Remember The Game of Life? ("I heartily endorse this game." -- Art Linkletter. "Who?" -- Kids Today.) One of the major decisions you had to make near the beginning of the game was to take the lengthy detour to College, and earn a higher salary, or go straight into Business, ensuring a lower starting salary but you'd begin receiving it immediately. Even as a kid I always chose the College route.
Writing a novel is like going to college, in that you are investing a lot of time up front with the hope of a bigger payoff later on. Though I am pleased for friends like gregvaneekhout and lisamantchev as they go through the throes of first novel publication, I'm also somewhat jealous... I spent most of last year working on my second novel, and now I'm waiting for a response that will probably take another six months or more. Meanwhile I didn't publish a lot of short stories in 2008, and I won't publish a lot this year even if I start selling soon. I feel a little sidetracked.
That's why I'm working intensively on short stories right now. I know the competition for the major short story markets is even fiercer than it is for novels, but I've had good luck with my stories and, even if they don't sell any more quickly than novels do, there are more of them out there so the odds of some kind of sale in any given month are pretty good. If nothing else, I get the thrill of completion every couple of weeks and the chance to start over with something new and interesting.
But I'm hedging my bets. I have another couple short story projects that will keep me busy through July or August, but once those are done I intend to start in on novel #3. Hopefully by alternating novels and short stories I'll be able to keep my name in front of readers while waiting for that elusive first novel sale.