First, let's be clear about the title of this post. By no means am I saying anyone should ever tell anyone else, "Quit writing. You suck. You're wasting your time." Sure, only a small number of us will ever have financial success as novelists. But even if we could know with certainty that someone will not be among that number, there are other reasons and rewards for writing, for persevering.
So here's what I am saying.
I frequently see writers pondering whether to set one manuscript aside and focus on another, usually because they've queried upwards of eighty, ninety, one hundred agents and aren't getting anywhere.
I see other well-meaning writers say, "No, don't give up! Keep at it, believe in yourself ..." etc.
My response is different. My response is "Find the right course for you, and shelving this manuscript is a valid choice."
Why? Because I've been there. I took two manuscripts to the point of being queried out. I made some progress with each, but not quite enough.
I didn't give up on those novels. The only "giving up" was on querying them. I've always viewed those manuscripts as being in my pocket, waiting for their time.
Moving ahead to other projects was the best thing I could have done.
I did lots of revisions on those earlier novels, making them a bit better each time, but that can't compare to what writing brand-new stories did for me. They made me stronger.
Lingering on any one project longer than I did would have been a mistake, and wasted time. I'm glad I "gave up" on those. I still love them—my first manuscript is in many ways my favorite. The story is, anyway. The writing ... I can do better now. So I will.
Every writer has to make that decision, figuring out when it's time to put one novel on the shelf and focus on another. A dozen queries isn't enough to throw in the towel. When you get into triple-digits ... well, even then, it depends. Have you had near-misses on fulls? Were the first half of those queries before you really knew how to handle the querying game?
Maybe it's time to move on. Maybe not.
But it's your decision, and no one should think less of you if you "give up."