I just sent back a contract for a short story called "Ghosts of the Past," which will be published in the ninth Valdemar anthology, a collection of stories set in Mercedes Lackey's Kingdom of Valdemar. This is the first time I've been invited to submit to a closed anthology, and it was a different experience. I'll admit I was nervous at a few points. :)
John Helfers, an editor I've worked with on a couple of Fiction River volumes, knew I was a fan of Misty Lackey's work and invited me to submit a proposal for a story. I've never worked that way before -- usually I read the guidelines for a book, then write a story and sub it, and I'm frankly not very good at judging ahead of time how long a story's going to be. There are writers who can aim for a 5K short or a 15K novelette or an 80K word novel, and hit right on, within a couple hundred words for the shorter lengths and within about a thousand for the novel, but I'm not one of them. I guess that's one of the skills you develop with a lot more practice and experience than I have. But I needed to sub a story synopsis and commit to bringing it in under the limit. So rather than just writing down my idea, I started writing the story. Good thing I did, because I got a few thousand words into that first idea and realized I had at least a novella on my hands.
Okay, scratch that and start over. I came up with another idea, pulled up a fresh story file and started writing again. After about 3K words I got a sense of where the story was going and how long it'd take to get there. I was sure I could bring it in under the wordcount limit, so I wrote up a synopsis and sent it in. John and Misty both liked it, and I got a go-ahead to write.
The writing was fun, and this is one of the areas on the commercial side of writing where having fanfic experience can be a help. All the characters on the page were my own inventions, but I wanted to do justice to Misty's world, and to the tone -- in computer OS terms, the "look and feel" of it -- so that the story sounded like a Valdemar story, and felt like something Misty could've written. I sent it in, got some edits from John, and we eventually got it hammered out such that we're both happy with it. Misty liked it too, so I got a contract.
[I've had questions about this before, so just in case anyone's wondering, my experience has been that contracts are issued after edits. That way, you get paid for the actual number of words that are going to appear in print. And I've never gotten the feeling that an editor was trying to shave things down to save a few bucks. In fact, most of my edits have resulted in the story being a bit longer.]
I found I was a little more nervous about this one than I've been about other anthology submissions. I think it's because I was playing in someone else's sandbox, borrowing their toys (even if I brought some of my own) and I didn't want the sandbox's owner to think I was doing it wrong, or being disrespectful. It's like going over to someone's house for the first time and wanting to make a good impression. :) Getting the final okay on my story, from John and Misty both, was a great relief.
The book will be out in December, from DAW. I'll post a cover when I have one.