When Katie Cushman and I went to see prolific author Karen Kingsbury last year, we ended up chatting with her about how she cranks out books (seemingly) every other day. From what I understand, she's a 'pre-writer', someone who gets the story as together as possible before sitting down and cranking it out at a nearly non-stop pace. The incredible Susan Meissner has taught on how she pre-writes as well.
Other writers are more SOTP -- seat of the pants. They work on the chapters from the getgo to get a sense of the characters, often stopping and revising along the way.
I started off as SOTP and have morphed into a sort of mix. I really love to write the first chapter even with limited info at my finger tip because when I do this, I often come away surprised! For example, in my current WIP, someone I planned on bringing in much later in the book decided to show up--and it worked. Kristin Billerbeck said in an interview once that she free writes several chapters to get a feel for her characters.
However, I've found though that once I get those first thoughts onto the page, I need to map out more of the details to help me stay on course. I tried story boarding with post-its, but that was just a big mess. I've also tried diagramming the story on paper, complete with arrows, circles and curly-cues, but then I never looked at the thing again.
So now I outline the old fashioned way, in writing, block by block. Sometimes those blocks must move or morph or be stricken, but since I'm not a legalist about it, that's fine by me.
Of course, some habits haven't completely faded away. That pic at the top is of my desk in its current state (although as I like to say, "I know where everthing is!"). Despite my move toward more organization in writing, my desk just hasn't read the memo.