I think the best thing to do is to get your IPIN and do everything online. You can sign in to as many tournaments as you want, and deadlines are on the Thursday 3 weeks in advance (for example, you can still sign in for tournaments on Oct 8th until tomorrow).
Once you are signed in a tournament, they annonce a list 2 weeks before the tournament. You most likely will be in the alternate list, or if lucky, already in qualifying.
WATCH OUT: if you are in qualifying and don't plan on playing, you have to withdraw before the freeze-deadline (one week) or else you will get fined. Even if you are in the alternate list and don't plan on playing, withdraw also, because you never know if you'll squeeze in qualifying a few days before (happened to me once, went from 105th alternate to qualifying without knowing, had to pay 100$ for not showing up).
If you are in the alternate list and wish to play the tournament, then just stay in there, hope for some withdrawals before the freeze deadline (always a ton) and see where you end up on the list. Once your name appears once on the qualifying list, you are SURE of getting in, which is always fun to know. If you are still in the alternates after the freeze deadline, you can still show up at the sign in (Fridays before qualies usually) and hope that some players don't show up!
Hope that wasn't too confusing