What made the difference this year is the increase in the amount of research I did in October and my attending the local write ins. I can't say enough about how my NaNo group helped me to push myself harder to write more. I stayed up later, wrote more often and just generally really poured myself into the work this year. Even though I thought I'd done that last year and the year before (first year was really a lark) this time was different. I was involved in my writing and the writing of others in the group. We helped each other with a word, a phrase, an idea or just by laughing together. I realized (finally) that all the psychological stuff that goes along with being a writer is something everyone experiences and having friends like these who understand is crucial.
So this is where we all take a little time off and kick back. Except I don't want to. I have another 25,000 words to write to get the zero draft of my novel done. I want to get this novel done and then go back and edit it and see if I can do anything with it. Right now, deep in the throes of it, I think it's really good. (I thought that with my first novel, too, but that wasn't the case. That one was only kinda-sorta okay.) I'm pushing to have this draft done before Christmas and I mean to do it.
I've done an enormous amount of work so far and it's only a little farther to the end now. NaNoWriMo is done, though I am not. And once the draft is finished, the real work of polishing and making it good begins.
Don't let anyone think that writing is easy. The ACT of writing is easy. Writing something good is hard. It's supposed to be. If it was easy, anyone could do it. Just like quantum physics. Or baseball.