1. A cold.
2. A new method of planning longer stories.
My previous NaNoWriMos were written using the basic story formula, with each plot point plotted out, and none of them worked out. The next step became obvious too early on, the events didn't proceed at a natural pace, and I ended up writing a lot of nonsense instead of utilizing concise language. The characters seemed forced into their paths. So, the basic story formula: a complete washout when it comes to story planning, at least for me. It might be something that's better applied in the editing phase, when naturally emerging plot points can be moved closer to the points specified in the formula.
Another easy trap, but one that I was already avoiding, is making a lot of character detail before you have a story. I'm now utilizing two characters from my latest short story as a kind of a detective-narrator pair, so they are rather well-thought-out, but the other characters a this point are roles, with some impressions and details attached. (I might end up writing a crime novel without a crime. That remains to be seen.) To develop the story they walk into, however, I started writing down aspects or things I wanted to see in the story. These included things like "a rare Bhutanese butterfly", "Tarot reading" and "funeral".
This really sparked up the imagination. From the butterfly I got a butterfly enthusiast, and the seed for the first character, who I already see in my mind as being played by Michael Palin, though that might change when the actual writing begins. Another aspect, "a rose garden", created another character and with her an important chunk of plot.
I've only played around with this today and yesterday, so I haven't got anywhere close to a real plot yet. If this works out, the plot should emerge from the elements, and from consciously avoiding the obvious. Internal consistency will be key.
I have SO much to work out before this gets anywhere, but I refuse to stress about it too much. Now for lunch.
(Oh, my God. Could I drop Kwan into this story? No-- mustn't. If I want to meet him, I'll have to write another Ursula Herman story.)