Welcome Pastor James. I'm delighted that God led you to this marvelous site. It has totally changed my life and lifted me up during some dark times.
My son is at Duke Divinity School right now pursuing his calling to become an ordained United Methodist minister. He has always had a passion for camping and hopes that some day he can be a camp director. although he still feels the calling to become ordained and possibly be a minister in a church some day.
I did see the one piece you wrote and left some comments there for you. You may want to check out the general submissions section too. I know how scary it can be to share your most intimate thoughts and stories with complete strangers. Luckily most of the people here have a true desire to help others thrive and learn to be better. Even if you get what you might feel is a negative feedback, try to remember that it is truly coming from a place of love and a genuine desire to help others.
If you like the site and decide to upgrade there are even more benefits and opportunities. If you can afford the few dollars a month it is so worth it. We also have a conference coming up this summer that is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other writers and have some great workshops and fun.
I've been a member for 4 years and I can't tell you all the wonderful things that have happened to me because of this site. I think the biggest blessing is the friends I've made. I didn't think it was possible to have such close friends from all over the world. I talk to many on a regular basis. Next is having my stories published or being ready to publish. Seven stories won an Editor's Choice in the challenge and my testimony will be in the soon to be released Triumph Over Trials anthology. I also self-published my first picture book, which because I am a platinum member, the book can be found on the site's store.
FW is an awesome site, but can be a tad overwhelming because it's so big, but here are some tips for you.
People here are of all ages and have experience ranging from virtually none to having published some books. It sounds like this is a perfect fit for you! We also have all kinds of genres. My favorite is children's books, but we have devotions to Biblical fiction to testimonials and how to books to sci-fi and romance.
The biggest draw to FW would be the writing challenge. It's a great opportunity to ask for some honest feedback on your piece. There are four quarters each year with ten topics in each one that are related. The new quarter started on Thursday. The topic is Day's End. One thing the challenge does is encourage me to think outside of the box. One of the best advice I ever received was once you see the topic, jot down the first five things you think of, then throw them away because it's likely what everyone else is thinking of too. If you really feel drawn to that idea, try to tell it from a fresh POV (point of view)
The word count limit has helped me learn to tighten my writing up quite a bit. The deadline has also helped me on my procrastination. I still wait to the last minute, but am writing on a more regular basis. There is also some excellent reading material there. I try to read and comment on every piece, though lately I haven't been able to do that as often as I would like.
Another great perk for platinum members is the Critique Circle. It is a great place for paid members to receive a detailed critique on their work. Just recently, they have allowed members to pay so much a page for detailed feedback. This is for silver members or members who want a critique but don't have the time to critique someone else's work. That's how the circle works. Each time you leave feedback, you receive a credit to allow you to post a piece and to get a constructive critique. I've found that by leaving feedback for others, I also learn a great deal about what works or doesn't work in my own writing.
FW is a great place to meet other Christians and writers. I also think it's awesome because there is people with all kinds of experience here from having published book to having never really written much at all. People here are great encouragers and willing to share their knowledge with others. The Open Forum
is a great place to ask questions about writing and publishing.
You also can find a wealth of info and a variety of people on the boards. It's also a great way to make friends. A great place for writing tips can be found at Jan's Writing Basics.
It might be a bit overwhelming to post at first, but I'd urge you to bite the bullet and jump in. Jan is wonderful at giving invaluable feedback to everyone who tries her thread and posts their "homework."
Also The Water Cooler
is a great place to meet people. They have topics that range from regional areas to just popping in to say hi. Another great place to go is Prayer Requests.
It's wonderful to be able to request prayer and to lift others up in need.
Fw is much like a family. There is something for everyone. The people encourage, support, and love each other. Welcome to the family!
I hope I gave you some places to start. The site is huge and there are so many wonderful things here. You may want to check out the FAQ
thread as that may answer many of your questions.
Have fun exploring, jump into conversations and don't be afraid to ask any questions.