1. Don't be afraid of your players. They usually are a great bunch of people.
"I learned this one with my first players which would be Fudgebob and then later sophiru and SirWolf. For being a newbie at GMing they were a great bunch of people to work with and if you don't panic then they will have fun never the less."
2. Plan ahead!
"I can't say this one enough. I made the mistake of not planning well enough with my first game and I found a lot of information that I should have had written down I was making up as i was going. I lucked out that it was not to much that I forgot, but it never hurts to know everything about your game so it's easier to come up with in case you do find yourself lost."
3. Don't be afraid to change the layout of the story.
"Players are imfamous of not staying on track. When you want them to go left, they want to see what's right. what I have found is when you lay out the playing field, make sure to know the ins and outs of why things are happening. Like if your game is happening on a space station, just write out little things about the station like how it's run, where things are located, just get a good idea so when your players do decide to go somewhere that you didn't plan on, you can quickly come up with stuff for them."
4. Don't Panic!
"Nothing ever goes according to plan. The best thing I have found you can do is just stay come and think quickly about what you can do with this new turn of events. If you took step 2 and 3 to heart, then this one should not be difficult. The point of the game is to have fun, not enslave your players to follow a script."
5. Enjoy the game!
"Some people thinking being a GM is boring, but I totally disagree. I have found watching players panic and talk among each other about what's going on and then snickering at how wrong they are or unleashing some trap they failed to spot and watching them try to figure a way out before they get killed or eaten. This to me is more fun then being a player. The more dedicated you are to something, the better your game will come out!
As a more veteran GM, I agree with almost all of these tips.
Tip 1 is particularly great. One should never be afraid of their players, one should trust their players, and one should assume their players have the same goals as they do, a fun game. If this isn't the case, then they need new players.
Tip 2 is actually the only one I really disagree with, even then, its a matter of semantics. One should be prepared, but what that means varies from person to person. Some people can improvise entire settings on the fly, and do a good job of it, others can work with no planning as long as they are operating within a setting they know. Do what works, and we improvisational GMs will try not to make fun of the work everyone else puts in.
As far as tips 3 and 4 are concerned, not having a plan to begin with makes it really easy to not stress about how well it is followed. Really though, as long as the GM doesn't force the players to go will the plan, all is well.
Tip 5 is easily the most important. The game should be enjoyed by all, GM included. It seems you've quickly become a good GM who understands all this, which is awesome. Its all good advice, and actually useful too, rather than being intimidating.
The [-] die.
I think Tip #2 is a matter of style when it comes to one GM and to another. I know as a Newbie I like having things planned out as it helps while still trying to graps the intricacies of the system. More then likely as GMs gain in experience, they will slowly move away from tip #2 towards the more "make up as you go" style.
It seems to vary on a person by person basis. I've operated best as an improvisational GM since the very beginning, with the absolute low point of my GMing career being the switch to planned GMing once I left freeform for D&D. However, I know people that make me look like a rank novice who plan. Basically, its "there's lots of methods, find one that works for you", which as advice goes is useful only with lots of example methods. Or simply as an acknowledgment that there isn't a one true way.
The [-] die.
I've concluded that I'm a planner. I never used to be "this bad", but I think playing online lends itself to planning? (Can't find the relevant thread about this -- does the search function work?). I've numerous applications running: Ventrilo (for VoIP), Maptool (for maps and player and NPC token movement), a web browser (for images and dice roller), Audio Hijack Pro (for SFX) and Scrivener (word processor) for notes from which I work, checking off elements of the story as it flows.
Even when we sat around the table ... in the same room(!) ... we used to favour handouts, photographs (or parchments) and maps, and we've always used a battle board and figure representation. In the real world a certain amount can be handled in real time: Simply show the players the illustration from a rulebook; quickly draw the battle layout with a marker pen on a dry erase board and so on.
Such improvisation doesn't flow as well in the virtual world because it's a massive disconnect waiting for things to be readied and uploaded. So you prepare as much as you can in advance.
Ima planner. I like to have some info on hand. I'm not much for improv.
However in my experience you do what your good at, which ever style works for you.
A real problem comes into play when your doing one and should be doing another. I had a gm who did better planning stuff, and then when he felt he was better at improv the campaign kind of fell apart lol