I read an article a few days ago that was talking about goal setting and getting to your dreams. The article suggested that if you know the end goal you then break down the goal into smaller short term goals. It went on to suggest that if your long term goal is to write a novel, then to get there you start by writing short stories and articles for your local newspaper and such.
Now, I agree that if a person’s goal is to be a writer then they should write short stories and articles and whatnot. I have to disagree, though, with the idea that if you specifically want to write a novel you should start with anything other than a novel. If you want to be a good baker, you practice cakes and cookies and biscotti and pies and everything under the baking sun. If you want to learn to make souffles, you start making souffles.
Yes, in making souffles and novels there are important lessons to be learned in both baking in general and writing in general, but I believe that you learn how to do what you want to do by doing that thing you want to do. The writing lessons you’d learn by writing short stories and articles can also be learned by writing a novel. Why beat around the bush? Jump in. Begin. If your goal is to write a novel, start writing a novel.