I hang out at the eHarlequin Submission Care forum a lot, even though I've been published for five years now. I spent a lot of time there before I sold, talking to people who were in the same boat I was, and I like to post there still, sharing what I've learned since selling and encouraging writers who've hit a rough patch.
But there's something I always say when someone gets discouraged and starts talking about quitting altogether.
I say, "If you can quit, do it."
Sounds like the very opposite of encouragement, doesn't it? But I consider it a pep talk.
If you can quit, then you're not a writer anyway, and you might as well just stop and go find what you love to do and give it your passion and your attention. Writing is a hard business. It can be a cruel business. If you're trying to do it and you're just not meant to do it, then it can be a crushing business.
It takes passion, determination, guts, confidence and discipline to be a successful writer. It takes a tough hide, a tender heart and an open mind, which can be hard to cultivate simultaneously. Some people just aren't cut out for it, and to continue beating your head against a wall that you're never going to knock down—that you were never meant to knock down—is a waste of time, talent and passion.
So if you can really put down the pen, cover the typewriter or shut off the computer, for goodness sake, do it! You're not meant to be a writer, and you're wasting time that you should be devoting to the things you are meant to do. Go find your passion and live a rich, fulfilled life.
But if you can't walk away, then realize you're in this for the long haul, and if you're having trouble breaking through, it's time to get serious about what you're doing wrong. It's time to catalog what you're doing right. It's time to examine your motives for writing—maybe your writing efforts are focused in the wrong direction. It's time to examine your attitudes toward criticism—are you taking other people's suggestions to heart? Are you taking them too much to heart? Have you found your voice?
I think every writer, even a successful published one, needs to stop once in a while and take stock of what you're doing. Sometimes you can get in a writing rut even when you're selling. Maybe you should try something new, just so you don't get hidebound. Or maybe you should push yourself to increase your output so that you can get your name out there more.
If you're an unpublished writer who's been trying to break in to the same line or publishing company for a long time, without success, examine your options. Maybe your voice is all wrong for the line you're targeting. Maybe you should consider trying a different line, even if it takes you a little out of your comfort zone.
For me, I was targeting Silhouette Intimate Moments (the line which will be known as Harlequin Romantic Suspense a little later this year). I spent several years trying to break in there, with no success. Even the book I finally sold, Forbidden Territory, was written with Silhouette Intimate Moments in mind. Fortunately, I lucked into an Intrigue editor who recognized that I had an Intrigue voice. In her first revision letter to me after she purchased my book, she showed me what it took to write for Intrigue, and in the process of fulfilling those expectations, I realized that I could write Intrigues, which I'd avoided out of fear that I couldn't come up with the complex plots the line requires.
So, if you can quit writing, do it. But if you can't, then shake things up a little and see if you can find a new way to approach your desire for publication.