You are always so encouraging with your comments. I have to ask: is there a manuscript you have read and your first thought was this author should give up writing and take up something else?
I thought hard about this question before I answered her. And the truth is. . .no. I have never read a manuscript where I thought the author should give up. So I told her that, but then I also explained my answer.
First, I believe that everything we write has merit, of course, because for some reason, we were drawn to write it. Something inspired us, and we took the time to get those words on paper. Honestly, that is a huge accomplishment. I know when you're a writer, just getting the words on paper might not seem huge--but there are hundreds of people who say: "I should write something," and never ever do.
BUT. . .(there's always a but), this doesn't mean that every piece of writing is "good" or going to get published or even should be published. Have I read some lousy manuscripts? Yes, and some of these were mine! I do honestly believe that every manuscript can be improved and become a good piece of writing if authors are willing to revise and improve their craft. This could take a month or it could take a year.
This does not mean that this piece of writing is going to succeed in the publishing world--no matter how well-polished it is. When writers are considering publishing a piece themselves or seeking publication, then writing becomes a business, too, not just a creative endeavor. If the polished manuscript is too similar to Hunger Games or Harry Potter or Bridges of Madison County, then it probably won't be traditionally published. Self-publishing is always an option and reviews will probably be good if the novel is well-written, but in order to stand out, originality is important.
And let's face it--it's a wonder why some books hit the bestsellers list and others don't. But my student's original question was: do you ever feel like you should tell someone to give up? No, I don't! Even if I think the idea is not commercial, if the person is willing to work on her manuscript and does not have unreal expectations, then she should not give up.
I truly believe something I heard years ago at a conference: being a published writer is 10 percent talent and 90 percent persistence. If you are willing to put in the work(and it's not easy) your writing will improve and you will get published.
computer photo above by orangeacid (Flickr.com)