Hi welcome to FW! I'm so glad you found your way here. It sounds you and I went through a similar process. I was trying different sites and so many of them just felt like they wanted to discourage new writers not encourage them. I prayed and this was going to be the last site I checked out and God led me here four and a half years ago and what a wonderful journey it's been. I've learned so much and made tons of friends.
Congratulations on starting your novel. That's a huge undertaking. When you finish it though, you will find tons of perks from FW. The most important thing is to get a good editor or maybe even two. FW offers a list of editors and some of the money goes back to the website too which is cool in my opinion. Anything that helps the site stay afloat I am all for because FW is my second family and I can't imagine life without it.
One of the awesome things about FW is it has an amazing sense of diversity from age to level of writing (none to published) as well as many different genres.
I think the biggest blessing for me 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 has been published in Triumph Over Trials anthology. There is another testimony contest is in the works too and the deadline for submitting is Aug. 15 (I think). It does have a 1200 word count, but 50 testimonies will be included in the book so you have to consider that. I know many people have been touched by the testimonies already. I also published my first picture book. None of this would have been possible had I not joined FW four years ago. Thank you again God!
Here are some tips for you about the forums and some other favorite spots.
The biggest draw to FW would be the writing challenge. There are four quarters each year with ten topics in each one that are related. The new quarter starts next Thursday. 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 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.
You also may want to check out the blogging contest. The word blog used to scare me, but now I've learned that it isn't that big of a deal. The prize is paid writing assignments plus having your article published on 100 blogs. The latest one just ended, but keep looking because there will be a new one out soon.
There is also a Fiction contest where the winner receives a Xulon Publishing contract, as well as the amazing Page Turners contest. This year it is for nonfiction books. It alternates every year.The prizes for that are cash prizes and a critique from Deb's company. Deb is one of the administrators on the site and she pretty much started the writing challenge and her publishing company produces the anthologies.
People here are wonderful encouragers and willing to share their knowledge with others. The Open Forum
is the place to go 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." As I reread this, I had to laugh at how many times I said the word great so I went back and changed some of them. There are still too many greats in here, but I left them because checking for wording and sentence structure is something I learned from FW (or I'm too lazy to change them all!
Also The Water Cooler
is a wonderful place to meet people. They have topics that range from regional areas to just popping in to say hi. Sometimes it can get goofy too, but it is a fun forum.
Another 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. :welc