Skip to main content

Before The Great Gatsby: Vintage Quotes and Wisdom From F Scott Fitzgerald

At Writer’s Digest, one of my favorite things to do is to go spelunking in the magazine archives. First published in 1920 as Successful Writing, WD has been around for 92 years, which gives a motivated nerd a lot of thrills in digging around when he’s not editing, writing or having mini panic attacks about production deadlines.

(Your Moment of Friday Writing Zen)

Successful Writing - The very first issue of what would become Writer's Digest

Fitzgerald! Hemingway! “Writing for the talkies!” Bradbury! Photo-plays! Kerouac! King! Capote! (Vintage exclamation points!)

At Writer’s Digest, one of my favorite things to do is to go spelunking in the magazine archives. WD has been around for 92 years (since it was first published as "Successful Writing") which gives a motivated nerd a lot of thrills in digging around when he’s not editing, writing or having mini panic attacks about production deadlines.

The finds: Legendary writers with decades-old advice that’s still evergreen (think quotes from Great Gatsby scribe F. Scott Fitzgerald, et al.). Novel strategies. Charming letters to the editor. Delightfully outdated advertisements. Quirky and humorous odds and ends galore.

I'll be posting some of my favorites here every Friday in a new series.

Since this is the debut post, here's a smattering of clips from our first year, 1920-1921, featuring wisdom from Fitzgerald and others.

Enjoy. And good luck on your photo-plays.

(Also, anyone who remembers my writing prompt blog, Promptly, might recall me talking about my health being endangered by the towering stacks of books on my desk—new titles sent to us by publishers, authors and so on. After reviewing the books, I used to do giveaways—and once again, the stacks tower. Thus, we’ll pick one commenter at random every week to win a book. There are novels, instructional writing titles, biographies, etc.—I’ll email the winner the list, and he or she can just choose whatever strikes his/her fancy.)

Letters From F. Scott Fitzgerald, pre-Great Gatsby

Writer's Digest - Editor's Mail Box: F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Be Sure to Get a Copy of This Big Number"

Writer's Digest - Experiments in early house ads

Quote of the month from young scribe F. Scott Fitzgerald: "I wear brown soft hats in winter, Panamas in summer, loathe dress suits and never wear one, and prefer people with greenish-gray eyes." And: "I'd rather watch a good shimmy dance …"

Writer's Digest - More from author F. Scott Fitzgerald

Write about Cogley's ducks! (Anyone need a writing prompt?)

Writer's Digest - The Duck Scenario

Notice: Aged Author Soon to Wed

Writer's Digest - A personal authorial announcement

“Eminent Author Declares That a Writer Who Declines to Use Motion Pictures is Like a Business Man Who Ignores the Telegraph and Telephone”

Writer's Digest - Feature article

An article (with apologies for the cropping/size) that still rings true: “Have Faith: Have faith in your ability to write, and above all have faith in your stories. There are some stories which I write which I don’t care much about after they are finished, and I am not surprised if they don’t sell. But the majority of them I believe in, and even though they are knocked by the editors, laughed at by my friends, who are firmly convinced that they know a good story when they see one, I keep them going. There was an item in one of the magazines some time ago of an author whose story sold on the 200th submission. It had been going the rounds for seven years, and he had paid out over fifty dollars in postage. When asked why he had kept it going so long, he said simply, ‘I believed it was a good story.’ He had faith in it and faith won.”

Writer's Digest - Having faith in your work

--

Want more from the archives? Check out our January 2012 issue (The Novelist’s Survival Kit), which features “Tried & True: Timeless Novel Advice” from the likes of Stephen King and 22 others. And for 90 tips from our 90-year retrospective in 2010, click here.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Sharon Maas: On Books Finding the Right Time

Author Sharon Maas discusses the 20-year process of writing and publishing her new historical fiction novel, The Girl from Jonestown.

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

6 Steps to Becoming a Good Literary Citizen

While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Daniel Paisner: On the Pursuit of a Creative Life

Journalist and author Daniel Paisner discusses the process of writing his new literary fiction novel, Balloon Dog.