A mood board is usually a visual tool for gathering inspiration and style ideas for a project. An artist might cut out swatches of fabric, pictures, drawings and paste them into a sort of collage that helps them articulate and define the mood of whatever they intend to design. I learned about them when my daughters were taking costume design class in the theater department at their school. I have lately been thinking about a mood board variation on the idea of mind mapping literary projects. (For a mind map, I usually focus on some aspect of my narrative, say character or plot or structure or time flow. I might chart all the characters and their relationships to one another. For more on mind mapping, see the link above.)
But when I started to think about a major revision of a project, recently, I realized I needed to know certain big picture things: what was my narrative shape going to be, what was the ontology of my world (for me this meant thinking about truth and memory, dream and fantasy, wish fulfillment and the lack thereof), what were my themes and motifs, what was my governing tone, what would my new elevator pitch be? I felt all this was too much for one mind map but decided to reconceive the notion I had of a mind map into a mood board, collaging as many of the key elements that determine the feel of my book onto a single page. Mine isn't especially visual. It's more textual, but I could see using cutouts and pictures, especially for a nonfiction project. I used lists and drawings and played around with the lettering and the arrangement of the information. What I came up with helps me see my way forward with my revision and to make it more coherent. I think it would also be helpful in an earlier phase of writing, as soon as one starts to formulate these sort of big picture concepts, but early enough to constitute a sort of internal guidebook to creating a coherent text.
I love this idea of a mood board for our writing. It’s one of the things that drew me to Scrivener years ago - being able to surround my writing and characters (and myself) with the colors and textures of their world. I don’t do that enough these days, as I prefer writing longhand, but a collage in my notebook or near my desk sounds comforting, and inspiring.