I'm not a particular fan of word goals and that is simply because I always end up going over them, most of the time I go way over them. I don't know about other authors, but I find them quite restricting.
My paranormal erotic romance novel She-Wolf was originally suppose to be 15k. Yup, it was suppose to be short. It ended up being 75k by the time I had finished, which is way off my original mark, but sometimes characters have a lot more to say, and the story is so much bigger than the slice they show you when they want you to write it.
I never really set an exact goal. If I have a new project in mind I will sit there and decide if it's going to be a novella or a novel. If it's a novella I will usually mark it at 30k. If it's a novel I will mark it at 50k. I know if I have a rough number that I will usually pass it. Perhaps that is cheating but not having an exact number is less stressful and give both myself and my characters room to breathe.
I'm currently working on a project for an anthology call. The word limit is 10-20k. Now as soon as I saw that I thought, "right 20k. That's a nice number. I can do that." I have spent the last week writing this book, and I'm happy to say that I've flown through it, and I am now up to 18.4k. The problem is I don't think my story is going to end at 20k. *bangs head against wall* I have already cut out an entire scene - because I got to 19.2k and thought "crap!" - and I spent yesterday reading over everything I had written and removed some stuff that I didn't feel was needed.
I'm now under the impression that I'm going to have to pull a good couple of thousand out and go at this book from a different angle. Now, I'm not going to moan about that even if a small part of me wants to sob. Another hard part of writing is sometimes you have to gut your book and pull out a ton of work you have done, because sometimes things don't fit, or you're not happy with which direction you've gone. Sometimes you hit a wall, and as much as you want to cry at the thought of ripping a chunk out, you just have to. And 99% of the time it's the right thing to do, and is completely worth it.
Surprisingly I did actually plan this book - new for me since I am a huge panster - but it has still gone and bit me in the ass. Oh well.
So, I'm going to be spending today - perhaps tomorrow as well - trying to straighten this book out, and finish just under the word goal. Wish me luck!
What are your thoughts on word goals/limits? Do you find them helpful? Annoying? Do you always fall under them, or go way over?