I don't really write long magazine features anymore, but when I do, I usually start by figuring out what kind of story it's going to be. Is it a profile that requires access to one or more characters? Is it a scene piece that's going to require going to an event and writing down what happens? Is it an investigative piece that centers on a trove of documents I'm going to have to decipher and analyze? Once I've figured that out, I usually make a list of everyone I need to talk to, everywhere I need to go, and everything I need to read in order to understand the subject. I work my way down that list. And usually when I'm about halfway done, I start writing. For a big magazine story, I'll make these long, messy outlines with dozens of TKs sprinkled everywhere—just to get something down on paper—and then, once I have a reasonable degree of confidence that the structure of the thing works, I'll start filling in the TKs. I always have a first sentence and a last sentence stuck in my head very early on in the process, but everything else can take a while to nail. I'm a perfectionist, so by the time I send something to my editor, it's usually pretty close to finished. Or so I think.
Kevin Roose is the news director at Fusion and the executive producer and co-host of "Real Future," Fusion's original television series about technology and the future. Previously, he was the technology columnist at New York magazine, and a staff reporter for the New York Times.