I will usually put a couple of handfulls of charcoal and get that going first, (firebox door open this whole time) when its white over , spread it out and start adding the wood.( once I get it burning good I will cose the firebox door and leave the dampner open all the way) I generally use larger pieces than what I see most people on this site use, and will place two nice splits on top of the coals, let them char over real good then add a third and wait for the white smoke to die down. I will take the smoker up to about 400* and let it sit there a little bit to burn it out, then close the dampner until it comes down to 300* and stays steady, then add my meat. This will drop it down to 275*. Adjust as needed to keep it around 280*. Usually the dampners are just slightly open. I keep a log on top of the firebox to pre warm it and dry out any moisture, and add just one log at a time, but always keeping 3 burning. Usually only have to add one every 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs
Remember, always keep the exhaust vent wide open. If you get a lot of white smoke when you first add a new piece of wood, you can open the cooking chamber door and let it out before it effects the food, but drying it out on top of the firebox will help out there, as well as peeling any bark off .