"I have writer friends who plot out their books from the first word to the last, and that works very well for them. Me, if I do that, I feel as if the story is already written, so on to the next book."
I've struggled with this issue a lot in my own writing. Finding out that an author of 30 published novels in historical, contemporary, and young adult genres has the same problem is comforting to me!
I originally tried to outline extensively, but found I lost enthusiasm for the story when I did that (it felt "already written," as Beverly Jenkins says).
Then I tried the opposite approach, simply writing anything that came to mind with no pre-determined direction. That didn't work for me either. Secondary characters went off on tangents, the mystery subplot got lost, and the main characters wandered from one event to the next with no purpose.
So now I'm trying something in the middle. In my last book a contemporary romance, I had a fairly complex mystery subplot. So I worked out the mystery step by step, figuring what the hero (a cop) would learn at each stage of the story that would lead him to the solution. Then I let the relationship between the characters grow organically within that framework. The problem eventually became clear--the mystery overshadowed the romance in the story.
So now I'm revising, doing the same thing with the romance I did with the mystery--outlining its progression through the course of the story, and then filling it in as I go through each scene.
We'll see how it goes.
So how have you dealt with this issue? Are you a plotter or a "pantser"? Do you prefer to know exactly where your story is going before you sit down to write, or are you more comfortable letting the story flow?