Goma's literary debut came in 1966 with a short story published in the review Luceafǎrul with which he collaborated as well as with Gazeta literarǎ, Viaţa românească and Ateneu. In 1968 he published his first volume of stories, Camera de alături ("The Room Next Door"). After Ostinato and its West German publication in 1971 came Uşa ("Die Tür" or "The Door") in 1972, also in Germany. After his forced emigration in 1977 and until his books could again be published in Romania after the 1989 revolution, all his books appeared in France and in French. (His novel Gherla had in fact been published in 1976 first in French by Gallimard before he left Romania.) There followed such novels as Dans le cercle ("Within the Circle", 1977); Garde inverse ("Reverse Guard", 1979); Le Tremblement des Hommes ("The Trembling of People", 1979); Chassée-croisé ("Intersection", 1983); Les Chiens de la mort ("The Dogs of Death", 1981), which details his prison experiences in Piteşti in the 1950s; and Bonifacia (1986). The autobiographical Le Calidor appeared in French in 1987 and was subsequently published in Romanian as Din Calidor: O copilărie basarabeană ("In Calidor: A Bessarabian Childhood", 1989, 1990; translated as My Childhood at the Gate of Unrest) in the Romanian émigré journal Dialog, edited by Ion Solacolu.
In its totality, Goma's literary work comprises a "persuasive and grimly fascinating exposure of totalitarian inhumanity" from which, in his own case, even foreign exile was no guarantee of safe haven. In such later novels as Bonifacia and My Childhood at the Gate of Unrest, the biographical element dominates as he focuses on his childhood and adolescence in Bessarabia. Several sets of diaries, all published in Romania in 1997 and 1998, shed light on Goma's later life and career: Alte Jurnale ("Other Journals"), which covers his stay in the United States in autumn 1978 but concentrates primarily on 1994-96; Jurnal I: Jurnal pe sărite ("Journal I: By Leaps and Bounds", 1997); Jurnal II: Jurnal de căldură mare ("Journal II: Journal of Great Heat", 1997), covering June and July 1989; Jurnal III: Jurnal de noapte lungă ("Journal of the Long Night", 1997), covering September to December 1993; and Jurnalul unui jurnal 1997 ("The Journal of a Journal, 1997"), focusing just on that year.