Last year, I did NaNoWriMo for the first time and failed miserably. Not only did I fail to produce the best novel ever known to mankind, but I actually failed to even reach 15,000 words. My little project, as I now refer to the failure that is my first novel ever attempted, is completely dead. Not only does it sit on my hard drive as a testament to my inability to plan, but it sort of taunts me in its mediocrity and horridness.
"Hey Clint," it says, sometimes, when I drink. "Remember when you sat up all night developing this beautiful world to populate with fascinating creatures, only to fail utterly to create something that even a mentally challenged box turtle might find neat?"
"Yes," I reply, taking a further swig of what appears to be rubbing alcohol. "So help me I'd delete you if I didn't think that somehow I would become a Rumplestiltskin of poo, turning utter crap into gold someday."
"Haha," it replies. "That's more clever than anything you wrote on me!"
And then I will dash my drink into the flames, angrily, and wrap myself in my velvet robe.
The point is, however, that it really can help to put together some character sheets if you already have a story in mind. You can do anything to prep yourself to write your story so long as you don't write the actual story itself. I think it can help to do a lot of research prior to, which I'm going to need to. This can save you time if your schedule is already squeezed, or if you're just lazy and want to lay as much groundwork as possible.
I already have because I'm writing a novel I've wanted to work on for quite some time. Rather than last year, this year's is an actual humor novel so it would be up my alley to write in the first place. Although Jenn doesn't support the concept (AND BOY HOWDY DO I SEE WHY) I'm not as disciplined as she is. I'm still grappling with the whole writer part of myself, so this is actually helpful in that it throws a challenge at me. I'm hoping to use this to parlay into writing more daily, and for myself rather than for others. At the same time, my alarm clock has a super sweet snooze feature that allows me to get nine more minutes of sleep per day rather than do something productive!
I'm collecting a small army of people who want to hate themselves for this venture. Join me this year if you really must! I'm clintosterholz on their site.