[NOTE: This is a NaNo prep article I posted last year, and I thought it was worth repeating. Enjoy!]
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again! Writers everywhere are signing up, ordering shirts, and declaring their participation in NaNoWriMo 2010. And in their excitement, they're thinking about their novel idea for this year. (Do you have yours yet?)
I'm a bit of an organization freak, so every year I create an outline for my NaNo novel. Even if you're not a big fan of outlines, it might be a good idea to create one for NaNo. It'll help keep you on track as you're writing, since time is such a factor in the event. I can't speak for you, but many times when I'm writing without an outline (even a very rough one) I tend to ramble and end up in a very different place than I intended when I began.
The good thing, though, is that outlines are very personal things. Yours can be a very detailed and elaborate outline (as mine usually are) that gives information about what happens in each scene, or a very generalized outline that just gives a sentence or two covering each of the major plot points. Or it could be something completely different. You have to figure out what works for your writing style.
Regardless of what kind of outline you make, though, I do recommend that you create some sort of outline, even if it's just some notes jotted to help you remember what your plan is for the month. It will give you a writing plan, and help you flesh out your story idea a little bit. Sometimes I've had ideas and, after outlining, I've discovered that the idea is better as a short story rather than a longer project (or vice versa). Or I've figured out that the idea isn't developed enough. Outlining now will help keep you from getting to November 20th and realizing you really have a problem with your novel.
It might help get you excited about the month, too!
So take out a piece of paper, make some notes, and see what develops!