I'm still fairly new to this game. But, here's my story. First, I got really anxious to get started, so I ordered a "plant assortment" on-line and blindly threw it in the tank. Then I battled all the normal startup issues (cloudy water, melting "difficult" plants, etc).
Then I started breathing again and thought about it a bit more indepth. I too spent a lot of time looking at pictures in books. I tried to focus on plants that I really liked. I'm guessing my style borders on Dutch, because I'm really attracted to different shades/colors and textures. Once I got the list of 'favorite' plants, I then started with the "default" tall in back, medium in the middle and short in front. After reading some aquascaping ideas on various forums, I then targetted the concave (?) design (the one that's high on the sides and lower in the middle). I then tweaked the plants listing with the concave approach in mind, drew up a quick, handdrawn plan, replanted the 'keeper' plants from my assortment and then started looking for sources for other plants.
I'm continually tweaking (though not really via major overhauls). To me, that is the real fun of the hobby. Thinking about what plants take too much work, what textures/colors look too similar, what cool plant would add more 'flavor' to the tank.
So, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it (at least for the rest of this month