Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: from the fire roads to the interstate
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I am confused about why your first concern is having your novel ripped off or stolen.
Start by writing the book. Get your first draft written. Put it in a drawer for a month. Take it out, read it, and write your second draft. Repeat as needed.
Then you will need to find an agent. A good way to do this is to look in the "acknowledgements" section of books with a similar audience to yours. The author often mentions his or her agent here. Then, when you contact the agent, you will have some foundation for discussion; you know he or she has published work in the same ball park.
But all this is way down the road. First, write your novel. If you want a good kick in the pants to get started, I highly recommend Walter Moseley's book "This Year You Write Your Novel." It is not at all the kind of mumbo-jumbo writing advice that is out there. It's extremely practical.