It's hard because I'm into Act II now, the big, swampy middle as it's called, getting into territory where I had only a very loose outline. Imagine driving from New York to Los Angeles, trying to navigate with a globe of the world and a magnifying glass. New York is marked and Los Angeles is marked, so you know where they are in relation to one another, and you see the terrain in between, but there are no roads marked. You know the roads around the New York area pretty well, and you've driven around to neighboring states some, so you got going just fine. But now you're somewhere like Kentucky and nothing looks familiar at all, so you just keep pushing generally south and west, knowing that eventually you'll hit the ocean and then all you have to do is head down the coast till you run into it.
That's what writing a novel is like for me. On Angel Baby, I got lost and gave up around St. Louis. On Flip, I took a couple of wrong turns, ended up in Nebraska (home of WoTF quarterly winner Matt Rotundo! Hi, Matt!) and quit. On Stripped, I got to Las Vegas and said, Screw it, close enough" and settled down.
I've tried to outline more carefully every time I've started a new project, but it just doesn't seem to work out that way. I started this book with a pretty good grasp on the overall structure of the story, and perhaps more importantly, a more extensive backstory for the characters than I'd ever had before, so the problems seem to be solving themselves pretty handily as I go along. I'm speeding right toward the book's major twist, not a surprise twist, really, but the major turn that's going to change the kind of story it was into the kind of story it will be.
For the "Star Wars" geeks out there, this is Luke Skywalker deciding to rescue the Princess. For the entire movie thus far, the story has been "Dodge the Empire and get the droids to Alderaan." Then it turns out Alderaan's been blown up, and the Falcon has been captured by the Death Star, and our heroes have no idea what to do. They know they need to escape, but after they escape, they've got nothin'. Then Luke finds out the Princess is being held on board, and now he's got a new purpose and a new resolve: rescue the Princess and get her back to the rebels, which sets up everything that happens in the second half of the movie.
Then again, the twist I've got coming up could be seen as more of a first act twist, like Luke discovering his aunt and uncle have been killed. And since I heard Friday that Hard Case Crime is looking for longer manuscripts than 50,000 words, more in the neighborhood of 75,000, you could make the argument that 25,000 words is a decent place for a first act twist (a little late for a first act, but it depends on the story, really). Except that I don't know how much story I can fill with after this twist. My plot outline gets more barren the farther it goes. So for right now, I'm calling myself halfway through until my plot proves different.