For those who don't know NaNo, the name pretty much says it all: you write a novel this month. Specifically, you write 50,000 words of a novel this month. It comes down to about 1,700 words a day.
To win, you hit 50,000. That's it. No judging. No competing. Just get to 50K.
I've won the last two years in a row. What I love about NaNo is it takes away my inhibition. I don't worry so much about how crappy it sounds, because the point is just to get it on paper, to finish. I can clean it up later. It frees you up to actually write. In fact, I've found that my other writing got a lot better - even at work - after I NaNo'd, because I began treating first drafts as just that: a draft.
Since I know several new NaNo'ers this year, I thought I'd reprint some of the advice I've gleaned from the last two years:
1.) Write every day. Even if you can't get the 1666 words or whatever that you should be writing, do a little bit.
2.) Try not to fall too far behind. You'll definitely get bursts of energy where you write a lot in one day, but use those as "buffer" for when you get a low day. Don't count on them.
3.) Don't reread your previous pages! Yes, they do suck. Just keep going.
4.) If your story goes somewhere you didn't expect it to, let it. In my first year, I got about halfway through and almost stopped, because a minor character was becoming more important than the main character. Clearly, that was broken. My officemate said, "Maybe that's exactly what's supposed to happen", and so I kept going. And you know what? He was right.
5.) Don't be afraid to drop something. I didn't do this as much last year because I had an outline, but the first year I worked without an outline. A couple of times I found myself in a plotline that I just didn't like or that wasn't working for whatever reason. I just dropped the thread and picked up a new one. Remember, the goal is to get to 50K and get a draft that you can work with later, so if something's not working, don't start over. Just drop it and move forward.
Today's the first day of NaNo, so if you've always wanted to do it, just jump in! The water's great. Remember, it's about the process, so just see where your story takes you. I know I am...