When I first started to take my creative writing seriously I decided to write a novel. Hardly an original idea I admit!
I wrote about 25,000 words before realising my idea wasn't a large enough canvas for a novel.
About that time two important things happened. I attended a weekend writing course at Auckland University, and read an article which stated would-be novelists should cut their writing teeth on short stories.
The premise of this advice is that much of our early writing is autobiographical and it is good to get through that stage in the form of short stories. The second reason is that short stories are good vehicles for practising the craft of writing.
I took this advice, and from the writing course found three similar minded writers and we formed a critique group.
For me it was good advice, and the feedback from the other writers was invaluable. I must stress here that I don't think short stories are just a stepping stone for writing a novel. They are wonderful in their own right, and I love reading a beautifully crafted short story. However the advice in the article was good for me, and I wrote short stories for a couple of years before deciding to start a novel.
I still love writing short stories, and am helped in this with the growing variety of short story competitions - at the moment I have details of competitions ranging from 25 words to 4,000.
By the way I have since rewritten my original 25,000 words as a 7,000 word short(ish) story - so there was a lot of padding in the original.