Good morning wet hog, and welcome.
Starting off, and knowing that you would rather have some success rather than be DAL, I suggest first is to understand scoring and different sanctioning bodies. In Douglasville you'll probably find more KCBS competitions within a reasonable driving distance than say some of the others that you'll find, like MBN, GBA, FBA, etc.
So, read up on KCBS judging and scoring. Take a look at presentation boxes. You can find lots here and plenty more on bbqcritic.com. That'll help with appearance. Know that the next piece is tenderness. Tough, chewey, gristly, or mushy will get you destroyed in points. As far as taste goes; know that you dont want to alienate any potential judge. It only takes 2 of the 6 to not care for your Q to have you in trouble. So, you want flavor, but not too much of any one thing. Balance. Not too smoky, nor too salty, nor too peppery/spicy, etc.
Then, IMHO, practice a time or two using set turn-in times, and build your boxes. Timing, and getting your barbecue in the box HOT, is the next thing to learn. You can do this at home and enjoy the fruits of your labors. Once you have this down pretty good, jump in. There's nothing quite like it, and frankly even participating as an extra on a team doesn't really give you the experience or knowledge you'll learn from entering the competition yourself.
I've seen others sign up early on in unsanctioned competitions or in the backyard category of sanctioned comps. I've never been a fan of that approach, because to me it's more just wasting your money and effort because there's very little to win. I'd rather you jump in to a sanctioned comp (so say Pro; but there are very few barbecue competitors who earn their sole income from competitions) and just go for it. You'll learn more by far than you would an unsanctioned competition.
Hance - Lake Dogs Cooking Team - MiM/MBN/GBA CBJ and comp cook
Lake Sinclair, GA (strategically about an hour from darn near anywhere)
Started competing in chili cookoffs back in the 1990's and have competed in more than I care to count. I became a CBJ in MiM in 2005, then MBN and in GBA in 2010. I've probably judged 130+- BBQ comps (sanctioned and unsanctioned) over this time. That said, I really enjoy competing more than I enjoy judging, and hope to get back to doing 4 or 5 a year in the near future.