I always tell my quilting students to develop a plan for their quilting before starting to stitch. Once you have put many quilting stitches in, you don’t really want to take them out because “frogging” (as unstitching is commonly called) takes a LOT longer than stitching. Look at your quilt top from a distance and decide what areas you want to emphasize, what theme you want your quilting to explore. Consider how dense you want your quilting stitches to be.
The type of quilt you are working on will in many ways answer your basic questions. If it is an applique quilt, you do not generally want to stitch across the appliques. You probably want to highlight the appliqués by stitching closely around them and filling the background areas, either traditionally or using a more contemporary twist. If your top is pieced, does the fabric and design lend itself to a more contemporary or a more traditional type of quilting? Now with the internet, it is so easy to explore other examples of similar quilts and also learn about their history. Take this valuable time before you start your quilting and I guarantee you will be more pleased with the results.
Here is an example of a quilt I recently finished and a brief look at my quilting plan.
Note that this design set is now available for purchase through my store.