Yes, the graphics made me dubious at first also, but I found the place to be very helpful, at least for me, a novice. I’ve been a member of Absolute Write for about 6-7 months.
The Board is made up of published writers, editors, agents and others in the business as well as ‘wannabes’ of all stripes. (In the forums, I check sig blocks for websites and/or profiles to gage credibility of responder.)
I find this site easy to use and navigate. It’s by far the most user friendly of all the writer’s sites I found. It covers every facet of the writing business and it’s full of great advice and insight–IMHO.
It’s smaller than SDMB in total users and thread count so it takes less time to keep up. Users post links to outside websites, as they do here. I’d say the credibility of the site is first rate.
SciFi/Fantasy writer James D. MacDonald has a thread for new writers that started in 2005! (“Learning to write by Uncle Jim.”) It has to be the longest thread in history. Most of the advice is helpful to writers of any genre. This thread is also available in an edited version that posts only MacD’s posts, leaving out ‘me too’ comments by newbies, but also some posts from notable people, some published.
A recent question in the Mystery section on police procedure got three responses from professionals, (one D.A., two cops), as well from nonprofessionals that seemed helpful, too.
There is a section for posting one’s work for criticism. When I posted my short story I got responses that went from ‘very helpful’ to ‘missed the point altogether’…but what would you expect?
The ‘problem’ is that there’s so much more to the writing game than one might think. It’s been easy to spend days reading about story structure, plot, characters, submission standards, query letters, agents, and various other parts of the business…and I never got around to actually writing.
Give it a shot, Boyo…what’s to lose?
Given the couple of months you have, it seems to me you need to A) outline your book, B) finish the first couple of chapters, and study the sections on writing query letters, and finding an agent. By the time you go back to work, you should have X-number of letters in the mail to agents and query letters to publishers.
One warning: Everything in publishing takes forever. It’s going to take 3-5 months before I can expect an accepted/rejected note from the publisher to whom I submitted my short story. The usual time between accepting a manuscript and seeing it on the shelves is apparently two years.
If you have other questions, feel free to email me.