So, a few things I've learned:
- Back up all your files. Even if they tell you to back up your files and you scoff and think, "I don't need to back up my files, I won't lose them." Back them up anyway. (My files got corrupted, I managed to save them, but now they have no punctuation, quotation marks, or paragraph breaks.)
- Outlining actually helps. A lot.
- When you have an inability to name characters and you suddenly find yourself with a character that needs a name, use a celebrity's name (Richard Gere made an appearance) or a ridiculous name that you may or may not choose to keep later (Dorcas got a lot of screen time simply because I liked typing it).
- If you're writing historical fiction, research the time period first.
- If your story is set in a particular part of the world you don't know anything about, get a map. I still don't know where my characters were, they jumped from Maryland, to Virginia, to New York, to Pennsylvania, all within one scene. (Or maybe they found a machine... nope, not writing Sci Fi, dang)
- Be prepared to eat, dream, talk, think nothing but your story for 30 days. It becomes an obsession. I am to plot as Zombies are to brains.
- Tying up loose ends from four or five or six subplots is actually harder than one might think. I might have forgotten about one. No wonder Herman Melville just started killing people off in Moby Dick.
- Since NaNo is in November, allow wiggle room to accommodate Thanksgiving, a week of family in town, and a weekend long turkey comma.
- Also allow wiggle room so you can take a week break from writing because you nearly tore your hair out when you almost lost all your files, without falling too far behind in your goal.