The times when you most need fire are also the times when fire is most difficult to build. Therefore it is essential to have a solid understanding of what techniques are effective and where to find dry materials. The confidence you will gain from studying this skill is rewarding, but it should also come with a strong sense of humility. Just because you can start fire on a snowy day does not mean you could do the same in a rain storm. Push yourself by creating tests for skills and gradually increase the difficulty of the challenge. Leave the bic lighter at home, and grab the ferro rod instead. When you have grown comfortable, leave the ferro rod and bring only your knife... use it to carve a bow drill kit. Think of it as a game and have fun.
The very first priority is to make a tinder bundle. Tinder can be made from anything that burns fast, hot, and easily catches a spark. Most people rush through this stage because of a self-imposed feeling of urgency to get fire. It is worth taking a long walk and spending your time on finding the right material. The best places to look are transition areas between fields and forest where there will be diverse vegetation. Cattail down, cedar bark, leaves, and dry grass work very well. If it's pouring rain, the only dry areas might be under rock outcroppings or fallen trees. Start in the locations that get the most sunlight.
The next size fuel to focus on will be grass and twigs that are about as thick as pencil lead. Gather these in small bundles, and make sure that they are bone dry. If it's impossible to get perfectly dry materials, it is worth the time to individually select twigs that are more dry than the rest. Every bit of moisture in your wood has to be driven out by heat in order to catch fire. So don't hinder yourself with damp fuel if you don't have to.
As you progressively collect larger and larger pieces of wood, you will eventually shift into gathering small branches. If it's truly wet, gather wood only from dead branches that are still hanging and only in areas that would normally get lots of sunlight. If it makes a clean snapping sound when you break it, then it will be good for fire.
Protect it your fuel as you work
If you need to work with your hands or take a break, don't throw your dry fire wood down on the snow or wet ground. Instead place your materials into the crotch of a tree where they will be kept high and dry. If it's raining, do whatever you can to cover them up.
Find the best location and prep the ground
The location of your fire / campsite will depend on many variables, but in general, look for places that will create natural wind-breaks and have ample supply of additional fuel wood nearby. If the ground is covered with snow, dig down with the side of your foot until you reach the raw dirt.
Build a platform
It helps to build a small platform of branches. This isolates your fire from the damp ground and assists in the formation of a strong coal bed.
The tee-pee structure
I often use the Tee-Pee method because it channels the heat into a single upward column, igniting anything in its path. Simply put your "pencil thick" twigs in the center and then build a leaning structure all the way around using progressively large fuel wood as you build it out.
Bring it to life
Ignite your tinder bundle and give it some air. If you have trouble, it usually indicates a poor fire structure or damp materials. Don't rush the early stages, especially considering that your life could depend on the fire. Even if you're just in the backyard, it's fun to imagine that this one match strike is your only shot.