When it comes to pre-writing for your NaNo novel, there are three main camps of opinion:
1. Wing it. That’s right. Just go in there with no plot, no characters, no setting… and go crazy. I did this my first year – not because I wanted to (I’m a bit controlling, if you haven’t noticed) but because I couldn’t help it. I found out about NaNo in the paper on November 5. Not much time for prep. The advantage of this method is that you can come up with some crazy, awesome stuff you never would have planned. You’re just making up worlds as you go along, and you’ll be amazed at what your mind can create. However, the disadvantage is that if you find out you don’t have enough to write, or become unsure of where you’re going, you’re in trouble.
2. Plan… a little. This is the officially approved (according to the NaNo guide No Plot? No Problem!) version of pre-writing. It advises you to only plan in the month of October, reasoning that if you get too attached to your novel, you won’t be able to write with reckless abandon. This really depends on the person. I tried it one year, and it went all right. Still, personally I prefer…
3. Go plotting crazy! This is for the obsessive ones out there. *waves* I start planning my next NaNo in December. However, that’s mostly tossing out ideas, etc. I usually settle on one in about June or so. Then I begin character profiles, plot summaries, and chapter guides. This helps me, personally, because I know what I’m going to write. It speeds me up, that’s for sure – I finished in twenty days using this method last year. But for those who prefer the freedom and unrestrained imagination of an unplotted novel, that’s good too. It’s really up to you.