You can customize both the gender of your character, as well as the type of the build it has, its hair, skin and eyes. You must then select the name for your newly created avatar and resurrect it at one of the respawn points in the area. The area most suitable for a beginner's character will be the South Zone 2, as it's the best when it comes to balance in the survival difficulty and the abundance of resources.
When you are done and your character is created, you will enter the inventory screen where you will be able to find all of the stats of your avatar as well. Those can be increased with each level (each level gives you one point to distribute).
Health - each points increases the health of your character by 10.
Stamina - this stat is associated with the amount of time you can run. Each point gives you 10 extra energy.
Oxygen - a stat required if you want to spend time underwater. Each point gives you 10 points of oxygen.
Food - it allows your character to last longer without the need to consume food. Each points increases it by 10.
Water - your character will take longer to dehydrate. You will get 10 points for each point spent in that stat.
Weight - a very important stat, allowing you to carry more materials and equipment. Each points increases the carry capacity by 10.
Melee Damage - increases damage done with melee attacks by 5%.
Movement Speed - increases the speed of running and swimming by 2% for each point spent.
Fortitude - increases the resistance of your character against negative effects such as: diseases, poisoning, weakening. Additionally, it increases your avatar's survivability in harsh climates (cold and hot places). Each points increases your character's resistance by 2 and the survivability in harsh conditions by 4 (each 5th point increases this by 1).
Crafting Speed- increases the speed at which your character creates items. Each point gives a 10% boost.
Torpor - it allows you to resist enemy for a longer time, preventing him from knocking you off balance. This makes it harder for enemy to rob and / or poison you during a stun.
You start off by spending your first 10 levels in health, allowing you to survive longer in the world. Afterwards, you should focus on increasing the Weight stat, allowing you to carry more resources. When you've reached level 20, you can start investing in other stats, such as Movement Speed, Melee Damage or Fortitude. I would personally recommend you to focus on Fortitude and Melee Damage - those two will come in handy when dealing with stronger enemies.
You should also try adding some points in Oxygen - it will allow you to spend more time underwater before having to resurface.
When it comes to higher levels, the stat distribution depends on your style of gameplay - whether you would like to be more resistant to enemy damage, faster or to simply focus on crafting (and excel at it, as well) is entirely up to you.