I always used it as a general spread, for questions I use shorter ones. I guess you would have to practice. I also think I will do that as well--thnks for an idea :o).
As far as the first line, it really dpends. You will know. Sometimes only two or three cards really show events and the rest suplement them. It depends what the cards really want to show. But it explains why present situation of a querent is this way and not the other.
I hope this answers your qestions. You see, not everyone likes this spread. For me it's one of the most favourite ones. I don't know why. Some spreads just don't "work" with me.
Please, feel free to ask if you have more questions. I'll be glad to answer them :o).
Have fun with this spread if you use it.
Fall in love with life!