to temporarily leave her body and essentially become the wind. But all of this is only possible in the dream realm - which matters because this character's dreams actually happen in real life at some point. All her power to affect her dreams is later referred to as chronological-manipulation.
A lot for one chapter.
The second problem, as far as I can tell from feedback, is agent's aren't seeing exactly which shelf this book belongs on: middle grade, due to the sixth grade MC mentioned above, or YA, due to the teenage protagonists that get introduced later on. More than one agent has said something to the effect of, "This sounds interesting but with the age of the characters it sounds more MG [or switch with YA], and I do not rep MG [or switch with YA]." I understand. There are strict rules on where a book would placed in a bookstore and the whole industry conforms to these pigeon holes. After all the time I've spent working on this and querying, I have concluded it should be middle grade. The closest comparison I can think of is Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Similar structure of changing POV's with some being middle grade characters and some being older teen characters. The content/language isn't edgy such that it would be inappropriate for middle school kids.
The last problem is simple: the factors that, IMO, would make this book a success are not easily captured in a query summary. Books and movies that have really stood out in my mind are the ones that surprised me, impressed me, and made me think about something. Intangibles. I could say in a query letter that those intangibles are what make this book special. That this book has surprises and twists I can't wait for readers to get hit by. That this book delves into ideas, insights and perspectives that will give readers plenty to think about and discuss. That this book is loaded wry humor and laughs. But anyone could say that. No agent would believe it. All I can pitch is the premise.
So, to the shelf to goes, added to my unpublished backlist. And now begins a new page, a new project: currently untitled, The Boy and the Magical Wolf. I am getting to know new characters in a new world. I'm looking at this as a relaxing writing exercise, but might as well follow the rules a bit in case I do want to pitch it later. I'm thinking short project, maybe 30-40K words, strictly MG, no layers, pushing boundaries, multiple POV's or deep plot. I'm just going to have some simple fun before I dive into the next big thing, whatever it turns out to be :)