He started his first book when he was 20 and finished it at age 26. He got a six-column banner headline in The New York Times. And yet, there was a time, from 1972 to 1985, in those young years when he could not get a book in hardback for 13 years.
He ended this desert period by being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.His novel "The Lost Get-Back Boogie" was rejected 111 times over nine years."During those years, I don't know how many short stories and novels I wrote. Nobody would touch me with a dung fork. I couldn't sell ice cream in hell," Burke said.
He wasn’t sitting at home crying all those years. He was still writing. He was also out working all kinds of jobs to feed his family. He hung in there, writing in the morning, afternoon and even at night.
"I aim for 1,000 words a day. If I can get 750, I feel good about it. I rewrite that every morning. And that's what I do. If I stay with that schedule and I don't take any days off, and for many, many years, I haven't — for decades — I can produce one book that I consider a literary book a year," Burke said. "Writing is a continuum. An artist is always involved in it."He’s been rejected plenty of times in his career. How does he handle it?
Never leave a story at home more than 36 hours. I've followed that rule for the past 53 years. Nothing stays home longer than 36 hours.
In other words, if you get rejected, send it back out. If you follow his plan, then you’ve got a day and a half to make any changes you feel you need to do in the query or synopsis or full manuscript, then get it back out there to an agent or editor. And no matter how many times you are rejected, don’t give up and keep writing.
When it comes to writing, what are your personal rules?