D&D Question: How to start a good sandbox campaign?

A sandbox campaign has no one central story. It’s a basket full of little stories, lots of little opportunities to wander about and do whatever. And the general wisdom seems to be that you start somewhere small, with a big map full of white space, and let the players wander about as they wish, and fill in the gaps as you go along.

So. How do you actually start? How many rumors and hooks should you invent and prep and dangle in front of the players on Day One? Or on Day Fifty?

Arthur Rackham

How much content/opportunity should the players have access to at any given time? Three rumors? Ten hooks?

What is the “right” amount of preparation? Is there a danger of over-prepping and creating a central story? Is there a danger of prepping too little and having the energy drain out of the whole thing?

Right now, I’m creating a small town surrounded by little dungeons and wildernesses. But how much is too much or too little? 

What do you think about this? Have you tried anything similar? Any suggestions or insights?

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