The Great Snallygaster Hunt

Scratching your head over the definition of a Snallygaster?

I have a fondness for beasties of a cryptozoological nature which is why I’m trotting out this dragon-like creature today. German settlers brought tales of the Snallygaster from the Old Country to Maryland when they first settled the area in the 1700s. Although reports continued into the 1930s, 1909 was the year of “The Great Snallygaster Hunt.” There were so many sightings in 1909, that the Smithsonian Institution offered a reward for monster’s capture, and Theodore Roosevelt almost cancelled an African safari in order to hunt it.

Dragon with raised wings in the mist

So why am I discussing a cryptid on a writing blog? I mean…aside from the fact that “Snallygaster” is an awesome name (say it a few times and you’ll see what I mean).

As authors, we each have our own Snallygasters, those sneaky hurdles and loopholes that creep into our writing routine. Lately, I’ve been on a never-ending hunt, chasing down deadlines, word counts, story ideas, and misbehaving characters. There is so little time to celebrate achievements. Yes, we send up a fist-pump when we meet a deadline, finish a draft or ship off a manuscript, but do we savor those victories as we should? And they are victories. We’ve bested the Snallygaster, but we know there is another lurking in the corner. Snallygasters are everywhere, beckoning us to chase them.

In the last month, I have met a deadline, zipped through copy edits, content edits, and galleys. I was still in galley mode when the detail sheets for my next book arrived. O! M! G! My mindset was still on book one, but suddenly I had to start thinking about marketing material for book two.


Ideas eluded me for days, until I finally nailed down a barebones plot. But I’d no sooner sent that information to my publisher than one of my characters misbehaved and rewrote their role. Sigh Somewhere, I hear the Snallygaster laughing. Probably chortling. Maybe dancing to Can’t Touch This by M.C. Hammer—all while I’m having a minor meltdown.

woman in front of laptop is yanking hair on both sides of her head and yelling

Now it’s time to write the opening of book two and ideas that were my friend a week ago are romping away like the Snallygaster, eluding capture. Beginning a new project is hard. Completing a project is hard. When it comes right down to it, there isn’t any easy aspect of writing and finishing a novel. Or of the writing profession in general.

We constantly hit speedbumps, sometimes even roadblocks, but trudge on regardless. Just like the people of 1909 who engaged in the Great Snallygaster Hunt, we refuse to back away from the challenge.

Wrestling with plot threads, vomiting word count to make a deadline, arguing with our characters, editing-revising-editing-revising until we can’t see straight—this is what we do. We’re writers and authors. It’s the life we’ve chosen. Which means there will be many more Snallygasters along the way.

How do you overcome your hurdles? What is it that you love about writing that keeps you jumping through hoops and battering down roadblocks? What do you do when you’re up against a deadline or a character changes direction halfway through your manuscript? Do you have tricks you employ when you need motivation?

Grab a beverage, sit for a spell, and chat writing with us. Tell us about your Snallygasters and how you overcome them those pesky beasties.

49 thoughts on “The Great Snallygaster Hunt

  1. Great read! I definitely find myself having to step away to calm my thoughts, and focus. Sometimes I will wait until the next day to continue where I left off on a difficult part in my writing. Though, I’m still fairly new to “the lifestyle” as a writer (i.e. consistency), I’m starting to experience some big sticks and obstacles much like these Snallygasters. But, everyone starts somewhere. And I’m sure I have a giant of learning to do. For now, a day to refocus is helping. Thanks for the sweet post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Elijah! So glad you stopped by to check out the post.

      I think Snallygasters can be a hindrance to writers regardless of what stage they are in their writing journey, from novice to pro. They are pesky creatures, but can be overcome. Your plan of stepping back from a difficult part of your manuscript and giving yourself a day to refocus is one such way. Sometimes I plow through those tough spots, but I know the writing is going to suck–big time. Then I go back the neck day and do clean up. Other times, I throw my hands in the air and say I’ll deal with it tomorrow, LOL.

      I wish you all the best on your writing journey and hope you’ll find other helpful posts on Story Empire. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, this post was fun! Shared it on my Facebook page. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes, or we WOULD pull our hair out. And I’d look terrible bald. I think poor Snallygasters are misunderstood. We’d miss them if they ever became extinct:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s definitely a learning experience, Robbie. I find that if I approach one thing at a time (with marketing and promotion) it helps. Of course that isn’t always doable, and as you said–finding time to write is the biggest challenge of all. It’s a good thing we like what we do! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I am going to sound so DULL if I respond to this. Snallygasters? Well, they’re sort of banished. I ‘ve had to rediscover the fun in writing for writing’s sake. That, I eventually realised, is why I write. I love it! I love the written word, the idiosyncrasies, the plotting, the parsing, the happy shattering of rules with no editor to rebuke me…as for publishing my work, I’ll have to leave that to posterity (or possibly archaeology). So – my recommendation: sit back with several glasses of something honeyed and strong, and just watch those deadlines go rushing by! Sorry, Mae -I know you’ll hate me!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Heh. Snallygaster. Snallygaster. Damn, that’s fun to say 🙂 And a dragon-like creature to boot! I want one. Wait, no, I’d rather have a night fury. But snallygaster 😀 I’ve got a whole herd of them lurking around right now–I’m having a heck of a time breaking my procrastination streak. Maybe a fire-breathing one can light a fire under me 🙂 I think it’s because I’m not feeling comfortable with the storyline of my WIP. So, time to just grit teeth, put butt in chair, and start writing. The first draft is crap anyway 😀 Thanks for introducing the snallygaster, Mae! My new word of the day!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love saying Snallygaster. I’m glad you’re having fun with it, Julie. Isn’t it a great word? 🙂

      Maybe your Night Fury can battle the Snallygaster that has you procrastinating and send the beast packing. I need to do the butt in chair thing too. Sometimes that’s the only way to battle through. Fingers crossed you work out the kinks in your WIP soon!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve got quite a parcel of strange beasties tucked away, Natalie, LOL. The Mothman will always be my favorite urban legend, but there are so many good ones, and the Snallygaster seemed like a good fit for the problems writers face. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mae, you hit the nail squarely on the head when you said there is nothing easy about this business of writing. There are no pat answers as I think they vary from person to person. It is hard to juggle everything and I constantly feel like I am doggy paddling just to keep my head above water. But, I get up every morning and start again. Maybe that’s the answer. As Dory said, “Just keep swimming.” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that philosophy of “just keep swimming,” Jan–and I’m right there doggy paddling beside you. I don’t know that we’ll ever win the battle but at least there are small victories along the way to help us keep going. Writing is not for the faint of heart, LOL!


  6. Roadblocks and writing go hand and hand, don’t they? When I get stuck on something, the frustration mounts so high that I just have to walk a way for a bit. Usually I’ll leave it for the next day, after I’ve had a chance to let it percolate through my brain a bit. Then I’ll sit down fresh and just tackle it. There’s no moving ahead until we do!

    Liked by 5 people

    • You’re absolutely right, Carrie. No matter how monstrous the roadblock, until we find a way to batter it down or maneuver around it, there is no forward momentum. I do a lot of mental picking when I hit those obstacles, often taking a day or two away from the project like you–all the while, picking and picking at the problem in my head until it starts to unravel. I don’t think non-writers can fully grasp how frustrating those moments are for us, and the elation we feel when we start moving forward again!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts today,

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Mae, you know me. I love cryptids. The snallygaster is one of my favorites, if for no other reason than its name is fun to say (and Wild Bill on Mountain Monsters butchers it every time).

    You made me laugh, saying it’s chortling at you.

    You also made me laugh because I’m right there with you. I just got done outlining my next story and I started to write it. The characters have already veered off-script. And it’s only chapter one!

    Great post, Mae.

    Liked by 3 people

    • LOL! Sounds like you and I are facing the same hurdles at the same time, Staci. I have a sneaky suspicion there are twin snallygasters at fault 😉

      I wish I could see Mountain Monsters, but I don’t get the channel. You know me and crytids.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Here’s hoping you round up your snallygaster soon and win the battle. I’m planning on tackling mine, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      • If you can find the humor in redneck hillbillies (their phrase, not mine) searching for cryptids, you’ll love it. Here’s a link to the Snallygaster episode.

        And yes, I do believe we’re on a parallel course here with the same gremlins working against us. I sent my fabulous critique partner chapter one to look at last night, and I’ve already made changes to it this morning. Sigh.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. “But I’d no sooner sent that information to my publisher than one of my characters misbehaved and rewrote their role.” LOL. Can I say I love it when that happens? Let the characters take on a life of their own? I ended up writing a series because of a certain character.

    My biggest two Snallygasters are time and discipline. When I have time to write, I tend to spend too much time on social media or reading. And yes, reading is good, and I learn from it, but I need to discipline myself to writing (right now editing). And with that, I’m off. 😉 Great post, Mae!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Those characters who misbehave often turn out to be diamonds, don’t they, Joan? I never win the battles when they want to romp off in an unplanned direction, but I admit to doing a lot of whining as they drag me along. It sounds like your character who spawned a series is a fabulously strong one.

      I’ve taught myself to be disciplined with my writing time, and have a set routine, but time is a huge enemy. I need more of it than the regular hours I have set aside, but haven’t been able to squeeze any more out of the day. I read before I go to bed, so that’s pretty much routine too. Wouldn’t it be great if we had an on/off switch for writing–just sit down and flip it on, LOL.

      Good luck with your editing. You’re in the home stretch!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My biggest Snallygaster right now is energy, or lack there of, lols. I’m finding that some gentle pushing without full on forcing is the way to go at the moment, and maybe in a minute, I’ll have tamed that beast! 😃 Thanks for this, Mae 😊

    Liked by 4 people

    • I get those low ebb periods too, Harmony—usually when I’m not feeling well or coming down with/from a cold. I also find it easy to burn out after I burn midnight oil to meet a deadline. We do so much as authors/writers—not just writing, but editing, promo, marketing, reading, social media–it’s no wonder we have spurts where we feel drained. Hope you best your snallygaster soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I think my Snallygasters are winning right now. At least until I get the finale out and a few things sorted. Seems deadlines for authors are dangerous even if they’re self-made. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s always an unexpected obstacle beyond my control. That ends up wearing on the creativity too. I think it also makes it hard to savor the victories. You get this sense that you only won a battle while the war is still raging.

    Liked by 4 people

      • Joan, I completely agree with that philosophy. I’ve had a few authors tell me they rushed to get their first book out and regret that they didn’t take more time with it. Now they take they’re time. I know there are authors who are able to churn out multiple releases in a single year, but most of us need more time!

        Liked by 1 person

    • For me, deadlines are a double-edged sword. They motivate me but they’re also like a huge weight hanging above my head waiting to crush me. I have many friends who say they feel the same way with a self-imposed deadlines. Let’s face it–we’re just really hard on ourselves. And when we’re burning out, beating ourselves up over that looming deadline, it’s easy for our creativity to sink to low ebb.

      I do like to savor my victories. Even when the small voice in the back of my head is already whispering about the next deadline/snallygaster, I still feel a tremendous sense of relief and accomplishment for having bested one of the beasts.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Charles. I hope you triumph over your snallygaster. I was just thinking about you the other day. When you’re ready with your latest, I’m ready to promo on my blog!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think with me, part of the frustration comes from people around me not respecting my deadlines. It’s an aspect of being an indie author that I should have known would be an issue. I have a schedule, but people still see me as somebody fiddling with his notebooks and assume I can drop whatever I’m doing to run errands. This causes the deadlines to become even scarier because I never know when such delays will turn up.

        I’m hoping to feel a lot of relief when the last book comes out. My plan is a week from Saturday, but one can never tell these days. Part of the delay is coming from my wife’s injury and me having to focus more on the house stuff than the writing. It’s always something when I’m heading for a book release. I do plan on sending out the guest posts as soon as I hit publish and get the site. Doing that even before I set up my own blog post since everyone has been patient.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have a few indie titles out there (though not a series) and I do know what you mean. Indie authors have the same responsibilities and grueling schedules as authors published by traditional houses, but not everyone gets that.

        I didn’t realize your wife had suffered an injury. That would definitely set you back and with good cause. I hope everything works out for both of you.And if you’re planning a week from Saturday you really aren’t too far off schedule. I’ll be looking for the announcement! 🙂


    • I think other writers understand, Charles. Readers, who aren’t able to grasp what goes on behind the scenes might view things differently, but for the most part I think delayed releases build anticipation–especially with a series.

      Liked by 1 person

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