I have two trains of thought on giving up and walking away. Actually make that three. The first is when to give up on a manuscript that just won't work, won't sell or gives you the heeby jeebies. Do you think there comes a time when an author simply has to admit defeat, say the manuscript demon won and toss it?
Put it away for a few months or a few years. I'm one of these people that gets hit with the inspiration brick. I can try all I want to force the ideas and imagination it takes to come up with passionate, romantic stories and loveable characters but all I end up with is crap. One day I'll be changing a nappy or driving down the street to get bread or even having a shower and all of a sudden, my light bulb turns on and I have something to work with. If you know me, I sometimes walk around in a daze, with (apparently) a grr face. I'm not angry or about to kick your butt. I'm getting an idea and the amount of energy and concentration hurts! So many people that don't read romance (or anything intelligent for that matter) think writing romance is sooo easy and that it doesn't take brains or talent.
Oh how wrong these losers are! I want to hit them in their narrow minded heads and tell them to give it a go. I know some women who took 10-15 years to get published and others who did it early or with their first books but then after a run, something happens. Your agent quits, moves, runs out of cash or dies. Your publisher goes belly up or gets bought out by one of the larger houses and they 'no longer think you fit'. This game is a hard one!
This brings to me to my next train of thought, now that I've waffled a bit. When should you consider changing genres or your targeted line? If you write for Mills and Boon or Harlequin and you know you definitely want a certain line, ie Blaze.
I have two contemporary manuscripts nearly ready to be submitted and while I would love it if both of them turned up with a red cover and a hunk on the front, I know one probably fits better with Sexy or Presents. Make sure you read the lines you want to target. If you aren't having any luck with Regency but you've read hundreds of Georgian or Victorian novels, write one of them! Stick with what you know. If you try to write all the time and never read anything, how will you know the current trends? You could be trying to write a bosom heaving, corset busting, manhood, steely member type of thing only to find they went out with the 80's along with so many other faux pas. If what you're doing just isn't working, put it away and try something else.
Now for that third train... When is it truly time to give up on writing and your dream of becoming an author?
Never, ever, ever, ever!!
Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do it! I recently heard a story from Mary Jo Putney at the RWAus conference and it went a little something like this...
A violinist went to a performance of someone famous (would help if I could remember the name). After the show he went back stage and asked the famous man to hear him play. the celeb said 'sure why not' and listened while the violinist played. At the end of the piece the celeb told him he was very good but that he just didn't have what it took to make it.
So the man went off and was very successful in his day job and his family forgetting about his dream to become famous. Many years later he saw the celeb again and asked him why he'd thought he didn't have what it took. The celeb then said...
"If you had it, you wouldn't have listened to me. You would have worked and worked and worked and you would have made it." (I took a lot of free licence on this :P )
So there you have it. Never give up. If you want it bad enough, take every rejection and build a bridge. Climb over the hurdles and change what isn't working for you. Enter competitions, send out queries and with each new batch of criticism and comments, work on it. Hone your craft until you get 'the call'. Nothing in life is easy and this won't be either. If it was, there would be no satisfaction at the end, you wouldn't get paid for it and every Joe Blow and Tom, Dick and Harry would be published and the quality of books with take a nose dive off a cliff.
Keep at it, work your butt off and one day you will succeed.
Now to take my own advice and finish the damn book so I can indulge in my current obsession for vampires and Twilight (thankyou Stehpanie Meyer). Until next week...