I use a chimney to start my coals... wait about 10 minutes until they are going good and then pour them into the firebox. Spread them out a bit (not too thin, but not in a big pile either), then top them with a good amount of fresh lump. That usually gets my tems up and holds em where I need em for the first couple of hours. As for my wood, I place a few sticks or chunks off to the side of the hot coals. Not on top, and not even really touching, just near the coals where the wood can smolder. You don't really want fire, you just need heat (from the coals) and a wee amount of smoke from the wood. If you burn the wood you will likely get thick whilte billowing smoke... not necessary (or preferred) , and your wood will burn up quick, causing you to go through a lot of it. You just want what they call "Thin Blue Smoke", which will take some time to master, but try what I have described and you'll get the hang of it in no time.
Oh, as for when I put my meat on... usually right after I get the coals poured in. I don't think there is any reason to wait for temps to get stable as you will likely spike your tems anyway when you open the door. Get the coals poured in and arranged, pile on the meat, then watch your thermo to adjust temps using the firebox baffle. The stack on the pit should stay wide open. Once that is done, sit back and enjoy a cold one.
When you don't see any more smoke, move that piece of wood (which will likely look like a chunk of lump by that time), to the coal pile, add more lump if necessary, add a fresh chunk or two of wood and repeat the "cold one" part mentioned above.
Hope this helps!
Edit: I wasn't trying to trump glued's advice about when to put the meat on... I must have been writing when he posted. But, none the less, this is the way I do it and I think as long as you keep you temps around your target you might as well make use of the heat (fuel) you are using. Either way, the time frame for putting the meat on shouldn't differ greatly since it really only takes 5 minutes or so to get the pit stable once the coals are on.