Well, I've finished it! I am now quite well-acquainted with the life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, and not without a deal of enjoyment in the process, I must say.
It's a book which defies description (you'd be better to read this than wait for me to explain it), labyrinthine in its narrative - "...if it is to be a digression [remember this?], it must be a good frisky one, and upon a frisky subject too..." - frisky it is and full of freshness and lively humour as well as an extraordinary amount of learning and very rich language.
Sarah said in her comment the other day that she'd started the book twice but not got very far with it; I took the 'head down and fifty pages at a time' approach and that worked well for me, so if you're considering reading it don't be put off by the length or the apparent complexity*, just have a go.
As is the way of reading paths crossing, Laurence Sterne and his Yorkshire home, Shandy Hall, cropped up in Madeleine Bunting's book The Plot: A Biography of an English Acre which I read last month. I looked up the house at the time (website here and you can see the study where much of the book was written) but that brief mention did bring Sterne to mind and I'm glad I've now read his most famous work. As to working methods, here's a passage which explains them and offers an interesting theory on the nature of the creative process:
"... of all the several ways of beginning a book which are now in practice throughout the known world, I am confident my own way of doing it is the best - I'm sure it is the most religious - for I begin with writing the first sentence - and trusting to Almighty God for the second.
"I wish you saw me half starting out of my chair, with what confidence, as I grasp the elbow of it, I look up - catching the idea, even sometimes before it halfway reaches me - I believe in my conscience I intercept many a thought which heaven intended for another man."
(* you can skip bits - but don't tell anyone I said that).