I was living in Minnesota then, and we had a really interesting group. I didn't get to go out and meet them that first year. I was a wet-behind the ears little thing that was still afraid of people. But they were wonderful and welcoming, and our ML (municipal liaison) at the time was perfectly encouraging.
I crashed like a static-prone airship. Maybe 15k words in, completely off in left field in a genre I'd never written in before, on like the 14th of November.
I'd been writing, seriously, for about a year. I had a book in me and I was determined to get it out. I made epic time-tables and plotted out everything that was supposed to happen and researched the spread of the Black Death and 14th century trading relations and anything else I thought fit. I talked endlessly, incessantly about my book.
I'd been writing the first five chapters for about eight months.
Now I can tell you all kinds of really wonderful things Nano has done for me. Not just about my writing, but the sudden influx of social life it's given me. Confidence in my writing and everything else. But, up there, is the thing that helped the most. See the thing everyone tells you about nano is that a large chunk of its brilliance is the fact you don't get time to second-guess yourself. You're writing so fast you just keep going. Don't like that scene? Tough, strike it through and keep moving. Forgot a character name? Caps-lock is your friend.
NaNoWriMo gives you permission to be bad. Gives you permission to stop trying to invest every single word that shows up on your screen with purpose. If you've never done it, this is a perfect time to start.
And come back Friday, where I pretend to be quasi scientific.