DOES ONE NEED to breathe in order to create? The returns are mixed. To Barbara Raskin, now working on Out of Order, a sequel to her 1973 novel. Loose Ends, "August is a terrible month for writers." Out of Order is still "lots of pieces of paper in a loose-leaf notebook - but it's gone quite quickly until August."

Maybe things would go better at the beach? She and her husband, Mare, who is wrestling with a political treatise entitled The Common Good, and two writing friends took off for a week at Rehonoth - a sort of mini-chautauqua-sur-mer.

Barbara came back with sand and suntan oil in her notebook, Marc with bug bites.

Larry McMurthy has a Hollywood novel, but he's letting it sit. "It's being revised. Eventually it will get done. But not now."

Herman Wouk has found survival through toil. Somewhere undisclosed, "in the country," finishing the sequql to The Winds of war , he scarely speaks to his family, accepts no phone calls, and communicates with outsiders through his secretary - by mail. "I am working harder than I ever have in my life," my terse message reads, "so I can't tell you anything about the August blahs."

Some have made a clean break for the hill stations. Ward Just not only cut out for Vermont; he's even left Vermont - to go fishing. David Wise having "been through six presidents" and five books number five, The American Police State , came out last November has headed west, to teach political science for a year at the University of California in Santa Barbara. His next book idea, he says, "will just come in with the waves."

Here in the sweltering lowlands, there are unexpected stirrings of life. Fred Graham, of CBS News, endures a summer of shameless delight. The Alias Program , his second book will be out September 6th.And what well-known movie person wants to do the film? Alberto Grimaldi, of Last Tango in Paris , that's who. "That was a great, lecherous movie," Fred says, in a tone between smirk and gloat, "and I have lovely liquid lunches with Grimaldi, deciding who is going to play what role."

The book tells the true story of the head of a San Francisco fashion house who got involved in a lawsuit, and when his opponents investigated him they found that he was not a dress designer at all, but a Mafia courier from Brooklyn.

"I take his story to describe the Justice Department's witness protection program - how it works," Fred explains. "It's one of the most interesting unreported stories in Washington."

He did his writing early in the morning and late at night, with a day on the job in between, "It was a race between finishing the book and divorce. But it was fun to do. My first book about the Supreme Court was just torture. But this one wrote itself."

In another quarter, two pairs of former fact people have discovered in separate but equal ways that fiction is closer to the truth than facts.

The dazzling revelation came to Marvin Kalb of CBS and Ted Koppel of ABC on a Kissinger Middle East shuttle trip, as they stood outside King Faisal's palace in Riyadh. They fell to musing about how little their fact-filled diplomatic reporting conveyed of the fantastic locations, personalities and cross-currents that they both sensed beneath the surface of events.

So they jointly embarked on a novel, In the National Interest , due in November. There will be a big chunk of it in the November Playboy. It's been bought by the Literary Guild. They have "a very good deal" on paperback rights with Fawrett. They're "surprised and delighted."

Their story concerns a televsion diplomatic correspondent and a crafty secretary of state, who "respect one another, but their responsibilities are drawn into collision." There is a "genuine romance" between the correspondent and the CIAs station chief in Beirut, but it is "trampled by the requirements of their jobs."

Sometimes you can really say things in nonfiction," Marvin Kalb concludes. "If anyone is interested on shuttle diplomacy and manipulator of events, the novel gives more insight into his techcique than reporting."

Ien Watterberg and Ervin S. Duggan, both former L.B.J. speech writers took to windering, after they left the White House, what would have happened if Hubert Humphrey had broken with Lyndon Johnson over Vienam and run as a dove. "We decided the only way to express that idea was through fiction," Watterberg says.

Their novel Against All Enemies , out early in October, describes such a turn of events "in the indeterminate future," and Ponders whether any American president, after Vietnam, can respond to a foreign policy crisis with troops without domestic turmoil.

They, too, have a love story to tell, between the speech writer-narrator and a female reporter, an attractive alternative to Allen Drury's Anna Hastings. "I found myself falling in love with her." Ervin Duggan says. "She takes over the book. She is so rich and vivid and real."

Is she patterned after someone we know?

Well, at the outset of the work - until a scene a Sans Souci persuaded then to make the change - she was a he. And he sort of resembled Max Frankel, of The New York Times.