For all the reluctant out there…
Isn’t it all just writing?
Yes. A most definite, unequivocal yes.
What do I do if I’m just starting out?
I’m highly biased here, but I have a hunch nevertheless that stories are easier to get started with. Writing is a skill—more notably, a skill that requires tons of practice—and stories are easier both to finish and to ditch when found unfinishable. Which, when you do it to novels, hurts. (Not the novels, yeah?)
Which one should I write?
I’m not completely sure. I’ve been writing short stories exclusively for more than ten years, and novels almost exclusively for the ten years after that. It’s only been recently that I’ve managed to combine the two. Most people write either both, or mostly novels. There are no right answers, but… both are fun, and both can help you reach readers you’ve never even dreamt of.
What about novellas?
Beats me. I can’t seem to stop on time to call my short novels novellas, nor do I wish to. Some people can’t write short fiction, and they write either novellas or novels, or both. The thing is that novellas are not as uncommon as they used to be back in print-only days, and they do take a shorter time to write. Why don’t you try them, if you haven’t already, and see if they work for you?
Will I forget to write short stories if I start writing novels?
This is probably the hardest one, for me, personally. Because I stopped writing short stories once I dove into novels on a larger scale, and it’s been only recently that I’ve gone back to them. Speaking from experience, I don’t think I’d forgotten anything—other than the thrill of doing something easy and fast. (A lot of people don’t find short stories easy. A lot of people don’t read short stories. Your guess is as good as mine as to the possible correlation between the two.)
Why write novels anyway?
Because, like it or not, most readers read novels. Some of us (gasp) prefer series of novels. Thus, the possible market is, put simply, bigger.
As in all things writing… try everything. Keep what works for you. Never stop learning. And—drumroll, please—have fun!