I'm a quarter of the way through the first draft! I'm on schedule to finish the first draft by mid-June. Then, I'll spend the rest of June and all of July editing. If that goes well, I'll be formatting in August and publishing in September. I'll be writing about the editing process as I go through it. For now, I do most of my writing on the weekends. Evenings can net me about 500 words. I had hoped to get a lot more written during our spring break, but the days we had off weren't good for me. I did get other things done, and I've gotten back to some fast action, which is always easier to write.
If I divide the novel up into thirds, then we're almost at a third. Only 12,500 words to go. That's enough for about three more broad scenes or bits-of-things-happening. The reason this is important is because the first third of the novel needs to set up the overall problem, the second third needs to find the solution, and the last third needs to carry it out. There are always complications along the way, but that's the big picture for me.
Even though I'm not writing from an outline or with lots of notes, I still have the big picture in mind. That's why I'm thinking Sherman needs to find his family in the next few scenes so they can start figuring out the solution to the problem, if we have a clear-cut problem by then. I don't know where Sherman will find them, but he should. He's wandered around enough and seen enough that we can bring them back in and move on to the next part.
This sense of the overall arc is like gravity. It bends the plot towards the ending as the word count gets higher. I may not have an outline, but I start favoring certain complications (or lack thereof) over other complications. I'm not going to wait until the last chapter for Sherman to find his parents. That would leave too much from the beginning unresolved. I can't have him catch up to them five pages after they get caught because that would move things along too quickly.
The trick is to get the right feel for where things need to be in the story. It's like skiing. Go with the flow. Be in control, but not too much in control. Guide the story without forcing the story.
So far, targeting 150,000 words seems to give the right amount of room for the guidance to work. There's room to maneuver without getting cramped. Characters can grow without me having to tell a lot about them.