Here’s a simple formula for how to build a campfire, it’s easy to remember. (here’s a video that illustrates the technique)
‘Gather’ and ‘Build’ are the key concepts:
…everything before you strike a match. The sizes and amounts are rules of thumb, don’t over-engineer things. For some reason my Scouts always seem to break the sticks they gather into tiny pieces, keep them close to the sizes specified and you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.
… don’t be overly concerned with trying to make a teepee or a log cabin or any of the traditional illustrated fire lays that look nice and neat – get the tinder burning, add the kindling and then the fuel. A fire has to have something to burn, don’t be shy. Most of my fires are piles, some look a little like teepees, just do what works. Fires spread up more than out, get the kindling and fuel directly over the flame.