I think this is something that would be interesting to see how different people approach. Like the headline says, share how you decide to start a major project. Is there a lot of contemplation before diving in? Does a small project grow into something bigger? Or do you just jump in out of the blue one day?
I just recently (ie. on Thursday) started writing a new novel, which will be my second. I actually started trying to write this story about 10 years ago when I was in middle school. I got what felt like halfway through, but I never had an outline and ultimately just got stuck where I couldn't make the plot work. My mom loved the story, but I just couldn't get past that roadblock.
I went back to it when I took a short story writing class in college (a few years ago). I changed the plot up a little bit to be more realistic (which was not middle-school-me's strong suit) and gave at least one of the main characters some semblance of a personality. I then rewrote the opening as a "short story" for the class, but I was never inspired to go back to it.
Fast forward to last Tuesday. I had a lot of work to get done, but instead of doing my job like a rational person, I decided I was going to fix this story. I then spent about two and a half days COMPLETELY overhauling the plot - cutting characters, adding characters, changing the starting place, changing ages, and actually coming up with a reasonable and satisfying conclusion. Not to mention breathing life into my previously very one-dimensional characters, giving them all personalities and actual backstories and motivations that made sense.
I started writing on Thursday, and now the goal is to have a first draft done by late April in time for my mom's birthday as a surprise, and ultimately try to get it traditionally published (after lots of revision, obviously). I'm currently expecting it to end up being around 80,000 words, which is twice the length of my previous novel.
The last novel I wrote - the one I'm putting up on Tapas - was a somewhat similar genesis. A friend of mine invited me to do NaNoWriMo, I said "Why not?" and spent one or two weeks outlining and planning a story, then finishing the first draft in a month. That was when I learned that I really do need outlines when writing anything long (something I'd never done before), and that I do best when just marathoning it out for a first draft. Right now I'm sitting at about 8,800 words in three days, which I haven't approached since that NaNoWriMo project.
Anyway, I'm very excited about it, as is probably obvious from my rambling. After three different titles and two false starts, it's going to be finished this time. Share how you start big projects below!