I suspect it's voice, but I honestly don't know. The reason I suspect voice is because during the window everyone on #PitchWars was raving about voiceVOICEvoice and how that was the one thing that caught their attention. Everything else, they reasoned, was fixable.
But if you didn't have voice...
Now the feed is full of congrats for the lucky mentees and half-glass-full reassurances for the 99% of the rest of that PitchWars isn't the end.
Of course it's not the end. The wise not-mentees will go on to QueryKombat and PitchSlam and the good old-fashioned query train. Anything to achieve their goals of publication. Also, there were many interesting people and resources and CPs and FB groups and lots of stuff. Plenty to be learned from PitchWars.
But the biggest thing I learned is that I can't hook. Could be the query letter (which I desperately rewrote thanks to feedback 12 hours before the submission window), but most likely is the voice in Chapter 1. I don't base this off of this one contest, but off the dozens and dozens of agents I pitched prior without a single request and this one contest. PitchWars simply confirmed for me that there's something wrong with my hook.
This is more important that one realises. The success of a book at every level depends on the hook. At first the hook is to catch an agent. The agent uses the hook to catch an editor. The editor catches the acquisition board's attention and marketing uses the hook to catch the readers. Readers gush about this one great book because the hook caught them and they had a great time.
Even if I was to go the indie route, I still need that vital hook, more than ever. If I can't hook potential readers, I'm not going to get any sales, never mind reviews.
Essentially, I can't go on until I figure out how to make this hook work.
How does one fix voice? Everyone's advice has been, "Write another book." Okay, great, if you're an apprentice who's just finished their first novel. But what about the journeyman working on their twenty-first?
I wish I could figure out what it was about my voice that sucks.