I don't think it matters, my brother up and decided he wanted to write a novel and although it isn't finished what I read was AMAZING. I'd never seen him write anything before but he had a definite handle on story arc, descriptive writing and character development. I mean sometimes he would play around with character concepts but still, he never wrote any short stories that I saw and sure as hell didn't write poetry. Some people just have talent and telling someone like that that they need to slow down and start with something supposedly simpler like short stories or poetry would only be detrimental. I suppose that could be an exception to the rule but I don't really feel that you can learn to write a novel from short stories, the two are very different. A short story has to have a conflict that can be solved within a few pages. Whereas a novel is more slow paced and should be drawn out over several chapters. and poetry.....okay poetry does involve playing with words. but poetry is an artistic arrangement of words that aren't necessarily confined to the same standards as prose. You can do things with poetry that if you did with prose you'd just get funny looks. Most people should have a comfort zone in which they know what they can and can't do anyway. Now I'm not saying that everybody should jump in and start writing novels but I DO feel that if they think they are capable of it why not let them try and as long as they keep working at it they will eventually succeed so what exactly is the issue? I mean deviantart is chock full of people willing to critique any writing of any experience level and there are places where you can submit you're writing and they will tell you what needs work. That's my rambling quota of the week
It was a good ramble, and I agree with pretty much everything you've said! I definitely think that all forms are different, and while the skills you learn in one might help with another, it's not 100% transferable. And I'm very impressed with your brother, sounds like he has great talent.
I find it insulting that there's an implication in that article that flash fiction and short stories are somehow easier to write than a novel - anyone can write anything, no matter their level of experience. The trick is writing something GOOD. I'd rather have one quality flash fiction than another shitty novel. Whether intentional or not, the debate is framed in such a way that implies novels are superior to other forms of writing.
That aside, they are completely different things. I know I could never write a novel, and I don't say that in a self-depreciating way. I say that because I have no interest in writing a novel, and because I've spent a long time specializing my writing to a point where flash fiction is so natural that anything too long begins to feel wrong in my hands. Novel writing isn't for me, and will never be for me. Not having a novel doesn't mean I'm always going to be a "beginning" writer.
I think you should start with what you're comfortable with. If poetry comes naturally to you why deny it? The same with short prose or long. I think many writers idolize the novel and the novelist in a way they shouldn't. Anyone can write a hundred thousand words of shit. Whatever you write try and make it great.
A lot of first attempts at writing a novel fail but they're still learning experiences. I think the first time I tried one I was nine or ten. I filled a binder full of illegible handwriting. I can't even remember the plot lol.
"I think many writers idolize the novel and the novelist in a way they shouldn't. Anyone can write a hundred thousand words of shit." -- I think that's 100% true. Then again, like `HaveTales-WillTell said, novels are where the money is.
I totally tried to write novels when I was eight, but they were more like chaptered short stories.
I said no. What you start with might not be what you end up with, but if you enjoy writing, you'll find your niche eventually. I don't think you pick up bad habits or anything by getting ambitious and starting with a novel. You probably won't finish it. And it will almost definitely suck. But there's sure nothing wrong with trying. If you get to the end and realise you wished you'd waited until you had more writing experience, well, you go away and write something else, and if you still like the novel, you go back and rewrite it and so forth until you do like it.
Also, I am mostly referring to people who have started writing as kids/teens... If it's an adult who out of the blue decides they're going to write, that's another story. They already have a set of experiences and language tools and really there's no excuse for them not to dive in. They'll either finish the project they set out to work on or they won't, and if they do, they might write some more, and if not... they'll probably just go back to their important adult lives and say at least they tried.