When Pokemon first came out, I thought it had to be the lamest thing on the planet. The sort of thing only annoying little brothers could like. Weird little cute anime monster trading cards? I could draw my own and sell them for five dollars a pack, right?
That was before I'd learned anything about writing for kids. That was before I learned the power of a cool concept.
You all know the Pokemon premise. There are little monsters you can catch, identify, carry around with you, and train to fight each other. What kid wouldn't love to do that? It's a game that combines fantasy pets, combat, competitive ranking, and taxonomy. Don't tell me kids don't adore taxonomy. When was the last time you talked to a third grade dinosaur expert?
With a core idea like that, who needs a plotline? And apparently, twenty years later, Pokemon is still alive and well. At least my kids think so.
Cool concepts like these are what gives a story life beyond the page. It's that yummy nugget of fun that makes you want to play the game. At the center of Harry Potter is the idea that there's wizards hiding among us, they have a school where you learn magic, and any kid could get a letter of acceptance. I guess Percy Jackson is the same thing, but switch "demigod" for "wizard." Adults like cool concepts too. I'd still like to have my own light saber. Dang useful thing that would be.
So does your story have a cool concept in it? I bet it does, or you wouldn't be writing it. It might be part of the setting, it might be a character, it might be an amazing plot twist. What is it? Make sure you find it, and then dangle it right in front of the reader's nose. Use it to sell your book to an agent, a publisher, the entire world!
Make us all say, "Why didn't I think of that?"