it appeared as if I had emerged out of nowhere. The reality was that I had emerged from ten years of brutal failure, but no one saw all that learning. All people initially saw was the successful short stories, and I think that helped readers, and editors get excited about me. For a little while, I appeared to be a phenomenon, instead of just another writer who had been grinding it out for years.
When I started working on short stories, I had pretty much given up on novels. I knew I liked writing, but I couldn't take the rejection of seeing a year+ project die. Short stories/novelettes were a risk I could stomach. Interestingly, by that time I'd been writing for probably six or seven years, and I'd done a ton of book projects, so when I started to focus on short stories, I finally had my craft dialed in.
The thing that short stories really did for me was that they provided me with a market that wasn't afraid of the very dark stories I was writing. F&SF and Asimovs were happy to take me on, and it wasn't a risk for them the way it was for novel publishers to take on my long work.
So the short markets gave me exposure and legitimacy and a readership that I couldn't get by myself, and ultimately, that exposure was also what made Night Shade Books willing to take a risk on both my collection, and later on, THE WINDUP GIRL, when none of the major publishing houses would touch it.
The Drowned Cities took me two years to write, and it was a mess from the start. I wrote an entire draft of the book (90,000 words) and ended up throwing it away.