I had another go with my drop spindle and the results were much more yarn-like! After the utter disaster that was my first attempt, I spent some time online looking for information that would help me figure this spinning thing out.
I found I had to look at many different resources to piece together my understanding of the process. The following were helpful:
Spinning with a Top-Whorl Drop Spindle- I found a lot of useful information in this resource, but just wasn't clear on some of the points (such as the drafting triangle and holding back the twist) because there are no diagrams. Once I'd figured out the details of spinning singles with the help of a few other resources, I did find this one quite useful in understanding plying and finishing.
Drop Spindle Spinning-although this deals with spinning with a bottom whorl spindle, and I didn't try the supported spindle technique, I did find the explanation of drafting and the drafting triangle here useful.
Spinning for the first time provides some useful guidance as well.
Laylock provides some tips for a beginner spinner and directed me here to create a 'notch' for my notchless spindle. This knitty article also shows how to use your fibre as a leader rather than a separate piece of yarn by inserting the hook into the fluffed out end of the fibre (which I did and preferred to the separate yarn leader).
I started out spinning the spindle then parking and drafting and was eventually able to give the spindle a good spin and then pinch off the twist with one hand while simultaneously drafting new fibres with the other until the spindle slowed.
So, I've made progress. My 'yarn' is still horribly variable in gauge, looks messy, and has too much twist in some places such that it twists back on itself even though it has been plied in the opposite direction (apparently this means it's 'unbalanced'). But at least I no longer want to throw the spindle out the window, put my head down and weep. In fact, I'm working on some new yarn that is a much thinner gauge than this and is actually fairly consistent.
The fibre I used for this little sample were from my April Phat Fibre box. It's superwash merino from Aurora Fibre Arts in 'Rhubarb'. After receiving a coupon for this Etsy shop along with the fibre in the Phat box, I ordered some lovely sock yarn which just arrived yesterday. Inside the package there was also a free 50 gr. skein of a worsted weight in 'Aubergine'!