Zelda developed a bond with a young female resident, Dr. Mildred Squires, and toward the end of February she shared an excerpt of her novel with Squires, who wrote to Scott that the novel was vivid and had charm. Meanwhile, Scott became worried that Zelda's treatment would consume all his money, so he set aside his novel to work on short stories to fund the treatment. Zelda wrote to Scott from the hospital, "I am proud of my novel, but I can hardly restrain myself enough to get it written. You will like it—It is distinctly École Fitzgerald, though more ecstatic than yours—perhaps too much so. Zelda was writing furiously; she finished the novel on March 9 and sent it to Scott's publisher, their friend Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's.
When Scott finally saw the manuscript, he was outraged. Zelda's novel had drawn heavily on her own life, as had Scott's previous writings; but Scott was irked because the novel he'd been working on for four years drew on many of the same events in their shared life. He was also angry that she'd named one of her characters Amory Blaine, the protagonist of Scott's first novel This Side of Paradise. Zelda wrote him "I was also afraid we might have touched the same material. Scott forced her to revise extensively, though the precise extent of the revisions is unknown because her original manuscript and initial revisions are all lost. (Scott would use much of the same autobiographical material in his 1934 novel Tender Is the Night.) Eventually she won Scott's approval; he wrote to Perkins, "Here is Zelda's novel. It is a good novel now, perhaps a very good novel—I am too close to tell. It has the faults and virtues of a first novel. ... It is about something and absolutely new, and should sell.
Zelda signed the contract to publish the book on June 14 1932. It was published on October 7 with a printing of 3,010 copies (not unusually low for a first novel in the middle of the Great Depression) on cheap paper, with a cover of green linen.
McFee wrote, "In this book, with all its crudity of conception, its ruthless purloinings of technical tricks and its pathetic striving after philosophic profundity, there is the promise of a new and vigorous personality in fiction. Malcolm Cowley, a friend of the Fitzgeralds, read the book and wrote to Scott, "It moves me a lot: she has something there that nobody got into words before.
The book sold only 1,392 copies for which she earned $120.73. (The book would be reprinted years after her and Scott's deaths, when interest in the Fitzgeralds was rekindled.) The failure of Save Me the Waltz crushed her spirits.
She had been working throughout the fall of 1932 on a second novel, based on her experiences in psychiatric treatment. But Scott's reaction was unkind. In a fight before Zelda was readmitted to treatment, Fitzgerald said her novel was "plagiaristic, unwise in every way... should not have been written. Zelda asked, "didn't you want me to be a writer?" Though Scott once had, he lashed out "No, I do not care whether you were a writer or not, if you were any good... you are a third-rate writer and a third-rate ballet. The psychiatrist agreed with Scott. Zelda was devastated; she never published another novel.