Ok… I've put this off for a long time, so I've finally decided to sit down and write a tutorial on modeling. After going through tutorial after tutorial on modeling in poly's/sub-d's, I've come up with a workflow that works very well for me and hopefully you too. My co-workers jokingly call it "the Dave Way" .
First off you should have a side and front view of the object (sometimes top too, but I don't need one in this case because most of my detail can be defined in the front and side). When creating these pictures it's a good idea to use graphpaper so that you can make sure your detail is lined up horizontally.
Once your pictures are drawn, scan them in and save them as jpegs (it's a good Idea to make them no larger than 400 pixels wide. The larger your images are, the more memory they will take up and it will slow your progress). Then create a project directory in maya and save your images in your source images folder.
The next thing you're going to want to do is create 2 planes. One facing the front view and one facing the side view. Create a material for each of your drawings and assign them to the appropriate plane. Turn the transparency of the materials down to about .5, then assign the 2 planes to a layer. Assigning them to a layer will allow you to do 2 things...
1.) it will allow you to reference the planes so that you don't accidentally select them while you are modeling
2.) it will allow you to make them visible and invisible at the click of a button.
Once you have all that out of the way, you are ready to start modeling.
Using your create polygon tool (located under polygons>create polygon tool), draw a silhouette outline of your picture in the side view. If you misplace a point while placing them down you can always hit the backspace key to undo the point or press the insert key to edit its placement.