This is my third year participating in National Novel Writing Month. Each year's experience is different.
The first year, I was totally manic. I had planned a lot--had the rudiments of an plot outline, basic characters with traits figured out, and a novel "cover" with a photo of the scene. I had made a hard-copy chart to keep track of my daily progress. I had files with research on technical issues and details. And I read and posted in the NaNo forums a lot.
On top of work and home, I was busy, busy, busy. And I wrote on schedule, using the holidays to get ahead, and finished on 11/25 with 61,000+ words.
I had put out signs trying to get others to join me, but without luck. And when it was all over, I hosted my own success party where I drank with a few friends, who read out portions of my "completed" printed out novel.
That first year was a great experience. And I love that novel (which I'm still editing!)
The second year, I had planned less, but had some basics in hand. A map of my locale, some news clippings for inspiration. I'd re-read my favorite books on writing and had plumbed my new copy of Chris Baty's NaNo book.
And thanks to the efforts of our local Joeten-Kiyu Library, I had two writing buddies who came to the weekly write-ins. Joe Race finished his first NaNoWriMo novel that year. Julia Allen, then working at the library, made some progress with words on paper, but was more the organizational guru for us.
My novel that year felt flat on first reading, although I liked the beginning. I haven't gotten back to it, but I think it has potential to be worked into a worthy second novel.
This year, I haven't planned at all. I decided on my basic story back at the beginning of Nano 1, when all three books were crying to be written and I had to see which one would be written first, then second and now the third one. I start with a premise. And this year, that's all I had on November 1!
Well, that and more Saipan Nanoers! Joe Race, Nancy Nielsen, Connie Nakamura, and "Marianas Life" are all in the writing marathon for the month. Ken Kramer is thinking about it (and may have started by now).
Having buddies in the Nano online community means I have others urging me on to increase my word count. I am woefully behind this year (now about a 1 1/2 days off target), but I have a few organizational tricks I've learned over the years (like keeping a character chart as I write, so I don't forget whose eyes are grey, and who moved to Oregon and Korea and such). I also use a Chris Baty tip-- I draw--with crayons and kindergarten style. So far this year, I've mapped out one party scene and my main character's home and yard. Coffee Care has brown paper on the tables, with handy crayons available, and these are perfect for this part of the process! (Also the wireless is a nice feature!)
I've also returned to that first year necessity of writing badly--lots and lots of words on the page, to (almost) make the word count quotas. Oddly the freedom to do this adds an energy to the writing and makes it better in some ways.
And of course, I'm using the "dares" from the NaNoWriMo forums again. Nanoers dare each other to do things in their novels--like add talking squirrels and recite ridiculous lines. I love these (although I won't take the talking squirrel dare) because they add a touch of whimsy and the unexpected that can lead to better overall plotting.
It's not too late to join NaNoWriMo. There are people who write a 50,000 word novel in a week! The goal is 50,000 words and a beginning, middle and end to the "novel." There's time to do that--or at least get started.
And all I can say is I love doing this. It's a taste of the writing life, all crammed into one 30 day period. Yay!