By his early twenties, Bùi Ngọc Tấn had been widely published by multiple presses including Văn Nghệ (Literature), Lao Động (Labor), and Tuổi Trẻ (Youth).
After the war ended in 1954, he worked as a journalist for the newspaper Tiền Phong (Pioneer) in Hanoi. In the early 1960s, Bùi Ngọc Tấn returned to his hometown to edit a local newspaper. There he enjoyed fewer restrictions and published numerous short story collections, including Đêm tháng Mười (October Night, 1962) and Nhật Ký Xi Măng (Cement Diary, 1962). In November 1968 he was sent, without a trial, to a re-education camp, where he was imprisoned until April 1973. Between 1974 and 1994, he was a staff member of the Hạ Long state-run fishing company and was considered a literary hermit. In 1993, he made a comeback with the article “Nguyên Hồng, the Lost Era” in the magazine Cửa Biển, Hải Phòng.
His published works include the memoir Một thời để mất (A Time to Lose, 1995), the short story collection Những người rách việc (Fussy People, 1996), the novels Chuyện kể năm 2000 (A Tale for the Year 2000, 2000) and Biển và chim bói cá (The Sea and the Kingfisher, 2009), and a collection of essays, Rừng xưa xanh lá (The Ancient Forest was Green, 2004).
A Tale for the Year 2000 was recalled and pulped immediately after its release, and its publisher, the Thanh Niên Press, was subject to heavy government discipline. The work has been translated into English, French, and German. In 2012, Bùi Ngọc Tấn’s The Sea and the Kingfisher, published as La Mer et le Martin-pêcheur and translated into French by Dominique Fortier, won the Prix Henri Queffélec in France.