Today I caught up on my Moby Lives and enjoyed Nathan Ihara's thoughts on NaNoWriMo. He summarizes the history of the event, lists some of its stats, and finally advocates a supportive but skeptical take that echoes my own. I tried the project once, in ... 05? and got just far enough into a novel to sense the chaos of the characters around me and to freak out and go back to my own routine, which was usually at least as rocket-propelled as the NaNo routine anyway.
Ihara's main problem with National Novel Writing Month seems to be that it emphasizes a sort of smash-it-out-and-leave-it-behind outlook, rather than a considered approach to building a long-form story, even in a tighter time period. Maybe what NaNoWriMo needs is stronger encouragement for its authors to stick with their projects beyond the close of the month, to take the wild and raw materials and really shape them into something brilliant through winter and spring. An explosive head start is pretty useless if it doesn't send you anywhere meaningful.
Do you have experience with NaNoWriMo? Do you know people who are trying it? Several acquaintances have told me they plan to participate, but I'd be interested in hearing from people who have been involved before. Did you stick with your project?