Many good answers here... here are my 2 cents...
I found reading about (and understanding) the Zone System can only be beneficial, even if you don't do the whole testing afterwards... Good substitutes for me were "Finely focused" from Bruce Barlow (http://www.circleofthesunproductions...elyFocused.htm) and/or "Way Beyond Monochrome" (a bit tougher, but you don't have to read it cover-to-cover immediately (though I'm sure you will, sooner or later).
Incident metering is the easy way to get the right* exposure, and when in doubt I've found that it's almost always better to expose too much (within reasonable limits of course) than too few (in which case you'll loose some information you cannot recover).
Keep your process as simple as you can (the good old "one film, one developer" saying can go a long way, even if you'll want to extend the range later) until you master it.
With HP5 you can't go wrong, I personally rate it at EI 250, and it gives wonderful negatives.