Well, as of this past Sunday, November 22nd, I have completed my NaNoWriMo novel. With over 50,000 words and a complete narrative arc (which, admittedly, could stand to be filled in more), I wrote a novel in less than a month.
Some lessons I've learned:
I am not a "make it up as you go along" writer. I like working from sort of outline: in this case, a set of chapter headings that told me what each chapter should be about. Even vague guidelines were better than trying to write blind, and I think this novel turned out better than my last effort. For whatever I work on next, I intend to take copious notes before I jump into the full narrative. (Which leads to the problem of never actually starting anything, of course. Selah.)
I need a thesaurus. Granted, NaNoWriMo is not about trying for brilliant prose, it's about flinging 50,000+ instances of poo at paper and seeing what sticks. But I overused certain descriptive phrases way too often for my tastes.
I need to watch out for adjectives. Actually I used these little monsters as word count boosters, so I'd say at least a third were deliberate and would die in the initial rewrite. But they were painful to write in the first place, and I'll be cutting back in the future.
I can write like a bastard when I need to. Here, go look. I had one day (off) when I wrote damn near 10,000 words, and ten days where I broke 2,000 words. I can't match Stephen King, but I can keep up with him for a bit before the psychotic episode hits.
I don't actually need to write like a bastard. Just before starting NaNoWriMo, I read a book, How To Write & Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier and Frances Spatz Leighton, which recommended a daily output of three double-spaced manuscript pages. This was a revelation when compared to Stephen King's recommendation, which is ten double-spaced pages (five if you're just starting out), or the NaNoWriMo recommended minimum, which is about 1,667 words a day. So what if you can't match the pace of a Maine prodigy or a bunch of over-caffeinated noveling fiends? If you wrote three double-spaced pages, you did okay. It's truly a marvelous philosophy, and I encourage it wholeheartedly for anyone who gets brain strain after reading On Writing.