Hi and welcome to FW! For me, FW has been an answer to prayer. I've been a member for almost four years now. I can't tell you how much I've grown here. I used to write sporadically. (I'm great at procrastinating, plus have health problems), But since joining FW, I've written at least 90 articles, short stories, devotions, and poems. I've come so far too. When I look back at my first articles, I cringe a bit now. Though it's really a blessing because I can see how much I've learned. I plan on taking some stories and redoing them.
There are quite a few poets here, I've dabbled in some, but tend to be tone deaf so it's difficult to get the rhythm right.
FW is really an amazing site. I've also met friends from all over the world. These are good friends whom I communicate with on a regular basis too. It's an awesome site. It 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! There are teens to great-grandparents. Congratulations on your getting your books ready to be published. It's a scary process. I'm almost ready to release my first picture book and am a huge nervous Nellie! The best advice I could give you is hire a professional editor. We have several here at FW who will give a reasonable price. It's a must if you really want your books to do well.
Fw has opened so many doors for me. If you can afford the extra money a month to become a gold or platinum member, it is so worth it! There are many benefits that I hope you are discovering okay.
The biggest would be the writing challenge. There are four quarters each year with ten topics in each one that are related. This quarter is about old sayings like Curiosity killed the cat and Black Sheep of the Family. The new topic due by Thursday at 11 am (ET) is from the horse's mouth. Many people have been taking the topics literally. The Bark is Worse than His Bite week is full of stories about dogs or grumpy neighbors. 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) For example if the barking dog makes you think of a dog story, maybe tell it from a flea's perspective. (That may be too far out...but I tend to be a bit wacky!)
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. By leaving praise and constructive feedback, I've learned to apply those things to my own writing. Plus there are some awesome stories there. God has a wonderful way of leading me to the right one at the right time. This also led me to do editing jobs. I never dreamed I would enjoy editing as much if not more than writing. It was through some contacts here at FW where I was recommended and now am doing both freelance work and work for a subsidy press. All because God led me here just a few short years ago.
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.
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. I think the contest this month is How God Provides. You need to add some links and stuff, but if you follow the directions, it's not too hard at all. The prize is paid writing assignments plus having your article published on 100 blogs. Check it out: viewtopic.php?f=92&t=37542
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.