Hi TexasQuilt: PRACTICE...just exactly like Shelly said to do. I took a quilting class several years ago and they had us bring several 18 x18 inch sandwiched sqares to practice on. We stippled, straight lined, feathered, etc. and we also did what someone else said, draw the quilt pattern on paper and go over and over it so you are practicing the "flow" of the pattern. I'm not a great quilter yet but someday I plan to be and I follow the class training hints I got. The other thing, the little gloves with the non-skid dots on them are GREAT! I wouldn't attempt quilting without the gloves as they make the job so much easier. I'll dig out my practice squares and attache them so you can see what we did in that class.
One last thing, my personal preference is using a bit longer stitch to quilt than when I'm sewing my blocks together. I just think the longer stitch looks more attractive. I don't know if there is a set in stone rule for stitch length, I just tried different lengths and went with what I liked best.