Since my NaNoWriMo announcement, everyone has been asking me how I'm preparing. When I was asked how I prepared my first novel, I bluntly answered, "I didn't." The story marinated in my mind for a few months, but I didn't outline or write a synopsis. I am not recommending this method, especially for new writers. You'll save yourself a lot of time and effort by planning ahead. It just never worked for me.
But considering the circumstances of 3,000 words a day, I know I couldn't do this without planning. So for the first time I am outlining (in my own way), figuring out the turning points, secondary characters and subplots beforehand. That way, I know exactly where I'm going each day and can just push the story forward without having to brainstorm. So I am currently writing plot points on index cards and using my dining room wall as my novel's time line. The index cards work better for me because then I can rearrange them as needed. I'm more visual, writing out an outline on paper feels too constricting. So far, it's been working really well, new ideas are flowing in every day. I'm getting real antsy waiting for November 1st to roll around so I can get to the actual writing.
Aside from the plotting and brainstorming, I also like to use some motivational tools. Other than the sign on my laptop that says "Writers Write" I also have four books by my side. All of them save time and motivate.
If you don't' have these, you should really pick them up. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass is necessary for the beginning stages of creating the novel. Maass knows story and he knows what sells, and it motivates me to hit the keyboard. Roget's Super Thesaurus is more comprehensive than any others I've owned. The Character Naming book is a great tool, especially when needing names from different origins. When I was writing Thou Shall Not, I needed tons of Hebrew names (and didn't think it was a good idea to name everyone after my cousins). Plus, it has lists of the most popular names by year. Overall, it saves a lot of brainstorming time. And finally Hallie Ephron's book is fantastic. It includes in depth worksheets to thoroughly develop your characters and weave the story's plot. Other chapters include writing your query, marketing, and other helpful tips. There are tons of books about writing, but these are the ones that really work for me.
Planning ahead is definitely a new experience. It's hard to say whether or not it is more effective until the novel is completed. Writers, leave your comments about preparing for a novel or other book recommendations for the newbie writers!