Well, I can't tell you how much fun I've had giving life (outlines, character pictures, questions to obsess over, etc) to the idea I have for my novel. I had a composition book lying around which I was going to use to organize personality types as a sort of "character database", but instead I have transformed it into my quick notes for what is tentatively titled "Almost absolution" for the moment.
For short stories, I tend to have 2-4 pages of crazy notes complete with a somewhat cohesive outline, but I've never had a clear plan for a novel. Even now, I'm not so sure about the entire second half, but the basics (and especially having a clear outlook for the beginning) really help me sort my creativity into something that isn't complete gibberish. Of course, the story doesn't always (or the characters themselves for that matter) head in the direction you thought it would, so it's a lot of reworking.
My main task has been trying to tackle the mystery aspect (which keeps overtaking the horror). I've never written anything like this before, and trying to keep things from the audience has been a tricky journey. I'm still not sure who the murderer is (at the beginning there were two, somewhere in the middle the murders had more to do with the main character - Erin - than I'd originally thought, and now I'm at a loss so that's... that?).
Not to mention, but there's a plethora of junk I don't know about the law or the accessibility a twenty-one year old has to an ongoing murder investigation (I'm guessing it's next to nothing). Long story short, I've made it extremely hard for Erin to even begin to solve the case, therefore making it a bit difficult for me to create a realistic journey she's going to take. Still, it's been fun.
I also learned that unlike smaller written works, there's possibly a point where too much planning/thought can be a bit counter-productive. At around page seven in my comp book, I began to become a bit overwhelmed with the whole project. I was honestly at a point where I wondered if I shouldn't just revive it into a story reserved for camp fires to tell by word-of-mouth. The plot makes me excited as an idea (as it should if your writing it) but I got panicky about how well I was going to transition it onto paper.
That's when I put down the notes and started to write. Especially for chapter one, I find that you have to tell yourself that it doesn't matter at what state that first writing is at - because if your audience is lucky, it'll never come to light. Before finding your story, you've got to make some mistakes (no one makes a souffle in one go). But just having something to work with and get your hands messy is the foundation for the completed product.
Anyways, over at nanowrimo.org, I've decided my word count update will occur at 5 pm everyday.
On a side note, I cannot elaborate on how much of my time I spent at 2 am this morning "casting" my story. For (at least) the main characters, I like to have an idea of who I'm working with. Finding Erin was fun because I always start with my celeb girl crushes (people who I'd totally wanna be best friends with, if the world was perfect) and the secondary character, Henry, I had a good time looking at eyecandy (spent too long looking at Ed Westwick, even though I pretty much knew he wasn't Henry, but that's a different matter).
Overall, I feel slightly crazy in regards to this writing (both my novel and this blog post). But hey, this is what I do; I obsess.