WRITING FEATURE Mood boards for your writing: Instagram and Pinterest

Julie Sullivan explores the use of mood boards in writing

When you are writing, do you have mental images of your characters and their surroundings? Some writers keep photos that inspire them pinned to their computer desktop, or on a mood board on the wall. (What is a mood board? Gabriela Pereira explains.) Some have a scrapbook filled with photos cut out of magazines. The writers’ software Scrivener allows you to keep photos associated with your projects in your research folder, where you can see them in the margin as you type.

An interesting way to keep a mood board, though, and one that doesn’t take up any space on your wall or hard drive, is online, on Instagram or Pinterest. Instagram is a way of sharing images that many SCBWI members find friendly and welcoming to children’s writers and illustrators. Here is a good guide to getting started on Instagram. (Always remember it is owned by Facebook, which has shown little concern for its users’ privacy.) 

There’s also a really active, supportive Instagram community for readers (#bookstagram, among many others) writers. Rebecca Flansburg, a writer herself and marketing coach, has written a good article about how to use it, here.

Hashtags # are a way to find content you are interested in. It’s not limited to tags that specifically say they are for children’s books or YA, like this: 


Instead you can look for almost any subject or place and find dreamy, beautiful, funny, or strange photos of that very thing.

But probably the original “mood board” app for writers is Pinterest. It’s a way to pin images from the internet or your own computer in one convenient (and hard-drive-sparing) online location. You can create different “boards” for whatever you want, saving the original URL or origin of your images, adding your own text next to the image to describe it. You can make the boards and the text public or secret—just for yourself. This is useful if you don’t feel you want to share your idea or characters just yet.

You can also use a Pinterest add-on to your browser so that when you see an image you like online, you can save it instantly. For example, for Chrome, find it here: https://about.pinterest.com/en/browser-button

Here is a good introduction to Pinterest for beginners. 

If a subject is useful to your story, you are very likely to find that a Pinterest board somewhere has already collected some great sources for you. (Follow best practice on Pinterest yourself and always include a lead back to your sources.)

Published authors can also use Pinterest for marketing. You can use it show your readers how you yourself imagine scenes from your book, characters, or environments, and ask them to add their ideas. Interaction is gold for an author! You can easily set up an author Pinterest account. (If you want Pinterest to give you more information about who visits, which pins and boards get the most interest, and other analytics, sign up for a free Pinterest business account instead of a personal account. You can have more than one Pinterest account.) Use keywords like “Children’s books” or “YA books” to attract the right attention. To start off, add several boards and “pin” a dozen photos in each one. Then you can add more later whenever you feel like it or have time, but you will already have a start to catch your readers’ interest.

Other Pinterest board ideas are to show your readers with your book, or dressed up as characters from the book for World Book Day; or have a board for your school visits (be sure to get permissions if you use other people’s photos). You can ask people to list their own book recommendations on one of your boards.

One more nice thing about Pinterest is that other people’s boards are fun to follow and you will soon find people following yours. There is a community of children’s book readers, writers, bloggers and marketers that loves to collaborate and is friendly and helpful. For example, as a random pick: 


The biggest way Pinterest has helped me personally is that I no longer feel I have to keep a huge photo archive on my computer as research or inspiration. (I don’t know about you, but my computer is pretty full already.) Now most of it is stored online and easily accessible from anywhere. 

As with all internet holes, you must be careful to ration your time on Pinterest and Instagram. Otherwise, next thing you know you have spent an hour looking at plank roads of China (they are pretty cool) or the Romanov Grand Duchesses or cute robots. Or - who knows - maybe it will inspire your next story.


Julie Sullivan is a regular contributor to Words and Pictures.

On Twitter: @Webwight

Picture credits

Frog moodboard by Gabriela Pereira

Fantasy for tweens Pinterest board by Erica of the blog What do we do all day?

Cute robot by Jenn Tefft

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov, age 13, at Romanov Resurrection

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