I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2003.
I have failed to write 50,000 words for the month since 2004. (yes, I won my first NaNo, only to lose every single year thereafter)
Yet, this still hasn't deterred me from writing/competing every year, though in the last few, I tend to bow out after my first week. I have other writing to do, usually, and I use the manic writing sessions to work on that, shelving my NaNo story idea for another day. Just as long as I write down my notes, I don't feel bad for it.
In fact, it was all because of NaNo I got a lot of my story ideas - ones that I'm using to actually springboard into a proper writing career. My ultimate goal is to get published, after all. It's that insane mindset of "don't think, just write" that seems to light that fire within me. Apparently, I need deadlines and quotas to function.
Once I thought I was a pantser. A dreamy, doe-eyed pantser that waited for inspiration to strike when the Muse was feeling generous. Of course, that was also before I realised just how much work writing a novel involves. This is really not an occupation for the faint of heart. It takes stamina and you really have to shove your Inner Critic in a sound-proof box and leave them there until you've done your first or second draft, at least.
Outlines are my friends. Actually, they are (quite literally) my road maps. I don't have to keep to them - because wandering about here and there is good and you may find a nice place to eat - but having the map means I don't have to be lost forever. It means I can wander without ending up with 100 rambling pages of crap without any sort of hope to fixing that.
However, NaNo is okay with that. It's just NaNo, after all. Not only that, but amazing people like Roz Morris have tools that can help revive the mess that is your "novel" (NaNo or otherwise) into something that resembles a proper story structure! Maybe even publishable! I love her book, for sure.
If you're looking at options, Plotting for a Pantsers by Jamie Gold sounds like oodles of awesome!
Not everyone is cut out to do NaNo, although they may be hardcore writers, like Kait Nolan - she's not doing NaNo in the traditional sense, but she keeps her finger on the pulse and uses it.
This will probably be my first year not doing NaNo "in the traditional sense" either. I have several books in the planning/plotting stage and in six months I'm hoping to be shopping around for my first book. I will definitely use the deadlines/manic typing energy to keep myself in-line and on course. I have a lot to write and a social life to keep cultivated, too.
The main thing for me is that, through NaNo, I learned that I have to write. Whether I participate, win, lose or never even get published is really not the point. I've awakened a (writing) monster. NaNo just helped give me the first solid kick in the pants to do it.
Remember to rest, too. Good advice.
Your turn! You have 11 days before it starts. Go! Or don't. Are you a pantser or a plotter? What are you doing for the month of November? I'll be writing. Of course.